This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2017 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
Marine interior designers and outfitters play a vital role in helping owners and operators to create a unique experience for guests. They bring into play a multitude of skills and expertise, combining safety and ease of use with luxury, and incorporating the latest trends and inspirations. For the industry’s leading designers and outfitters, coming up with winning concepts and ideas that inspire clients and their guests involves not only creative talent, but also great communication skills.
Erik Schobesberger, vice president of marine newbuilding sales at Almaco Group, says that identifying the needs of the owner, crew and guests enables a smooth design process.
“Concept formation and ideas for cruise and ferry interiors differ greatly from one project to another,” says Schobesberger. “Major cruise vessel operators usually have well-developed concepts and tend to use large interior design offices trusted by them. Almaco’s role is mainly the implementation of these ideas into reality, with cost engineering playing a major role. Often minor modifications, which do not affect the appearance and usability of the interior to guests or crew, can lead to major cost savings. For smaller owners or companies new to the market, Almaco is also able to offer turnkey solutions from basic concept design to the delivery of the project. Almaco’s team can perform all layout and detailed design, including equipment selection/proposals and interior design. All HVAC and piping design can be done in-house and together with well-known partners.”
Schobesberger says the process can throw up some interesting challenges, such as the need to address market-specific needs. For example, Almaco recently worked with ships that are purpose-built for the Asian market. “For the Genting Dream newbuilds, with more specialised Asian cuisine there is completely different cooking equipment plus the show galleys, so the guests can see the cooks at work,” says Schobesberger. “Therefore, we need to consider the visual appearance of the galley so it looks good to the guest, as well as safety and hygiene issues. Alongside the owner we have developed Asian-specific equipment such as Korean barbeques and woks that now serve that particular market.”
A flexible approach is key to creating concepts and ideas that uniquely address the characteristics, requirements and expectations associated with different brands, guests, vessels and markets. “At Steen Friis Design our approaches to concepts and ideas are as different as the clients themselves,” says Camilla Caroline Horn, head of interior and accommodation, interior architect at the Danish design studio. “All our design concepts are custom-made, and we always adapt to the client’s needs – some need more guidance, while others already have a strong sense of their corporate identity but need our help to visualise it and bring it onboard. Our main goal is to always think anew and not repeat ourselves – both for the sake of the client and for us. One-of-a-kind concepts and ideas are more fun to do, and they’re also what our clients expect for their interiors. We take inspiration from the newest trends across various fields, from what is going on in the world today and how it affects us, and then we mix it with personal experiences.”
Looking beyond the physical space is a crucial part of identifying the overarching theme of the project, says Joanna Gonzalez-Guerra, vice-president of global design consultancy CallisonRTKL. “It’s important to remember that we’re charged with designing not just a space but an experience, and we approach concept development from that perspective,” she says. “CallisonRTKL’s global, multidisciplinary expertise in workplace, residential, retail and hospitality, as well as in cruise ships, helps to inform our design solutions. We give each of our clients a unique experience. Before we put pen to paper, we hold a charrette (workshop) to identify the overarching theme that will direct the design process and influence every decision we make, from the overall concept down to the most minute detail.”
With robust processes in place to define the scope of the project, an open mind plays an essential role in finding inspiration for unique ideas. “Before a design idea can take form, the functionality of the area must be well understood,” says Tomas Tillberg, founder of US-based Tomas Tillberg Design. “Other important factors such as brand identity, the profile of the guests, budgetary requirements and a possible reference ship, are also analysed.
“Sources for inspiration are truly unlimited. Nature, art, architecture, locations – anything that inspires the imagination can be an inspiration for the design of an area. The ideation can start with a single idea that is then developed and expanded upon and becomes the underlying motif of the design for the whole area. The basic approach is similar from project to project and client to client, but the variations resulting from that have no limits.”
Collaborating with the client from an early stage is an important factor in making sure everyone is on the same wavelength, says Ralf Claussen, co-founder of CM Design. “At the beginning of a new interior-project – and knowing the task – we start with a collection of moods, pictures, similar projects (found on the internet or in our own library) and hand sketches. We put these images together in a presentation for an initial workshop with the client – either face to face or via video-conference. Our target is to create the same understanding and interpretation regarding the task and scope of the work and design. We follow this same procedure in 85% of our projects.”
Once the project’s goals have been agreed, the design team can unleash its creativity to meet them. “Running through the physical world and the internet with open eyes helps, but you also need the interest, curiosity and open-minded attitude to support your own work with new trends, materials and thoughts,” says Claussen.
As vessel interiors play an increasingly important role in creating a unique experience for guests, communication between designers and their clients is pivotal in making sure the brands values are integral to the onboard experience. “Trimline’s in-house team of CAD designers and furniture, fixtures and equipment specialists offers clients several design solutions: a full design package; ‘design & build’ where they bring in an interior designer; or working alongside the client’s designer to cost-engineer innovative and cutting-edge interior design and rebranding solutions for clients,” says Simon Dawkins, key account manager at Trimline. “Each ship has its own requirements and by working closely with the client, Trimline incorporates a company’s brand values into the interior design of its ships, helping to communicate their personality, key messages and beliefs to their guests. This results in greater customer loyalty and potentially higher profits.
“As competition in the cruise industry increases, innovative interior design is quickly growing in importance. For example, as the cruise industry is now starting to attract a younger audience, Trimline is working closely with owners such as TUI Thomson Cruises to create a new contemporary style of interior. During the recent multi-million-pound rebrand of TUI Discovery and TUI Discovery 2, Trimline transformed a number of areas of the ships’ interiors, most notably the Live Room entertainment space, which is the focal hub for both ships.”
YSA Design’s Anne Mari Gullikstad and Jan Egil Krefting say that an eye for the latest trends and a forward-looking perspective are key to the ideation process, especially when it comes to creating lasting appeal. “Understanding the demands of the future passenger is essential when considering trends,” says Gullikstad, CEO, interior architect and partner at YSA Design. “We need to understand their behaviours, how they live and travel and what moves them. We are required to consider contemporary lifestyle priorities of the passengers and we are increasingly recognising that the millennial generation favours personal growth, discovery and authentic experiences in travel generally.”
“We are also, as a society, becoming ever more focused and concerned about our planet,” says Krefting, architect and partner at YSA Design. “Science, engineering and technology will provide the cruise industry with more sustainable and greener solutions, but we as designers also have a belief and duty to help secure any future ecology and our environment.”
Looking ahead, design teams will draw on an ever-broader range of influences to create interiors that deliver on the expectations of brands and their guests. “We believe there will be demand for a ‘full experience’ that includes culture, wellness, personal growth, environmental consciousness and entertainment in a total package,” says Gullikstad. “Intimate spaces will make for more varied personal experiences whether one seeks culture, exploration or relaxation.”