30 years of intelligent design at SMC Design

SMC Design has been at the forefront of passenger ship design for three decades. Jon Ingleton met the senior management team at its head office in London

30 years of intelligent design at SMC Design

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2018 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Excellence and ingenuity have always been hallmarks of SMC Design. Originally established in 1988, the quality of the company’s work soon took it to the forefront of design in the marine industry – and its unique blend of creativity and enthusiasm has kept it there ever since, earning countless accolades along the way.

Andy Yuill, managing director of SMC Design, is rightly proud of the company’s heritage, which is built on a forward-looking philosophy. “Creativity, knowledge and experience are important strengths, but as designers we also need to evolve and stay fresh,” he says. “From the drawing board to the latest design tools, we have always kept pace with the digital revolution, helping us to thrive in a rapidly expanding industry.”

That thirst for progress sits behind the company’s milestone achievements over the past 30 years – from becoming fully computer functional in 1994 to achieving its ambition of offering a complete marine design service just four years later. “By 1998 we had become a complete design consultancy with the introduction of graphic design and artwork consultancy to the existing interior design,” says Yuill. “It was always our intention to offer a total design service for our clients, to enhance and add value in meeting their design requirements.”

Today, the team expertly blends traditional techniques with new technology to create the designs that set its clients apart. “We created our first computer-generated visual in 2006,” says Yuill. “However, we still believe in sketching as an important part of our creative conceptual process.”

As the next chapter of the SMC Design story opens, Yuill is looking forward to meeting the increasingly complex design needs of a highly competitive industry. “In 2017 we moved to our current purpose-built offices,” says Yuill. “This allows us to improve and refine the highly professional and creative environment we already had.”

New world design
With a reputation for intelligent and innovative design, SMC Design is behind some of the most exciting passenger ship concepts in recent decades – and is recognised as a leading light in new cruise markets. “SMC has been heavily involved in design for the new world of cruising,” says Andrew Brown, senior associate at SMC Design. “As far back as 1998 we delivered SuperStar Leo for Star Cruises, which led the way as the first purpose-built cruise ship for the Asian market. Since then we have designed some of the most innovative and renowned vessels destined specifically for this market.”

Key to that success is an intricate and localised understanding of client needs. “It’s important that we are able to adapt and understand our client’s needs in different parts of the world whether it be Asia, America, Europe or elsewhere,” says Brown. “Last year, as part of our global total design strategy we opened our first office in Asia. Located in central Singapore, it allows us to offer a regional service to our clients on that side of the globe.”

Brown says SMC Design recognises huge potential in this new world of cruising – a world in which the company is fast establishing itself as a cornerstone. “We feel strongly about providing our support and expertise to help pilot this new era of innovation, which is led by progressive thinking and characterised by a true feeling of departure from the old ways and preconceptions,” he says. “This is an aspirational new world and we are passionate about being part of it. We continue to develop new passenger experiences throughout the world, engaging passengers, operators, shipyards and regional cruise leaders, and establishing the role of SMC as experienced cruise design professionals in an exceptionally fast-growing market,” says Brown.

Changing perceptions
SMC Design’s willingness to break the mould is a stand-out strength in an industry of rapidly changing trends and expectations. “SMC Design is always pushing the boundaries within the cruise ship industry by creating ground-breaking designs,” says Matt Fyvie, associate designer at SMC Designs. “With the cruise ship industry growing so rapidly we are always looking to change people’s perceptions. By predicting and forecasting future trends we enable ourselves to create current and timeless interiors. This allows us to future-proof our clients’ aspirations for their brand and keeps us one step ahead.”

Nurturing fresh talent alongside long-term experience is the foundation for the firm’s design success. “To keep our designs fresh and unique SMC Design is always on the lookout for enthusiastic talented designers who have all-round ability,” explains Fyvie. “They come from many multidisciplinary design backgrounds, which in turn gives us the skills to come up with a broad range of ideas for our clients. We encourage our new designers to look out for new and innovative technologies that will help to enhance our industry expertise.”

The combination of these elements embodies the company’s core values. “Our design philosophy is simply ‘good honest design’,” says Fyvie. “We aim to inspire and share this philosophy, and the rich history we have at SMC, to continue to create award-winning designs for the future.”

Industry experience Alan Stewart, senior design associate and a veteran of some 20 years at SMC Design, has watched the company grow to become the industry-leading organisation it is today. “We have over 60 fantastically talented architects and designers leading industry standards at the top level,” he says. “Our client list is currently larger than it’s ever been and we’ve had working relationships with some of our repeat clients for more than 20 years. This is largely down to our industry experience and our ability to design for a wide array of passenger demographics appealing to various target markets.”

To maximise the benefit of that experience for today’s clients, SMC Design applies new technologies to its wealth of design data. “Our database now covers more than 60 newbuild vessels and 80 refurbishment projects,” says Stewart. “We can use this valuable data, collated over the last 30 years, with technologies such as parametric planning, to provide comparative data analyses and give shipowners the confidence they need for their design projects.”

The company’s ability to leverage its data has enabled it to surge ahead in providing intelligent design – and ensure a healthy return for clients. “SMC has the ability to ensure the area allocated to each functional space is intelligently optimised and rationally justified from the perspective of both the passenger experience and the owner’s investment,” says Stewart. “We use parametric CAD analysis to streamline various grades of cabins and suites to achieve perfection. By using this optimisation work at the beginning of a project, we can accurately predict for owners whether a project is a worthwhile investment.”

Client satisfaction
SMC Design’s ability to meet the unique needs of a vast spectrum of clients is a source of pride for the company’s associate designer Mike Abbott.

“Delivering good, intelligent design is all about understanding the client and their target market and ensuring effective communication with all stakeholders,” says Abbott. “One of SMC’s design strengths is our ability to work with a variety of clients who have their own specific requirements. It is incredibly satisfying as a designer to look at the broad spectrum of design we are responsible for. There are continually new challenges and concepts to be solved, resulting in a very creative group of designers.”

Abbott says this design versatility has allowed the company to continually evolve and develop into different markets. “The consultancy currently has clients from America, Europe, Asia, Mexico, UK and Australia on its books,” he says. “We are truly international.”

Full steam ahead
SMC Design may be riding high on the success it’s built over the past 30 years, but this dynamic design company has always been about forward motion. Looking ahead, Yuill says that intelligent, innovative design is not simply aspiration for the company; it’s a commitment.

“SMC will continue to harness all the shared experience, knowledge and creative ability we possess, to ensure that we continue to offer design solutions that challenge and excite our clients’ imaginations,” says Yuill. “It is our industry responsibility to never stand still and to keep challenging design expectations in this amazing and ever-changing market.”

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Jon Ingleton
By Jon Ingleton
Wednesday, November 21, 2018