A fresh wave of success for YSA Design

Anne Mari Gullikstad explains why the company is enjoying great success since its restructure last year

A fresh wave of success for YSA Design
The large whirlpool in the Greenhouse Spa onboard Holland American Line's Koningsdam

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.

Business is booming at YSA Design following last year’s organisational restructure. “Business has been very good since the restructure – better than it has been for many years,” says CEO Anne Mari Gullikstad. “YSA has expanded its list of current clients, both by securing new references and renewing our relationship with an ‘old’ client, which we are thrilled about. We have had a lot of positive feedback on the launch of our ‘new’ firm from clients and the industry, which is exciting and encouraging for us. We are also in an expanding and hiring phase, which has been really fascinating. There is so much talent out there.”

Harnessing that talent is key to the company’s approach of combining its tradition of expertise with fresh opportunities and inspiration. “Our team is always on the lookout for new ideas and evolving technology, and we are in regular contact with other industries to seek out new opportunities,” says Gullikstad. “Part of YSA’s current hiring strategy looks to build on its design excellence by attracting more new talent and maximising the efficiencies available through presenting materials to owners using design software.”

Gullikstad has a keen eye for the latest trends in onboard décor, accommodation, entertainment and technology. In particular, she notes, cruise guests’ traditional love of luxury is now accompanied by a taste for a less formal and more individual experience.

“Cruise interiors are increasingly inspired by the best hotels on land,” she says. “That means that there is more demand for luxurious spas, comfortable and grand cabins, and other design features that compete with the best resort hotels. On the entertainment side, cruise ships need to host the kind of spectacular shows associated with Las Vegas, making it essential that our designs accommodate use of advanced technology, such as giant LED walls. However, today’s cruise experience also involves greater demand for à la carte restaurants that slightly turn away from the formal grand dining room experience with fixed seating, and famous chefs are being hired to run the speciality venues.

“For several fleets, the typical cruise passenger is younger. There is also a strong demand for a more personalised approach in the cruise market today, which reflects changes in society. Guests want to be treated as individuals, with cruise lines catering for their specific needs to enjoy cruising as explorers, rather than as groups, and as people who want to experience the exotic and have stories to take home. We believe smaller ships with exotic destinations provide a natural balance for the ‘destination in itself’ mega-ships. We believe that the near future will see demand increase for both larger and smaller cruise ships alike.”

The past six months have seen several design highlights for the company, such as working on the exterior for a new ship. “We saw our work on this design as more of an opportunity than a challenge, because we were able to bring the dynamic lines of a side view to a new level,” says Gullikstad. “Instead of sloping forward and inward at the aft, the ship’s superstructure flares outward to create more space on the top decks: this addresses a common disadvantage of mega-ships as the number of guests grows but the area of the top decks remains the same.”

YSA Design is also finishing a new on-shore training centre in Horten, Norway, for Redningsselskapet, the Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue. “It is a centre located close to the shoreline that is distinguished by a strong architectural concept which brings the sea into an artificial cove, offering training facilities for ship personnel in all sorts of rescue scenarios,” explains Gullikstad. “The main building has offices, classrooms, lecture halls, hotel space and a restaurant, while other buildings contain workshops, additional classrooms and boat rooms.”

A supportive approach is essential to ensuring that clients keep coming back to the company. “We try to remain forward looking, delivering quality spaces and innovative design, but above all we listen and try to read the client’s needs and build their brand,” says Gullikstad. “Our design is more about supporting the needs of the client than it is about trying to impose the latest fashion. This makes each project unique.”

YSA Design is working on several extensive projects this year – proof, if it were needed, of how successful its approach has been. “We are doing both newbuilds and refurbishments such as Holland America Line, including projects for the Asian market and several so-called ‘secrets’, which are projects that are too early to announce due to the necessity of being discreet,” says Gullikstad.

As for the next 20 years, Gullikstad is looking forward to building on the company’s 30-year tradition and grow its reputation as a world-leading designer – with a keen eye on the issues that matter for the future. “We want passengers to really feel that cruising is a personal, adventurous and always surprising way of travelling, and YSA Design will do its utmost to ensure that the cruise industry continues to surprise in terms of design and innovation,” says Gullikstad. “It is also essential for all those who work for YSA Design that their work meets the requirements of sustainability. We welcome the advances that have been made in the development of clean energy, for example, but our work goes deeper because travellers themselves are becoming ever more renowned for their socially responsible attitudes toward minimising their carbon footprint.

“In summary, YSA Design’s aspiration is to create beautiful spaces that are tailor-made to our clients’ needs, with a smaller carbon footprint and more sustainability each year. In doing so, we will invariably have fun.”

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Jacqui Griffiths
By Jacqui Griffiths
Thursday, February 1, 2018