BOXMARK is igniting the senses for cruisers

Thorsten Buhl tells Lindsay James how leather offers a number of important qualities that can evoke an emotional response from customers

BOXMARK is igniting the senses for cruisers
Leather seats from BOXMARK on Ultramar's ferry succeed in passing the feeling test

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

A recent study by Market Research estimates that the worldwide passenger ferry market is currently worth over US$ 2.5 billion. By 2026, an annual growth rate of 3.4% is forecast. One of the main reasons for this growth is the significant increase in passenger traffic.

This is sparking considerable change for companies like Austrian leather manufacturer BOXMARK. 

“While the outlook is positive, it will attract more suppliers to the market, which can eventually lead to more competitive pressure, even though demand is increasing,” explains Thorsten Buhl, the company’s head designer.

Buhl isn’t fazed by this. “With decades of experience in cooperating with designers and architects, we understand what needs to be considered in the interior design process,” he says. “We go above and beyond expectations to ensure things are done right. We don’t want to be considered just a leather manufacturer and processor. We have 8,200 employees operating across nine sites, with a global distribution. What’s more, our expertise spans the entire value chain – from research and development through to leather production and product manufacture. Our design department plays a particularly important role in the overall process.” 

Buhl says that effectively competing in this evolving market requires firms like his to put the passenger front and centre. “The passenger experience should be the top priority,” he explains. “We need to think outside the box.”

For Buhl, this means thinking about not just aesthetics, but about the combination of colours, shapes and touch which he says combine to impact the wellbeing of people in their direct surroundings. 

“Products need to pass the feeling test,” he explains. “We can mishear and oversee, but there is no misinterpreted feeling we know. “Haptic sensations characterise us in our earliest stage of development. As toddlers we touch the world in the full sense of the word. How does a thing feel? Is it hard or flexible, heavy or light, huge or small? Every touch is linked to specific emotions and connotations, from which the haptic code results. 

“For example, something warm and soft brings about feelings of being safe and harmonic, while something cold and rough brings about feelings of rejection and restlessness.”

Buhl says that leather offers unique advantages in this regard. “In addition to its haptic effect, leather ignites the senses of both smell and sight. According to research, this multi-sensory address causes a firework of emotions in the brain and impacts product preferences and purchasing decisions. For these reasons, it’s no wonder that leather is so popular in interior design.”

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Lindsay James
By Lindsay James
23 December 2019

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