AS Associates bold approach to Saga’s Spirit of Adventure reinforces nations that the brand’s demographic is now looking for more from design
A trend is a very subjective thing, and it is also very dependent on a timeline. Between starting and finishing a cruise project, trends often change. We don’t necessarily design to be trendy or to flout trends; it is the designer’s job to listen to their clients, look at the brand, look at their guests and then design from that point of view. If it happens to be a trend, then that is merely a happy coincidence. However, we do want to ensure that our work is relevant and that people enjoy it and see something they haven’t seen before.
Obviously, we want to make an impression on the passengers that see and use our spaces on cruise ships, but these creations must balance that ‘wow’ factor with a long life at sea. This depends on the venue; we can be a little bolder in the areas that are more subject to change. Refurbishment projects also give us more creative freedom than newbuilds as the whole timeline is much shorter.
Trends are also affected by the market. We work within a design community where suppliers and manufacturers are developing products in textiles, wall coverings, furniture and more, and they are influenced by various trade shows – the whole industry is following a general path. I think that we are uniquely capable of delivering designs that diverge from the norm because of our location. We are extremely lucky to be based in the centre of London, UK, as it gives us a whole realm of inspiration. Restaurants, hotels and art galleries are on our doorstep and their influence helps us to diversify our designs. Ultimately it is this diversity that differentiates us from other firms.
While trends do not necessarily play a major role in our work, opportunity does. When we are engaged to work with people as a design partner, we must try to maximise the opportunity. The financial and commercial elements are important, but they are not our priority. Instead, the focus is to take the opportunity to design something that’s fantastic, so that, when delivered, we can honestly say that we have done our best. Going in with that optimistic view – that this is a great opportunity and we are here to have some fun – influences the guest experience at the end of the chain.
Design is a visual art but right now the whole world is being bombarded with imagery, which can be overwhelming. I believe that is it our job to edit this back and curate the elements that we want to explore. As we work in a commercial environment, we must use our own skill and intellect, as well as the brand’s values and ideas, to create a space that works for the brand’s target audience. Design is about decisions and good design is about making good decisions.
Some brands have a well-worked-through sense of their own identity so when they come to us, they can describe what they want quite clearly. We might ask “what are you not about? What is a no-go?” It’s about being relevant and doing great work – designing for anyone is possible, it’s just about making sure that you’ve got a clear understanding of the objectives. We have found a successful strategy in listening to what people are saying and asking of us, and then immersing ourselves in the guest experience. This way, we have a better understanding of how to give people those amazing experiences and lasting impressions.
Chris Finch is the founder and CEO of AD Associates
This article was first published in the 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
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