Introducing our 2023 Design Legend: Marco De Jorio

Italian architect shares the highlights of his more than 30-year career as a sought-after interior designer

Introducing our 2023 Design Legend: Marco De Jorio
“We became renowned for creating designs that prioritised elegance and pure Italian style,” says Marco De Jorio

By Rebecca Gibson |

When Marco de Jorio first boarded a wooden motor yacht as a young boy, it kickstarted a love for shipbuilding that led to him completing a degree at the University of Architecture in Genoa and Rome in 1986, and subsequently honing his design knowledge and expertise at Studio De Jorio, a firm owned by his father, the renowned cruise ship architect Giuseppe de Jorio. He quickly developed a well-earned reputation as a highly skilled designer that creates timeless interiors and, in 2000, he established De Jorio Design International alongside his father and his brother, Vittorio de Jorio.

Some of the notable projects the firm has worked on over the past three decades include ferries for Grande Navi Veloci, Tirrenia Ferries, Minoan Lines and Grimaldi Holdings, as well as cruise vessels for major brands like Costa Cruises, Princess Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises and Explora Journeys. Here, De Jorio shares an insight into the highlights of his more than 30-year career.

How did you first get into cruise ship design?

You could say it was fate – in 1779, my ancestor Michele de Jorio – juriconsult, lawyer, magistrate and president of the Sacred Royal Council of the Kingdom of Naples in Italy – developed the world’s first maritime code for Ferdinand IV of Naples (also known as the King of Two Sicilies). The Ferdinandean Code is a cornerstone of maritime and legal literature, and it is still studied today. I like to think that I’m following in the footsteps of my ancestor, albeit in the more creative and stimulating world of designing the interiors and exteriors of ships.

My introduction to the maritime field happened as a young boy in the 1970s when I accompanied my father, the renowned cruise ship architect Giuseppe De Jorio, during some of his many trips to design motor yachts for both private owners and Italy’s Genoa, Viareggio and La Spezia shipyards. During one of these trips, I spent a full day working alongside a team of people painting the hull of a motor yacht, which gave me the opportunity to learn painting techniques first hand. I also had the chance to acquire valuable and irreplaceable knowledge from other technicians, wood and steel workers, and interior and furniture suppliers. Moments like this instilled my long-standing passion for shipbuilding.

My interest in designing and building ships grew over time, with my first interior designs being for the 65-metre-long El Bravo motor yacht, Costa Line’s Enrico C cruise ship, and the Prince of Monaco’s Stalca II sailing yacht in the first half of the 1980s. The matrix of yacht design has marked all of my ship design work since, leading me to always seek to create elegant vessels with superior details and personality.

Can you please summarise the significant design trends that have influenced your work over the past 30 years?

During the 1980s, many architects were influenced by the postmodernism movement, which emerged as rejection of the modernism and European rationalism that had been dominant for almost 50 years. Although the postmodernism movement, which continued growing until the mid-1990s, gave rise to some remarkable examples of architecture, it also unfortunately brought with it the old, heavy baggage of revivalism. This had negatively impacted the way designers approached interior design for both cruise ships and land-based projects. A few key companies, mainly based in the USA, dominated the cruise interior design industry during this period and there was a questionable rise in ‘Las Vegas style’ and kitsch onboard many ships. However, our studio refused to chase conformism and fleeting trends when designing cruise ships, and instead we became renowned for creating designs that prioritised elegance and pure Italian style.

The 2000s marked the return of functionalism, with designers and architects placing more emphasis on creating pure designs that stand the test of time and deliver positive sensorial experiences for guests. We’re proud to have been the first design studio to lead the way for the return of contemporary interior design on cruise ships all the way back in the 1990s.

How has the type of design brief you receive from cruise lines evolved throughout your career?

We’ve seen several changes over the past 30 years. For example, ships are now bigger, and many different types of cruise experience have emerged, with brands offering everything from ultra-luxury to contemporary, expedition and family-oriented vessels. In addition, brands are now targeting the global market, hoping to attract international guests and individuals in specific socioeconomic brackets. Today’s guests also have diverse expectations, so cruise brands must find ways to offer multiple types of entertainment, food and beverage options and other onboard services to ensure they can satisfy all the guests sailing onboard one ship.

Design preferences have continued to change too, with ship interiors being increasingly inspired by land-based architecture and design.

What are the most surprising changes that you have witnessed in the industry since the start of your career?

The biggest surprise has been the speed with which the passenger shipping industry is able to adapt its hardware and software to overcome socioeconomic and geopolitical challenges, and to accommodate new cultural trends and technologies. In the past, the passenger shipping sector was very conservative and traditional but today it is a true icon of modernity. Although it has suffered ups and downs, such as during the Covid pandemic, passenger shipping is the flagship of the tourism industry and is destined to continue growing due to the ever-expanding source markets and destinations all over the world.

Can you tell us what sources of inspiration have had the greatest influence on your work?

For me, the best sources of design inspiration are different cultures and all forms of art. Nothing can train and stimulate our design sensitivities like pure architecture, music compositions, visual arts and travel experiences. To create a successful and harmonious interior design, you need to know how to meditate between different forms of artistic expression.

Our customers can also provide us with inspiration in our incessant search for expressive new design models. For example, when we designed the new flagship mega yacht for the King of Oman, who rules over a country with an immense artistic history, it enabled us to strengthen our cultural knowledge. Each interaction with important clients represents an opportunity for growth, in every sense.

Which third-party companies have you had the longest professional relationships with and what factors have been key to this longevity?

It’s crucial to build and maintain good professional relationships with shipyards, contractors, suppliers and other stakeholders in the passenger shipping industry. We’ve collaborated with many of the big Italian and French shipyards over the years, most notably Fincantieri, T. Mariotti, Sanlorenzo and Chantiers de l’Atlantique. We’ve established similar partnerships with multiple suppliers, such as furniture brands like Paolo Castelli, Molteni and Minotti to name just a few. We’ve always found their teams to be highly competent and flexible.

This article was first published in the 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Interiors for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door. 

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