The role of design psychology in creating interiors

Studio DADO's Yohandel Ruiz explains how designers help create the right atmosphere on cruise ships

The role of design psychology in creating interiors
Studio DADO created a Pacific Northwest-inspired dining experience in Ocean Blue on Norwegian Bliss

By Yohandel Ruiz |

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 significant function of our role is to ease people into the ideal mental state to enjoy the space that they’ve entered onboard a passenger ship. We’re designers but to succeed in our privileged assignments, we also have to play the role of psychologists and sociologists. These skills are acquired through experience and continuous learning.

As cruise guests explore a ship, our designs have to enhance the appropriate senses to help them seamlessly shift into the optimum temperament to fully appreciate each space. In a restaurant, for example, the right choice of lighting, music, textiles, tableware, furniture and other design elements can markedly elevate the dining experience. Meanwhile, different choices for a spa, lounge or other areas can move the mind in alternative ways to create a mood that encourages guests to relax, socialise or enjoy another activity.

Not all spaces are equal. Some have the proportions, natural light and ceiling height that give freedom for creativity to flourish, while others are more restricted and provide a different kind of design challenge. Some areas of a ship are naturally unrewarding from a design perspective, so we have to find ways to manipulate the mind to help passengers navigate the space more easily and reap greater rewards. Long corridors of cabins, for example, are a functional necessity. However, we can enrich their design through thoughtful pauses using artwork, lighting, signage and other sensory treats.

A restaurant that we designed recently gives a good example of a challenging space. A section of the area that we were working on had a significantly reduced ceiling height due to the placement of the lifeboats on the deck above. We decided to create private dining rooms in this area, and they have now become the most valued area of the room. In contrast, the Sky Suites on Sky Princess had generous proportions and an abundance of natural light, through the skylights and balcony doors. So the challenge here was to make the best use of the room’s inherent assets to optimise the passenger’s mindset through the different functional phases that a suite fulfils each day and night (read more on page 176). Interior design is certainly an art, but it’s also a science – one that brings joy, not just for the eyes, but also for the mind as well.

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