Today we’re very pleased to welcome Helena Sawelin, Partner & Business Director at Tillberg Design of Sweden. Helena has worked at TDoS for 25 years and has been the Business Director since 2018. She specialises in FF&E, Business and Client contact.

In this series of special interviews, we’re asking designers: what transforms good design into great design, can you set rules for success and what makes you tick? Helena Sawelin joins us to discuss innovation, sustainability and her own principles of good design.

A black and white image of Helena Sawelin smiling at the camera with her arms crossed

Hello Helena. It’s good to talk to you today about cruise ship interior design and also design in general. In this series, we’re talking about what makes ‘good’ design and Dieter Ram’s Principles of Design. His first principle is, ‘Good design is innovative’. Do you agree?

We absolutely like innovative design, but it must not be at the expense of the function or make the design difficult to understand. From a sustainable view, innovation is smart solutions, a long lasting approach and high quality materials with the attention to the details.  Innovative design can also be invisible technology that helps the guest or the crew and makes life onboard easier.  We do like when the design gives some kind of story to the space, which also makes it understandable. What’s best is when we can combine all these elements.

Is it ever possible to over-innovate, or innovate your way out of usability or fitting a brief?

It has been a trend for a while to create innovative designs and create a wow factor for all areas. Yes, if the only purpose of a space is ‘innovation’ then the design can be short-lived. I would say that most of our customers value when longer lasting design and have thoughts about the functions and smart solutions instead.

Is there room for innovation when working to a brief? Or, perhaps, do the limits imposed by a brief plant the seeds of innovation in the design?

That depends on what is being designed. The incorporation of technology will be the future. How it is used will change depending on the brief, but it will help clients design smarter from an economical and a sustainable perspective, especially when optimising their services..  Technology can be a tool for us when designing to understand the space or the flow, to give a better guest experience. A better guest experience results in better business for the cruise brand owner.

It is important to have the early dialogue to understand the client’s vision but also to advise on alternative solutions where that is helpful.

Tillberg Design of Sweden continue to move forward with a new partnership with COLUMBIA blue. What does this partnership mean and change for TDoS?

During the last years we have made huge strides in the yacht industry. The requests from our new clients looks little different from the previous cruise ship owners. The partnership will make the creative process more efficient and cost-effective for clients, by
merging the initial design and operational verification phases of the ship development cycle. We are now able to offer a better and wider service, and also believe in the cooperation with our huge network we have to give our clients the best service ever.

We will conduct in-depth research among the COLUMBIA onboard employees to identify necessities, priorities, wishes and trends for
crew accommodation and leisure spaces on new buildings. Paired with our design expertise, we will
be able to offer our clientele unique solutions in the future

And, if you can tell us, what’s on the horizon for you? Are you working on anything exciting at the moment?

Of course, we have many projects in the pipeline. Some are too early to mention and some clients want to be confidential. But, we have seen the luxury segment is growing, whether that is a yacht or a new cruise line. But also, I would say sustainability requests are our number one client request. That ranges from the type of fuel to the materials, upgrading the BoH, or how to address the food waste.  That is super interesting! We have also seen a trend of buying shares in a yacht or a condo on the vessel in some new projects. The future traveller wants to have an easier balance between working remotely and vacation.

If we could condense your thoughts on design into three rules, what would Helena Sawelin’s Principles of Design be?

Our business idea is to create value adding, innovative and qualitative design.