Widely regarded as the world’s preeminent hospitality designer, Adam D. Tihany has created hotel and dining interiors at some of the most iconic and luxurious properties around the globe, including The Beverly Hills Hotel, Belmond Hotel Cipriani in Venice, The Breakers in Palm Beach, Four Seasons Dubai DIFC and The Oberoi New Delhi. Tihany was one of the first designers to collaborate with internationally acclaimed chefs, creating signature restaurant interiors for culinary stars such as Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, Heston Blumenthal and Wolfgang Puck. He has become a leading name in the cruise industry, creating innovative design concepts for Holland America Line and ultra-luxury Seabourn vessels, and is currently serving as Creative Director to Italy’s Costa Cruises and the iconic British cruise line Cunard. Tihany Design projects are characterised by their personal identities, timeless elegance and strong sense of place. The firm’s body of work showcases a fluid, yet profoundly diverse design vocabulary, illustrating Tihany’s philosophy of custom-tailoring each project to fit to the unique vision of the client.

Thanks for speaking with the Cruise Ship Interiors Expo Europe team today! You founded your namesake firm over 40 years ago. Tell us about your current role and how your studio has evolved.

We’re a small group of 15 people in New York plus five designers in our outpost in Rome, which allows me to be personally and intimately involved in the design process of every project. I am, de facto, the Creative Director of Tihany Design. I recently launched the product design company, Tihany Product Design, working with some of the leading European furniture, lighting and accessories brands.

Your talk is titled ‘Defining the Narrative: Cruising in the Age of Design.’ Was there a moment when you noticed a shift in the cruise industry’s relationship with design?

Within the last decade, there has been a major global shift toward ‘experiential’ travel, putting the guest experience at the forefront of travel. This shift has an even greater impact when combined with what I refer to as our current ‘Age of Design,’ where attention to design is permeating almost every industry and is accessible (and shareable) by everyone – from the phone in your hand to clothes, your dining choices and the spaces that surround you. We started taking note of this evolution of design within the cruise industry while working on the Grand Epernay Dining Room and other public spaces on the Celebrity Solstice ships. As expectations changed, the contemporary cruise ship had started to evolve from the typical overstimulating ‘floating hotel’ into a targeted experiential design. Fast forward to our work with Seabourn, where refined and bespoke design has become so integrated with the Seabourn guest expectations it has become a fundamental pillar of the brand. Design is no longer a two-dimensional background, but a key contributor of the guest experience – and very much a part of the instant social media interaction of travelling today.

Seabourn Encore

You have designed many public areas – and entire ships with Seabourn – but some of your recent cruise work is in the role of creative director. How do you approach the design process while overseeing a team of creatives from different firms?

My role as creative director is much like a film producer and director. Working closely with the cruise line team, I first develop the narrative for the ship – the script – and visualise the look and feel of the interiors with mood boards and drawings that tell the design narrative. I then act like a casting director, finding and hiring the lead ‘actors’ – the design firms who will execute the vision – and continue to work closely with them as a director would with the actors on set during the creative design period. The first months of the process are a bit challenging and are dedicated to transforming a group of rivals into a tight-knit team. I have to constantly remind them that the project is not a competition but a collaboration.

This December you’ll be speaking at the Cruise Ship Interiors Expo Europe Conference. Without giving too much away, can you tell us what we might expect from your session?

I hope the Cruise Ship Interiors audience will join me for a dynamic look at the the importance of creating building a compelling story through a ship’s interiors. We’ll talk about the psychology of the captive audience on a ship and how that influences the design in the largest-scale ships – like the 2600-cabin Costa Smeralda – versus the smallest in the growing expedition ship category like with the 130-cabin Seabourn Venture launching in 2021.

Seabourn Ovation

Is there a challenge you’re yet to try that would like to sink your teeth into?

I’ve designed interior spaces for land and sea, next up I’m looking to the sky as the next frontier.

Finally, we have to ask, what are you most looking forward to at the inaugural Cruise Ship Interior Expo Europe?

I’m looking forward to taking part in the contemporary cruise conversation, hearing the other speakers, meeting interest people and seeing the second iteration of this exciting new event in beautiful Barcelona.

Don’t miss Adam speaking on Definitely the Narrative: Cruising in the Age of Design on 4 December at 12:15pm.