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How Igor Lobanov landed his first yacht design job

Igor Lobanov has an enviable job: he designs 100-metre-plus superyachts to be built at the world’s most prestigious yards.

The 43-year-old says he didn’t set out to become a yacht designer, but credits his achievements to making the most of every meeting he had along the way.

‘I was born in the Soviet Union, studied very well in school, played piano and was a very diligent boy,” he says. “My parents expected me to become a “genuine builder of communism” and I’m instead designing luxury yachts. Such an irony.’ 

Lobanov graduated from Moscow State University with a degree in mathematics and tried to make his way in business in early 90s Russia. But when his interest in design – cars, airplanes, and later, yachts – became a passion, the then-27-year-old changed course and moved to Turin, Italy to study Transport Design. Lobanov received his Masters of Art degree in Automotive Design from Coventry University in the UK and went on to work in the exterior design department at the VW Design Center in Wolfsburg, Germany.

A chance meeting in 2003 brought Lobanov into the world of yacht design.

Life gives many opportunities. It’s not like there is going to be one chance only. You will probably miss some good chances, but you should keep trying to use every single one of them.

Igor Lobanov's advice for young designers

"When I met the owner of yacht A, I told him where I studied and then I showed him my portfolio, which was full of cars, no yachts of course," Lobanov recalls. "Apparently he was impressed by my work."

Although Lobanov did not lend his design skills to the development of  Motor Yacht A, designed by  Philippe Starck and  Martin Francis, he did inspire the yacht’s name.

"The only contribution to the project I made as a designer was the name. I proposed to Starck and to the owner, 'Why not call it just ‘A’, ‘A yacht by Starck’?'"

By 2007, Lobanov had formed his own yacht design firm.

"My first year as a yacht designer, we produced two scale models and exhibited them at the 2007 Monaco Yacht Show,’ he recalls. Lobanov showed one model, 'White Night' to Michael Bremen of Lürssen the day before the show began.

"I have to personally thank Michael," Lobanov says. "He said, 'Looks great! Put it here.' He was very open and let me exhibit the model at their booth – and the attention of the public during the show was enormous. That encouraged me a lot."

The second model, 'Liza', was produced and exhibited by Blohm+Voss.

At that same show, Lobanov showed his portfolio and the scale models to the team at Oceanco. Oceanco invited him to participate in a design tender for the new build project Y708. Lobanov won the tender.

Nearly a decade on, Lobanov is humble when recounting the events that led him into the world of superyacht design. As anyone knows, walking into a booth and getting an audience with the head of a leading builder is no easy task.

His advice for young designers is simple: "Life gives many opportunities. It’s not like there is going to be one chance only. You will probably miss some good chances, but you should keep trying to use every single one of them."

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