The Young Designer of the Year Award, in association with renowned shipyard Oceanco, celebrates the original concepts of student and trainee designers from around the globe and has proven to be an important stepping stone for many successful designers. We catch up with all the winners to see where they are now...
Spanish designer Ignacio Bourgon took home the most recent Young Designer Award after impressing the judges with his high-tech and environmentally-friendly design concept Air. The panel found his design to be not only an aesthetically pleasing concept, but one that was practically ready for construction in perfect alignment with the owner's brief.
According to Bourgon, Air took its design cues from both nature and the electric vehicle market and is characterised by "clean and minimal shapes". Bourgon's portfolio includes other design concepts such as the 90 metre research explorer ARC, 20 metre sailing yacht Maya and 42 metre motor yacht Opal. Recently, he also completed his second Master's degree in yacht design at the Politecnico di Milano.
Ana Čeović walked away with the 2021 Young Designer of the Year Award based on her submission of Phoenix, an explorer yacht concept intended to strike "a balance between functionality, comfort and elegance".
Following her win, Čeović worked independently for six months designing the interior of a sailing yacht for a private client. She then returned to Vitruvius Yachts Limited, having already completed an internship with the firm prior to her award, where she currently works as a junior exterior designer.
Having entered the design competition twice before, Valentin Weigand secured his Neptune with his 87 metre concept Plato. "Sticking to it paid off," he said upon collecting his award. Co-founder of design studio Seymour Design, Fiona Diamond, who also served as a judge, complimented the "organic feel" of Weigand's concept.
Following the ceremony, Weigand was awarded a three-month design internship at Oceanco's Monaco office. He has since founded his own studio, Valentin Design, which recently partnered with Abeking & Rasmussen to reveal an 86 metre explorer concept at the 2022 Monaco Yacht Show named TIME.
The prize for the 2019 Young Designer of the Year Award was scooped up by Yihharn Liu from Taiwan. Liu caught the judges' attention with her 80 metre motor sailer design concept Manta, which beat 41 other entries to the top spot. She originally entered the award as an opportunity to meet and network with fellow young designers. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet a lot of great people, all these young designers, and keep in touch with them and get to know each other,” she said, adding that she “had no idea” that she was going to go home with the award.
As part of the winner's prize, Liu was awarded a three-month Oceanco design internship in the firm's Monaco office. Following her placement, Liu has since worked full-time at Winch Design in London, England.
2018 winner (student category)
Scooping the 2018 student prize "fast-tracked" the career of Nicolò Piredda, who impressed judges with his 60 metre explorer yacht concept Galàna. Piredda went on to complete his coveted three-month internship at Dutch yard Oceanco, which saw him work across various processes such as feasibility, construction, durability and concept development. He then landed a full time job at superyacht design firm Sinot Exclusive Yacht Design, before opening Piredda & Partners in Italy where he has worked since as managing and creative director.
Nicolò described winning the award as a “career shortcut”. “As a young designer, I used to dream about getting involved in the superyacht industry and now I’m handling my own projects,” he said. “I couldn’t even imagine being here a year ago.”
Thibaud Le Merdy
2017 winner (student category)
Winning the student category at the 2017 Young Designer of the Year Award provided an immediate boost to Le Merdy’s career as he was offered a role with Silver Arrows Marine less than 24 hours after the prize-giving ceremony. This placement has seen him work on the Mercedes-Benz designed Arrow 460-GT speedboat.
Le Merdy (pictured above at the Cannes Yachting Festival 2017) returned to Silver Arrows Marine for just under two years following the completion of his awarded three-month internship with Oceanco. Le Merdy has since moved on to become a yacht designer at The A Group, a position he has held for the past four years in Monaco. Summing up his experience, he told Boat International: “All the hard working that went into my entry for the Young Designer of the Year award was worth it.”
2017 winner (professional category)
Since he won the professional category at the 2017 Young Designer of the Year Awards, Laurent (pictured above at the World Superyacht Awards 2017) has built new partnerships with architects, engineering firms, captains, designers and brokers. Mainly involved in new builds, his studio Elision Design has also been working on refits, tender designs and production yachts with a particular focus on the 60 to 100 metre market.
Scooping the Young Designer of the Year award at the 2016 ShowBoats Design Awards kick-started a whirlwind year for Baoqi Xiao, who worked at De Voogt Naval Architects for six months, creating several new proposals for Feadship clients with designers from the studio. After completing a series of architectural internships following his experience with De Voogt, Xiao is now working full-time as a design professional in California with global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm HOK.
The 2015 Young Designer of the Year Award brief called for an innovative design for a hypothetical first-time owner — a couture fashion designer who planned to live aboard and who came with an extremely specific set of requirements for cruising and lifestyle. This was the first year a sailing yacht design was specified, and presented a challenge for the entrants, many of whom lacked significant technical knowledge in the field. But it was young designer Timur Bozca and his striking Cauta design that won over judges.
Despite receiving several job offers after winning the Neptune, Bozca elected to continue working on his own. Based in Milan, Bozca acts as the CEO and creative director of Bozca Design, and has also since co-founded Superyacht NFTs in Dubai as of January 2022. One of the most talked about launches of 2022 was a 146 metre semi-submersible conversion named OK and Bozca was behind the revamp of this quirky vessel.
Three-time Young Designer of the Year entrant and transportation design student Raphael Laloux had his moment to shine at the 2014 competition when his innovative SWATH (Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull) concept Symphony scooped the top prize. Laloux’s career in yacht design began a year prior, when as a finalist at the 2013 ceremony, he was offered a job to develop a motor yacht range for Loguer Design. After winning the prize, Laloux joined Philippe Briand’s team where he worked on such projects as a 50 metre for Pendennis and 80 metre Vitruvius with Turquoise Yachts. Laloux then joined Sinot Yacht Architecture & Design as a yacht designer in January 2021 where he has worked since.
The brief for the 2013 Young Designer of the Year competition called for a 65 metre motor yacht with long-range capability designed for an avid car collector who eschewed formality and traditional expedition vessel styling. It was Italian architectural design graduate Stefano Inglese and his Granturismo design that triumphed over other entrants. After receiving his doctorate in architecture, Vafiadis worked in London at an ‘archistar’ office before joining Studio Vafiadis, his family’s design firm, in Rome. Responsible for new concept development, he and his team unveiled a Sport Oceanic line for Columbus Yachts and have a 70 metre project under construction at the builder’s yard in Naples.
It was Industrial Design degree programme graduate Benjamin Julian Toth who took home the prize in 2012 for his 50 metre ReSeadence concept. Upon winning the competition, Toth worked with UK design firm Redman Whiteley Dixon before founding CEA Industrial Design to create an international portfolio of yacht designs from 50 to 107 metres. Toth also has several product designs due to hit the market, including a client project above 90 metres and an artistic cantilever chair. His most recent conceptual designs have been presented under the studio STURGE&TOTH.
Timeless elegance was the theme of the year when Michael Givens took home the award for his 76.8 metre concept. Dubbed KT, the winning design featured fantail styling with a long classic sheerline specced for a first-time owner. Givens started his career in yacht design, working with Jonathan Quinn Barnett at JQB, Ltd. in Seattle, Washington. After working with Delta Marine and the Delta Design Team for four years after, Givens then returned to JQB, Ltd. As of 2021, Givens left JQB to focus on his multiple businesses, Michael Givens Design and KT-eBoat, which he founded in 2018.
The winning Young Designer of the Year design in 2010 was the 66 metre Ra by California-based postgraduate Adam Voorhees — who returned to the competition after being named a finalist in 2009. Since then, Voorhees has unveiled an array of collaborative designs with industry-leading names, completed his first superyacht project — the restyled 25 metre sailing yacht Aandeel — and worked under the legendary Espen Øino before launching his own studio. One of his biggest projects to date was the refit of 56 metre Feadship Rasselas, later named Broadwater, which scooped a World Superyacht Award in 2021 in the refit category.
Currently, Voorhees has a number of design work underway, including a series update with LeBreton Yachts and a Bruce Farr racing yacht refit. Voorhees also teaches at his alma mater, the ArtCenter College of Design, dabbles in residential interior design and is creating a line of outdoor furniture for an American brand.
As the talk of environmental responsibility reached a crescendo in 2009, the second annual Young Designer of the Year Award was handed to German industrial design student Maila Speitkamp for her design concept named Draconis. The 43.6 metre catamaran won the judges over with its innovative folding sail wings and the ability to transform into a motor yacht.
Draconis was the thesis project for Speitkamp’s studies in Industrial Design at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Upon graduation, Speitkamp became a freelance designer working on yacht projects and spent several years lecturing on yacht styling at her alma mater’s Institute of Ship Technology and Transport Systems department. She then parntered with her husband Adrian Thon to run industrial design firm Thon Design before moving on to her current role as a project manager and senior UI/UX designer at BUSSE Design+Engineering GmbH.
The inaugural Young Designer of the Year competition saw 40 entries from 12 countries, but it was American product design student Fadi Pataq and his 70.26 metre steel and aluminium motor yacht design, Pelagia, that took home the prize. Since receiving the Neptune in April 2008, Pataq's first superyacht project was significant — he was responsible for the exterior styling of the 141 metre Yas, one of the biggest superyachts in the world. From there, he served as a creative director Nobiskrug in Germany, but left the shipyard in 2021 to become director of marketing and product development at CMN Naval. Pataq has since become a sitting Board of Directors member for the Superyacht Eco Association (SEA) Index at the Yacht Club de Monaco.