While the world was in chaos due to the pandemic, up and coming superyacht designer Alejandro Crespo was quietly planning his next big career move.
Inspired by a passion for European design, favouring its geometric features and structural simplicity, his bold yacht concepts ‘Sunset’ and ‘Equilibrium’ had already received international attention, and the moment arrived when it was the right time to open his own studio: Daroca Design.
Speaking with Alejandro over Zoom, he lifts the veil on the fast-moving world of yacht design and reveals his inspiration for the practical beauty that defines his style.
Tell us a little about your background – where did you grow up?
I am from Valencia, a coastal city in eastern Spain. From a very young age, I had the opportunity to learn to sail on dinghy sailing boats and do all kinds of water sports so the sea was very present. Over time, the sea became one of the most important things in my life.
Why did you choose to study design and why specifically yacht design?
I have always liked to make models, build things with the toys I had, transform things and, above all, to draw and paint so, when I had to choose, I decided industrial design was the best option for my future career. Once I’d finished industrial design, I went on to study for a master's degree in yacht design at the Polytechnic University of Milano, which was one of the best decisions of my life as it combined my hobbies from the sea with my love of design.
Who are your design heroes? Whose work do you most admire?
Regarding design in general, I have many references but I really like the Mies van der Rohe school because it is characterized by the simplicity of its structural elements, by geometric composition and by the total absence of ornamental elements. I try to continue with this philosophy in all my projects. Other references for me are Zaha Hadid, Philip Stark, Pininfarina and, in the world of yachts, Luca Bassani - his designs are simply incredible.
What did you do after graduating?
As soon as I finished college I decided to travel. I went to live in Australia for six months and after that, I decided to go backpacking alone in India and the Philippines for two months. After that, I started working on my own project, creating a portfolio to find a good job.
In January of this year you opened your own studio - Daroca Design. How did that come about?
It all started with the Coronavirus. I had lots of time to think and starting my own studio was an idea I’d had for a long time as I’d always wanted to create my own company. Once Sunset and Equilibrium (yacht designs) were published, I received very good feedback which gave me the confidence to go ahead.
How would you describe your own style?
I like to incorporate all forms of nature, their reflections and how each thing interacts with another, creating harmony between them. I would define my style as minimalist, contemporary and timeless. I like owners to feel that during every moment of their stay on board the sea is very present, so the use of glass is very recurrent in my designs.
What size of vessel do you focus on?
What I like the most are superyachts above 40m as they tend to be fully custom and require a unique design. But I also like to design smaller boats and tenders - I’ve had more direct contact with these since I was little.
Do you have a particular type of owner in mind when creating a concept?
No. Rather, when I create a concept without a private owner, I like to create something that I think might appeal to any type of potential buyer. I try to create unique concepts based on trends and my own vision.
Designers are often keen to push boundaries – what are the main challenges in terms of viability?
Since I started in the world of design, what both teachers and other designers have made clear to me, and I have understood more and more, is that we design for consumers and we always have to think about the objective for which we are creating it. A yacht is something that is going to be used and enjoyed by someone for their own purposes, so we have to understand that and cannot create designs that are not practical for use.
With growing pressure to reduce the environmental footprint of a yacht, who tends to be the main driver – owners or shipyards?
I believe that we all have to be aware of the problem we currently have and together seek the best solutions so that the yacht has the lowest possible environmental footprint. I believe that changes are taking place both in the mentality of new owners and in the way the shipyards work, so that more environmentally friendly products are created.
How does a new studio attract business? What is the process?
Right now, my emphasis is on networking, speaking with shipyards, brokers, family offices and owners. Being a small business, the most important thing is being able to reach all these people – they need to meet you and get a sense of who you are if they are to count on you in the future. At the same time, you should never stop designing and creating new products to expand the studio’s portfolio to demonstrate the possibilities offered by Daroca Design.
You recently participated in Yachting Ventures, an accelerator program for yachting startups – how was the experience and how has it benefitted you?
It has been a great experience! It has given me a fantastic opportunity to grow my company in areas that I wasn’t aware of, and it exposed me to some important players in the world of yachting. Also, thanks to Gabriella, there’s a great bond between participants which strengthens our network for the future.
Are the shipyards generally keen to meet new designers so that you can present your work?
Yes, shipyards are generally very open to meeting new designers and seeing our projects which helps young designers to make an approach. Since I started, Oceanco in particular has helped me a lot by including me in their Young Designers group – a group of young designers who all know each other and who get along very well.
You mentioned that owners often avoid a concept that has already appeared in the press – that must make your job very difficult?
Yes, normally the boats that are presented to the public are not the ones that are later sold. However, it still allows us to showcase what each studio can offer so it certainly helps us to attract new clients.
Which of your designs are you most proud of?
I am very proud of all of them since each one is a creation from scratch. In every project, you learn new things that you had never considered in the previous one – it’s always fun to create new things and to face new challenges. If I really had to choose one of them, it would be Sunset. I have a special affection for that design as it was my first superyacht design to be published internationally and it helped me believe that there’s a long-term future in this for me.
Which yacht do you most admire and why?
Personally, I have two that I like the most, Savannah and Wallypower, both for their simplicity in shapes and colours, and for the designer's skill in creating a yacht that harmonizes with the landscape.
What is trending in terms of yacht design and what do you predict in the future?
In the world of yachting, it is difficult to know since each yacht is for a different person and each person has a different taste. But I predict greater use of glass on each deck, and large outdoor spaces with jacuzzis and pools close to the sea so we feel in contact with the water at all times.
Click here to download Alejandro's portfolio.