Design pedigree

The power of experience – how Tillberg Design of Sweden draws on 60 years of history to bring dreams to reality

04 July 2023


Tillberg Design of Sweden (TDoS), part of the Viken Group, is no stranger to creating extraordinary projects that give owners and guests – from the cruise ship industry right down to private yachts – an exceptional experience both during the design phase and on board.

It all started nearly 60 years ago when, in 1964, founder Robert Tillberg developed the design for the ocean cruise liner Kungsholm and made it a showcase of bespoke Scandinavian style.

Today the company’s extensive team works across cruise ship design, superyacht design, branding and signage, drawing on a prodigious depth of experience, talent and iconic reference projects from throughout its six-decade history.

Indeed, TDoS history is littered with examples of bold designs and technological steps forward drawn from more than 350 reference projects, and borne from long-standing relationships with every major brand in the cruise industry.

Robert Tillberg’s and the team’s innovations have included everything from the very first atrium on a cruise ship aboard Sea Venture (1971) to the awe-inspiring, 2,101-cover, multi-deck restaurant on Freedom of the Seas (2006) and the grandeur of Queen Mary 2 (2003) – at the time of her launch, the longest and largest passenger ship ever built.


The secret is that TDoS enjoys several perfect balances – between cruise ship design and functionality and superyacht style and finishing; between the experience with architects who’ve been with the company for 30 years and the creative energy of those new to the team; and between the exquisite craftsmanship of Scandinavian design and the environmental caretaking that is innate to Scandinavian society.

These are all things that the partners of the company know well. Fredrik Johansson, for example, joined TDoS in the 1990s after working as an architect in Denmark – he soon found himself working on the refit and the design of the iconic liners Queen Elizabeth 2 and Queen Mary 2 for Cunard.

Helena Sawelin worked in the fashion industry before joining the FF&E division of TDoS to specialise in materials and interior finishes, as well as becoming a sustainability guru within the company. Michal Jackiewicz also came from a land architecture background before landing in TDoS and working on everything from rebranding cruise vessels to project management, business development and team mentoring.

Cruise control

The team is increasingly seeing a blend between traditional cruise ships and private superyachts, with the emergence of the cruise yacht reshaping boutique cruise opportunities.

These vessels carry the operational functionality of cruise ships but offer a limited number of guests a superyacht-like experience, with attendant levels of superyacht facilities and finishes.

“We see a lot of crossovers now between cruise ships and yachts – we call them cruise yachts, which are like commercial passenger vessels but with a yacht feeling,” says Jackiewicz. “There are operational aspects that are therefore morphing and changing, and we’re leading this process in the industry.”

Selective superyachts

These values and attributes are reflected perfectly in two recent yacht projects undertaken by the TDoS Yacht team – the 60-metre contemporary explorer yacht Mimer, and the 77-metre Lycka for German superyacht builder Nobiskrug.

The 60-metre Mimer displays a perfect harmony between clean, luxurious and functionally refined interior spaces and crew routes, and flexible explorer functionality that allows for three different aft end options for the owner to choose between to cater to differing requirements for an extensive toy chest, heli-cruising or additional guest lounge and large tender garage.

Lycka – the Swedish word for happiness – draws on TDoS’s design flair and passion for environmental considerations, with longevity in everything from sustainable materials to the technical systems front and centre of the concept.

TDoS has made great strides to be a leader not only in selecting sustainable materials and technologies, but also in looking to develop more circular designs in collaboration with like-minded companies not necessarily from the marine sector.

Collective experience

It’s the varied and combined experience of the TDoS team that sets the studio apart from competitors. “Our oldest team member recently retired after 40 years with Tillberg Design of Sweden, and we have a lot of people who have been here for two or three decades,” says Johansson.

“Combining their experience with the ideas of some of the younger and newer team members is one of our secrets – we really know what we’re doing, but we can still be creative and innovative because we have that mix.

“And we have done so many projects in cruise ships and with yachts that clients trust us – we really know how to design a ship, and how to do it on time because with a billion-dollar commercial project, there just isn’t room for mistakes or delays.”

In addition, the formation of the Viken Group – a parent company to Tillberg Design of Sweden that now also encompasses superyacht design studio Hot Lab and naval architecture and engineering firm Thalia Marine – means that the team can offer a full-service package, from small bespoke yachts to the largest mega cruise ships.

“We can design not just the interior and exterior but we can also engineer it, and design and service check the complete technical platform,” says Johansson. “We can start with the guest experience or the owner’s vision and then really tailor the total solution in-house, which is unique in this industry.”

“When bringing in new employees, we mentor them,” says Sawelin. “It’s important, because the designers need to understand the differences between marine projects and a land-based hotel. What’s very important for us is that the design is not just a pretty picture, it has to be functional as well.

“We have five divisions,” Sawelin continues. “One takes care of the general arrangement and the exterior and creates the broad strokes, as well as developing the horizontal and vertical flow of the vessel; another focuses on cabins and suites, detailing down to the last millimetre.

“Then we have a team on public areas, restaurants and outdoor areas; FF&E, which is where I started, which looks after the material finishes and concepts; and a fifth division that focuses on branding and on signage and graphic design.”

It’s worth noting too that Tillberg Design of Sweden is home to the biggest materials library in the business. It can be found at the company’s head office, which is located in the beautiful marina of Höganäs, just a stone’s throw from the village of Viken where it all began for Tillberg.

“For Robert Tillberg, the most important thing was to combine function into the design,” Sawelin says. “He also used to say, never give up until you get it right.

“That ethos is as strong at Tillberg Design of Sweden today as it was 60 years ago when he founded the company.”


Tillberg Design of Sweden (TDoS) has been one of the major players in cruising design since 1964. Today TDoS specialises in design concepts for cruise ships and yachts, while also providing graphic design and branding for a variety of clientele.

As the luxury division of Tillberg Design of Sweden, TDoS Yacht was established and caters exclusively to the niche superyacht and luxury cruise liner industries. TDoS Yacht focuses solely on the naval architecture, space planning, and exterior and interior design of luxury superyachts and high-end cruise liners.

The Viken Group includes Tillberg Design of Sweden, Hot Lab and Thalia Marine. It has been established to gather leading and passionate companies, with similar ideas and business ethics, under one umbrella.



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