Studio Bela Design

Product Design of the Year 2022

Interview with Studio Bela Design about ePDA Product Design of the Year: ELECTRA – a 150 passenger hydrofoil ferry


Q: What was the main idea behind your project? / What inspired you to start working on this project?

Boundary Layer Technologies: The inspiration for ELECTRA grew out of a desire to change the sea freight industry with green, hydrofoiling ships. This took the form of hydrofoiling container ships which could offer services as fast as air freight while being fully zero-emission (and half the price!). However, in order to make our vision a reality we had to start with something a bit smaller and easier to build. Thus, ELECTRA was born, as a fully-electric hydrofoiling ferry that could help transform the passenger ferry industry.

Q: What does winning the ePDA “Product Design of the Year” award mean to you? This must be a high compliment for a corporation whose mission is to decarbonize ocean transportation.

Erik: It means a lot for the whole team. This award is proof that we are right on track, both regarding the design approach and also the technical concept. This definitely shows us that people are supporting the technology, the innovation and the futuristic approach to disrupt an industry in order to provide more sustainable transportation on water, to ultimately move towards an emission free future.

Q: What were the first questions and worries your team had to address practically when the project first started?

Erik: For the design task it was difficult to create a design that visually communicates the innovation behind ELECTRA but still looks familiar enough not to scare people away. It needs to look safe and trustworthy, but also new and exciting. We used the MAYA principle for this project in order to create a vessel that is iconic and distinctive but not too crazy to be misunderstood. The EPDA award is a testimony that we hit our goal and did a great job developing a visual language for ELECTRA.

BLT: From the technical side, some of the first questions we had to answer were on the size. It was important to make the vessel as big as possible to fit as many passengers as possible from the commercial standpoint, but blending this with practical limitations on budget and materials led to one of our biggest challenges. Additionally, a very practicable concern when starting on this project was our team resources. As a start-up, we had a limited budget and small team to tackle this large innovation. Getting the right people onboard and communicating effectively were the keys to unlocking our success in design.

Q: What do you think has been the toughest part of your journey thus far?

BLT: The hardest part of designing ELECTRA was deciding on the constraints. When we first started on the problem, there was no clear answer of where we wanted to end up. With lots of different sizes and types of ferries currently in operation, we had to be careful in setting requirements and targets. In the end, we think that the open aspect of this problem allowed for greater innovation and resulted in the stunning final design.

Q: What would the one secret be to a design team’s success if there were only one?

Erik: Great Communication. Design jobs are 90% Communication. During every milestone Inside the team or outside to clients, suppliers & partners, managing and sharing information and ideas will be a huge influence in bringing everybody onboard and develop innovative solutions. As designers need to be communicators and the tools we use in design are visual communication. Renderings, sketches, … all tools serve different purposes but they are all ways to transport information. 100% Communication is key!

Q: The platform for transportation-related decarbonization is constantly changing. What, in your opinion, is the current trick to staying on the leading edge in this field? 

BLT: Our trick for staying on the leading edge of this industry is to continuously innovate. We are always seeking out new ways to improve our designs, and are always willing to accept new challenges in doing so. By being flexible and allowing for these changes, we can maintain a technological advantage and stay on the leading edge of the industry.

Q: Is there anything fresh in the works for you after this enormous accomplishment (if you could share it with us)?

BLT: We have the ARGO vessel, a zero-emission hydrofoiling ship which can carry up to 190 tons of payload. This ship is designed to decarbonise the air freight industry as an efficient, high speed sea freight alternative. By utilizing hydrofoils, ARGO can match door to door delivery times without any CO2 emissions. We believe this technology is the key to making the freight industry green and will help companies meet their required emissions.

View Product Design of the Year 2022 here.