Ouch, I totally forgot. Last year I should have celebrated 25 years of Guido de Groot Design. Okay, we’ll do it this year. Here is the “25 YEARS AND A BIT”!
Throughout this year, I will post a series of episodes in which I will run together with you those 25 years, as well as the period leading to the start of the company. From my car design background, my first attempts to design yachts, actual setting up of the company, some projects including the design process, up to where we are now.
I hope you will enjoy those episodes.
To warm you up, I show you already one of my very early yacht design pencil sketches (dated from July 1988) and an illustration painted with Ecoline ink I’ve made 33 years ago.
ArtCenter College of Design
As strange as it might sound, it was never my intention as a student to become a yacht designer. Car design and airplanes were my passion.
I’ve studied car design at the ArtCenter College of Design. During the study, the activity I’ve enjoyed the most was clay modelling. It is the best way to understand shapes and how they develop.
Here are some pictures from my early clay models; and yes, that nerdy-looking guy is me 35 years ago.
The yellow car was my graduation project. It is a Citroën off-road sports car, inspired by the Citroën Paris Dakar rally raid successes at the time. You might notice a boaty trimaran look to it. As a keen glider pilot and airplane lover, I have also designed my own little airplane.
In the next episode about my 25 years and a bit journey I will tell you more about how I actually got into designing yachts.
Biep de Vries
My introduction to “super yachts” was one of pure coincidence. During a vacation in the Belgian Ardennes in 1985, I met (the late) Biep de Vries, of the De Vries Feadship shipyard.
After a nice conversation with him, he invited me to visit the shipyard. It was after that visit that I got so impressed that I started drawing yachts immediately that same day.
It was especially the Highlander, designed by Jon Bannenberg, that I had seen during that visit and that blew me away.
I am wondering if I would have become a yacht designer if I hadn’t met up with Biep de Vries at that occasion. Over a period of at least 12 years, I’ve visited Biep on a regular basis, showing him my latest yacht designs. He always gave me his honest opinion and explained what would and wouldn’t work.
Here is a selection of those early drawings I’ve made at that time.
After graduating from ArtCenter College of Design, I worked for almost 7 years at Citroën. It turned out to be a fantastic place for a young designer to learn all about how a company that had been struggling to survive turned again into a successful car company.
I worked on both exteriors and interiors at Citroën. And in my spare time, I was working on my yacht design portfolio, doing at the same time occasional illustration work for Feadship. At the time, I already knew deep down that my next career move would be in that direction.
Here are some of my old Citroën sketches and the Citroën Xsara Coupé, of which I was responsible for as a designer.
While still working for Citroën, the De Vries shipyard asked me if I wanted to make a modern, timeless design for a 48 m Feadship yacht, that they wanted to build as a speculative design project. This was for me a great opportunity to finally put my thoughts down on paper, regarding a real building project of a superyacht.
This vessel was launched in 1997 under the name Katrion with an interior by John Munford. I happen to have revisited her at the last Monaco Yacht Show and I must say that even after 26 years, she still looks great!
Anyway, at the final stage of her building process, I made a big decision. I was going to leave the car industry and would start a career as a yacht designer………
Start of the company
Officially, I’ve started the company on March 1997. However, the first 3 months were solely dedicated to presenting myself as a yacht designer at the Nice Yacht Show – the predecessor of the Monaco Yacht Show – and at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.
Together with two friends of mine who are interior architects, we created interior designs alongside my exterior designs. Both Hanno Bentveld and Michael Walzberg helped me a lot getting ready for the shows.
From the De Vries shipyard, I was allowed to borrow their scale model of the 48 m Katrion yacht (see previous post).
Another event that I still remember to this day regarding this period was the order of my very first 500 business cards, where the word “luxury” was misspelled. What a setback when one is just starting a business. I had to place another order just in time for the boat show.
And here were we at the boat show with mobile phones that looked like fridges!
My first client
After quitting my job at Citroën, I needed to find clients for my services as a yacht designer. I can tell you that it was not easy. I visited all the yacht builders in The Netherlands and left my portfolio behind.
It was Mulder Shipyard that was immediately enthusiastic about my work. Dick Mulder commissioned me to design a 15 m yacht that he wanted to build as a speculative design project. It became the first of more than 50 yachts we have done together.
Sadly, Dick Mulder passed away last year. I will always remember him as the man that has got me started and from whom I’ve learned so much.
Here are some of my favourite beauties we’ve created together.
Moving to Leiden
After coming back from 7 years living and working in Paris, it was not easy to find a place where I could both start my company and live at the same time. After a nomad life for more than a year, coming to the point of having an office in the attic of my parents’ house, I had finally found the perfect spot.
I have ended up in the beautiful Dutch university town of Leiden. To this day, our office still remains at the same address since 1999. We have turned the place into a three-story design office, with meeting and show rooms but also with a very private and quiet drawing room for myself.
In the latest edition of the INTO business Leiden magazine, you can find an article about our office and our connection with the city of Leiden.
Here are some old photos from when I had just started in Leiden and the cover photo of the INTO business Leiden magazine.
The Italian job(s)
One of my most important projects in the early years of the company was that for the interior design of the 25m Leopard motor yacht “Crazy”. A fantastic client gave me the opportunity to design a stylish modern interior for his yacht that was under construction at the Cantiere Navale Arno shipyard in Pisa, Italy.
The collaboration with the yard went so well that it led to five more Leopard custom interior projects: three Leopard 34m motor yachts and two Leopard 32m Flybridge motor yachts.
At the same time, those projects led in turn to projects for clients at Overmarine for two Mangusta 108 interior designs and several other projects for AB Yachts, including the styling and interior for the AB116 Diamond that won the Boat International Design Award in 2013 for best interior in its class.
Working in Italy was truly a great experience for me. Mainly because their approach to the design and building of luxury yachts was so different (especially in those early years) from what I had ever seen in my own country at the time.
Here are some images of the MY Crazy that have paved the way to so many other great projects in the bella Italia.
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