"There is always something to learn from distractions," David Nelson, co-head of Foster + Partners announced in his opening keynote talk of SuperyachtDESIGN Week 2015, aptly titled Distractions. For Nelson, a "distraction" can be anything from taking on an unusual project as a designer to a superyacht itself. Whether it be initial experiments with 3D printing leading to the habitual use of 3D printers or investigating "printing" structures on the moon, or even Fosters + Partners' first yacht project leading to new ways of looking at its other projects, what begin as "distractions" almost always result in knowledge.

"Izanami [the studio's first yacht project] saw us wander into new realms of technology," Nelson explained. "Clients that want to do something special isn't common in this industry, but this owner did."

Nelson rather neatly compared the realm of design to that of languages. Design on a fundamental level is like Latin, which is the building block for many other modern languages and makes learning new languages easier. For Foster + Partners, taking on a superyacht project was like learning a new language with a base awareness of Latin; the foundations were there, it was just a case of evolving and adapting their knowledge base. "Our next project after Izanami was an electric vehicle for Kew Gardens," said Nelson. "Very different." He added that they could not have done the project if they hadn't done the superyacht. Every new project uses the building blocks from the last.

David Nelson and Martin Redmayne

"The client of Izanami had to learn how to be on a boat in the same way that we had to as designers," said Nelson. "In the end the client eventually realised that the motoryacht lifestyle was not for him, so he sold her and moved on to other things."

Martin Redmayne, chair of the session, asked Nelson, as a relative outsider to the industry, what he thought of superyacht design. "I think it is changing a lot," he said. "There is so much design information available in the world so clients are more knowledgeable." He wondered whether there was a tendency in design to follow a certain "lifestyle" without designers and clients actually thinking about how they live. "Too few people actually think about how they live," he asserted. "3000+ years of boats has also almost lead to 3000+ years of not questioning how this is done. But this is changing."

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SuperyachtDESIGN Week is proudly sponsored by 
Gold level: Awlgrip and Blohm+Voss Shipyards. Silver level: Clyde & Co and OceanLED. Bronze level: Hacker-Craft, Heirlooms, RINA, SA Baxter Architectural Hardware and ZEZ Fabric.