It’s all in the details
There are mixed reviews when it comes to designers' aptitude for fully grasping the nuances of life on board…
Have you ever sat back and really thought about the design of everyday objects? I know it’s obvious, but every manmade object has been designed in one way or another and there are so many things that we all take for granted. Anything from the coat hook on the side of your aeroplane seat, to the lid of a jar that pops up when the seal has been broken – all very useful and all very intuitive.
Life would become a touch philosophical if we all started constantly examining things that have been engrained into our everyday life, so I’m not suggesting we all spend an hour each day musing over the ingenuity of the Biro. But, the design of these simple ‘everyday’ objects is human centred product design at its best and a perfect way to elucidate a core design principal – simple, effective and useful.
I’m not suggesting we all spend an hour each day musing over the ingenuity of the Biro. But, the design of these simple ‘everyday’ objects is human centred product design at its best and a perfect way to elucidate a core design principal – simple, effective and useful.
The functionality of design on board a superyacht is something that is regularly scrutinised by crewmembers, everything from the height of a cupboard to the yacht’s general arrangement is often under fire and subject to criticism. In The Superyacht Report, we published The Captain’s Sentiment Report, which showed that, according to our sample of masters, there were mixed reviews when it came to designers aptitude for fully grasping the nuances of life on board a superyacht.
“Unless you have been a crewmember on board a yacht engaged in a busy season then you will never understand 100 per cent of what it is like,” said one anonymous participant of the survey. “For owner’s and guests yes. For crew no,” said another.
The interplay between product, performance and person is key and as Don Norman wrote in his book, The Design of Everyday Things, “Many products defy understanding simply because they have too many functions and controls.” In other words, if you over complicate or over-gimmick then you may lose the purpose of the design.
The trouble is that we are talking about superyachts and they are, by their very nature, complex. And, as it to make matters worse, aesthetic beauty is a must.
The trouble is that we are talking about superyachts and they are, by their very nature, complex. And, as it to make matters worse, aesthetic beauty is a must. The scale of and complexity of superyacht projects necessitates mean that the design and build of such a vessel cannot be a typical form follows function process, which is why discrepancies between what is a practical and what looks good frequently occur.
The ingenuity of the aforementioned Biro, complete with a small hole to prevent suffocation – genius – wasn’t created to look fantastic, just simple and practical, something that would not ordinarily pass the superyacht seal of approval. This is balancing act between practicality and aesthetics is, at times, showcased when designers and naval architects pull in very different directions during the design of a superyacht, with different objectives throughout process.
Human-centred design is something many designers have expressed as their core values when it comes to superyacht interior design – a principle which Norman defines as “putting human needs, capabilities, and behaviour first,” but are these ‘core values’ always evident in the final product? Or, rather than human-centred design, are we really talking about owner-centred design?
Any crewmember will tell you that a busy charter season is mindbogglingly tough work, with barely a moment of downtime. This is why the practicality of a yachts interior is absolutely essential and, if not executed properly, can be detrimental not just to the crew, but the owner’s experience as a result. While the Maritime Labour Convention does outline what is acceptable living quarters for sea farers on board through a set of regulations, these are minimum standards and, as such, are not necessarily desirable. Minimum standards often fail to go far enough when considering mental and physical strain.
It is difficult, however, for designers to dedicate too much space and consideration to the crew given that the client is, without a doubt, the most important individual who will be using the boat and, therefore, design are owner and guest orientated. Any extra space that is dedicated to the crew is space that is taken away from the owners and guests.
It is difficult, however, for designers to dedicate too much space and consideration to the crew given that the client is, without a doubt, the most important individual who will be using the boat and, therefore, design are owner and guest orientated.
But, the main point here is that in order to design the interiors well, the designer must understand why life on board a busy charter yacht is really like. Unfortunately, the way to tackle this isn’t sending boatloads of designers off to spend a season working on a superyacht – although it would be comedy gold – it’s to hear what life on board is like straight from the horse’s mouth.
During The Superyacht Design Forum in June we will be doing just that by welcoming a group of crewmembers to tell us what it’s really like to work on board a superyacht. During the session, designers will discover where their designs fall short and how a small detail change can make all the difference in the world to crew.
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