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Is there enough superyacht design training available?

After a number of yacht design courses have been dissolved, are there enough options available for young designers?

Over the last 24 months, a number of yacht design courses have been dissolved or transformed into bachelors with a much broader subject matter, such as automotive and transportation design. Now, with only one primary degree course in the UK, at Southampton Solent University, does this make it more challenging for young superyacht designers to find adequate training? Or are there enough transferrable skills in less-focused design courses such as industrial design or transport design?

There are some issues, however, with selecting such a niche degree like yacht design. Candidates may decide against their initial aspirations in order to peruse a different field in design, but struggle due to their specified training. It’s also much rarer to find students who are certain that yacht design is the career path they wish to pursue.

Although, according to Giles Barkley, course leader of yacht design & production at Southampton Solent University, it’s not the lack of demand that has caused other courses to dissolve, “The lack of staffing is why the other courses couldn’t be sustained, as opposed to the demand from students.” It’s likely that finding lecturers who were purely experienced in yacht design were difficult to track down and recruit, which is why more general design courses are becoming more prominent.

“With yacht design course closures in Italy and New Zealand, Solent definitely foresees higher demand from international students, especially from Europe”, says Barkley, which proves that there is still a real demand for students who want to study purely yacht design. Figures also show why pursuing yacht design is a good choice as, according to Barker, over the last few years the employability rate of graduating students has continuously exceeded 90%.

But, it’s not to say that candidates are less desirable if they come from a less-focused design course. “It’s not a disqualifying factor by any means if they haven’t come from a superyacht design background, as we always look for people who conceptually can present exceptionally well, draw freehand very well and can work with Rhino and CAD,” says Dickie Bannenberg, Bannenberg & Rowell. Some of the world’s leading superyacht designers have industrial and other design backgrounds, showing that the transition certainly isn’t impossible. “We like industrial designers and that kind of versatility and open mind, so we certainly wouldn’t shut doors to someone with this qualification,” continues Bannenberg.

Obviously, there are challenges when making the transition from a general design field to a more specific subject, such as yacht design. It takes time to understand the requirements of yachts and why they are designed the way they are. “Spacing is very important – the ability to plan a GA and lay things out - with a naval architect’s input, working around compliance, fire strategies etc., should be understood,” says Bannenberg.

However, there does seem to be a combination of skills that are almost unheard of: a candidate who can work well with CAD/Rhino as well as the ability to draw freehand exceptionally well; something which Banenberg labels as ‘the rare beast’. Within this technological movement, it appears that certain skills are being neglected in favour of computerised design. But, Bannenberg admits, this is a difficult talent to find and perhaps isn’t necessarily something that can be taught. “We see very few yacht specific design courses that hit that sweet spot,” says Bannenberg, illustrating just how difficult it is to track someone down with these skills.

It will be interesting to see how training develops over the next few years, perhaps more courses will look into more specific yacht design courses. According to Barkley “Solent is starting the first ever masters in superyacht design next year, specifically for designers to make the transition from automotive/industrial design to superyacht design over 30m.” Or perhaps, a broader focus will continue to be more popular with young designers, as it provides a stronger foundation for other fields in design.

Images courtesy of Southampton Solent University

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Bannenberg & Rowell Design

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