Superyacht Design Symposium: 4 top designers discuss the value of concepts

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Richard Woolley

Design Director, SVO Land Rover

One of the hot topics up for discussion at the 2017 Superyacht Design Symposium was the value of concepts with four of the world's top designers giving their thoughts on the subject.

Richard Woolley, design director at SVO Land Rover, laid his cards on the table straight away, describing himself as a "huge advocate" of conceptual work. "I think it is the lifeblood of creativity," he added. "The question for me is how much you share that with a wider audience, or whether you keep that within your team. Not every concept has to be a successful concept. To push the boundaries, sometimes you have to fail. If you succeed all the time, you're not trying hard enough — that is a great mantra to have in terms of conceptual work.

"Concept design is something that can inspire other designers, it's a domino effect — it can have ramifications throughout many different disciplines. The Pompidou Centre in Paris is a great example. The designers admitted that when their submission was chosen they had no idea how it would be realised."

Giving an example from his career, Woolley added, "The LRX concept went on to become the Range Rover Evoque and that fundamentally changed the business. We didn’t know how we could deliver it and there were many skeptics within the business, but it’s gone on to be the fastest selling and biggest selling model in the brand’s history, bringing in a whole new tranche of customers."

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Nicola Nicolai

Product Development Director, Benetti

Speaking about Benetti's recent collaboration with car designer Henrik Fisker, product development director Nicola Nicolai, said, "It was a challenge to introduce a car designer to a yacht and to match the different approaches. It was interesting to see how he approached it.

"As a yard, we are more focused on the technical side, how to realise what has been conceived by someone else. Concepts are necessary to raise the bar and let people think outside the box. Technically speaking, today we have achieved very high standards, we can do a lot. From a design point of view, interpreting the spaces in new ways is very important for the industry.

"In 2012 we were facing a very difficult financial moment for the market and at the same time we had to renew our brand and dress it in a different way because Benetti was mostly known for traditional lines. We came out with 15 designers that produced 30 concepts from 50 to 90 metres. Of these, 10 were a bit extreme in their design and use of the space, for example, a yacht that had a complete glass superstructure."

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Timur Bozca

Founder, Bozca Design

Timur Bozca, founder of Bozca Design was in no doubt as to the value of concepts. "For us it's a great exercise to widen our vision," he said. "We make concepts once every two months, it gives perspective to the industry. When you are doing a concept you need to research many things; the latest technologies and the latest thinking. When you are working on it, it is improving you, you are becoming a proper designer. When we are pushing our limits, we are improving our creativity."

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Ronno Schouten

Design Manager, Feadship / De Voogt Naval Architects

Feadship has a strong track record of turning concepts into completed yachts and design manager Ronno Schouten underlined the importance of conceptual work to the company. "I think the primary use of a concept is not about selling a boat — it's about learning," he explained. "When you start working on a concept you start thinking about the future. The most important part is when you start sharing your concept, when people react to it that is when the real learning starts."

"When we start a concept, we start with a blank sheet of paper," he added. "You start by thinking about how the world will look in 10 years time."

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