The journal

Design Thinking and Yacht Design
Nicola Palasciano

Design Thinking is an approach that sees its roots in a period that goes from ’40s-’60s and then on was furthermore defined. This method is increasing worldwide from education to business activities, it aims to bring innovation that rests its foundations on the ability to solve complex problems using a creative vision. It is a human-centered process for creative problem solving that allows us to get closer to customers, final users and their needs.

Indeed, Design Thinking is built on the “empathy at first” concept that is the fundament on which all the project spiral is based: Empathise, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test.

If we consider the possibility of applying Design Thinking to the boat creation process, we can try to understand its potentials and if there is any limit to its application. The boat design is the result of research, observation, experiences and ideation: all elements that are part of the Design Thinking drill. As said, the “listening” part is the base to reach something focused on the client's belongings. Imagine turning to the owners who committed us a project, is not always possible to observe how they live their boats, but a focused interview can help us reaching useful information. Sometimes we have in front of us people who have had sailed frequently and have a lot of experiences to tell, on other occasions instead, we could approach someone who is buying a boat for the first time. For these reasons, this step gives us the possibility to figure out, and hopefully discovering even their unexpressed needs.

In our field, there are other actors involved in the selling chain who can be precious to listen to, as brokers, dealers and re-fitters. So, through empathy could be possible to generate ideas that fit better our customer's desires. It sounds correct saying that the target makes the difference. We will conduct a different kind of analysis if we are going to design a one-off boat or having a refit of an old yacht, on the contrary, we are going to research differently if we are involved in designing a boat to be built in series.

The first case will have a more “one to one” approach, instead of in the second case we are pointing to a whole market segment. However, it is possible to use this method also when the client is not the owner himself, but the project (or part of it) is developed for a shipyard, or even if we are elaborating a service pointed to improve the sailing experience, ext... An empathic relation helps to catch requirements to keep the customer satisfied and not least establishing good relationships.

Working properly on this phase, let us create a valid starting point to base the rest of the Design Thinking process. After the research, all the collected info has to be skimmed with a design thinker approach, defining, discussing and collaborating. Imagining that real innovation comes out from the work of one is not the correct way to proceed, is fundamental to leave room for comparison during the well-known “brainstorming” session in which all the design team should take part. The ideations should come out from constructive discussions on others’ opinions, in a judgment-free zone where wild ideas are welcome and each one would feel free to build on them in a creative way. The boat, intended as a project, is the result of many sub-concepts, concerning exteriors and interiors. Each part of a boat, from stern to bow, is the outcome of analysis, inspiration and choices: it can be about the interior space layout, the design of a helm station, or simply the shape of the handrail.

We are so involved in a projecting loop from inspiration to ideation until we achieve the proposals that will be pursued as more interesting, viable and feasible, keeping in mind our customer’s desires.

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