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Old 01-22-2009
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What is the role of a 'designer'?

Hi all,

So I see there are a fair number of people who don't find exactly what they want in the normal mass market for a boat. So they then go about getting the boat of their dreams built by a yard in places all over the world; USA, South Africa, Chile to name a few I have seen. The design for these boats has already been done by someone - the designer!

Now these yards already have the molds for the boat so do these buyers have anything to even do with the designer or do they just deal with the yards ie "I want one just like the one you did for the previous customer but I want beige instead of blue seating, a Furuno instead of Raymarine plotter" etc. How do the designers make money? Sell the design to a yard and get paid once? Do these buyers work with the designer usually or at all? Does the designer help, for a fee of some form obviously, deal with getting boats built at the yard (and recommend ones that in their experience did good jobs in the past)? Do the buyers usually go through the designer or just bypass them altogether if they find a yard that is already building boats?

Regards

yellowwducky
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Old 01-22-2009
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The yacht designer's role varies very widely. When you talk about a totally custom design, the owner works with the yacht designer to develop the design and pays the costs involved. Then the owner or designer will bid the construction to a number of yards. Most owners retain the designer to at least minimally work with the yard during construction answering questions and providing supplimental drawings. Some owners or yacht designers chose to have the designer play a more hands on, supervisory role during construction.

Of course modern designs require a lot more care in design, and engineering and so if you are contemplating a modification to the design, if possible, it really pays to work closely with the original designer.

With regards to production boats, when my mother was developing boats, having them built and importing them, most of her boats came from Taiwan. In her company's case, she and my stepfather contracted with the yards to develop the designs, and the yards would hire outside yacht designers or use in-house yacht designers to develop the design. Once the basic design was worked out, the interiors were mocked up and then my mother and stepfather would refine the interior design, adusting locations, heights, widths and details until they were satisfied. At that point the yacht designer would be brought in to further develop the drawings into construction documents, engineer the structure, and 'balance' the design so that the boat sat on its lines. If an owner wanted a substantive change to the production boat, the designer would draft the change, evaluate the impact on the design, and make drawings documenting any revisions to the structure or weight distribution that was required.

On the other hand, if you are talking about more traditional designs, they are more forgiving and so minor alterations to an existing design are less critical. When I worked for Charlie Wittholz in the early 1980's, we were doing a design for Cheoy Lee. Cheoy Lee gave Charlie a basic list of requirements, length, number of staterooms, general layout and so on. Charlie prepared sketches which were approved by Cheoy Lee and then Charlie's office prepared detailed construction drawings.

At some point after I left Charlie's office, Cheoy Lee made some customized versions of this boat. They worked with the customer and made minor changes in-house, but when they had a request to make more extreme revisions, they came back to Charlie and he worked with the client to revise the design accordingly.

I hope that this clarifies the Yacht Designer's role a little.

Jeff
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Old 01-22-2009
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So if a yard has made several of a given model (say a 40 foot variety), then theoretically, there wouldn't be any need to be involved with the designer if you were thinking about another one with minor or no changes? I am just trying to figure out in that kind of case what value the designer might have for a buyer other than some hand holding that 'yes, it will float and I recommend kevlar here and carbon fiber there' which might already be known by the builder.

So how did the designer ever get paid other than selling (I assume) the plans to a builder.
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Old 01-22-2009
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Yacht designers are like architects for buildings. Typically someone has hired the yacht designer and paid them to produce the design, unless the designer produced the design on speculation. Normally the design can be commissioned and sold in one of the following ways:

-an indiviudual owner to build a one off, in which case the owner pays the entire design cost and has the right to build a single boat. The designer would own the rights to the design and neither the owner or the boat builder can build a second boat without purchasing the rights from the Yacht Designer. The Owner-Designer agreement may include an exclusivity clause preventing the designer from allowing other owners from building boats to that design.

-an individual or syndicate hoping to start a class, or defray the cost of the design either by selling plans, selling kit or completed boats, or allowing the designer to resell the plans to other owners.

-a boatbuider who hires an independent designer and hopes to build a number of boats to the design and who either pays the entire design fee up front and has exclusive rights to build, or else licenses the design and so pays something upfront and then pays a fee on a per boat basis. (Beneteau is a good example of this)

-a boatbuider with an in-house designer and hopes to build a number of boats to the design and who pays the entire costs of design upfront and has exclusive rights to build, (Hunter and Catalina are good examples of this)

-A designer who hopes to develop a design that he can have built and market and speculatively funds the design out of pocket (J-boats and Farr are good examples of this)

-A designer who hopes to sell plans develops a design and then sells the plans and the rights to build a single boat to individuals who then hire a yard to build the boat. (Bruce Kirby's Norwalk Sharpies and Charlie Wittholz's Catboat designs are a good case in point.)



Your question aludes to a separate issue which is who owns the tooling and who owns the rights to a design. This varies widely.

Often a yard that produces a boat on a limited basis does not own the tooling or the design. In that case you could not simply go to the yard and have them build you a copy of the boat. You would need to find out who owns the rights to the design and buy the rights to produce one, as well as, finding out who owns the tooling and buy the rights for the yard to use the tooling.

There are times when an owner will make a deal that allows multiple use of the design and allow the yard multiple use of the tooling as a way of defraying costs.

"So....There wouldn't be any need to be involved with the designer if you were thinking about another one with minor or no changes?"

Depending on the particular yacht designer and thier contract, as a condition of the use of their design, they may require involvement during construction or if changes are made to acertain that this boat that appears to be of their design is actually built to a standard that they want thier name attached to.

But designers play key roles throughout the entire build process. Their training and skills (design and engineering) are very different than that of most builder who know how to build the boat, manage staff, material purchase, project schedules and so on.

Jeff
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Old 01-22-2009
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The well known designer Robert Perry recently published a book called, "Yacht Design According to Perry". It's part memoir and part technical aspects of design. In any case it gives a great account of the designer's role in both production and custom boats. Very readable too.
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Old 01-22-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by t22cayuga View Post
The well known designer Robert Perry recently published a book called, "Yacht Design According to Perry". It's part memoir and part technical aspects of design. In any case it gives a great account of the designer's role in both production and custom boats. Very readable too.
Second that!
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A good point was raised I didn't think of and thats changes made at the owners request. If you designed the 'Yellowwducky Performance Cat' you woudn't want someone to come along and think that swapping out kevlar here and there for carbon fiber, swapping out the rigging plan, putting in saildrives instead of shaft drives etc etc as that boat would still be called a YPC by the owner. And if it sinks spectacularly, the designer wouldn't want his name associated with it.

How much do designers normally cost to have involved? A percentage of the boat value, flat fee of 10,000 or something like that? Its not like they are building anything so I can't imagine a huge price short of them doing consulting with the yard and doing a lot of the cajoling that the owner might have to be following up on.
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Old 01-23-2009
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Costs depend on what you have them do. You can buy plans for as low as $50 but don't expect to get custom just for you plans or help during the construction. Like wise you can pay well over $10,000 for a complex boat that needs a lot of the designers time though the constuction process. Most 40 ish designs I've looked at were between $1000 and $6000 grand depending on how custom they where.
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Old 01-23-2009
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Giulietta is just really nice Giulietta is just really nice Giulietta is just really nice Giulietta is just really nice Giulietta is just really nice
It's expensive as hell..all I can say
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Old 01-23-2009
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The numbers that I have heard for a well engineered set of comprehensive drawings for a completely from scratch custom boat prepared by a respected designer would be approximately 10% of the cost of construction. This fee would include all of the design time, plus detailed dimensioned drawings with laminate schedule, metal fabrication details, wire sizing and routing, keel and rudder structure and profiles, and so on- all backed up with calculations showing compliance with the ABYC, ABS , CE and/or D-Lloyds standards.

You can pay less of course, but you typically get a less complete set of documents and less thorough set of calculations perhaps from a less bankable design source. This might be perfectly acceptable on a traditional heavy displacement cruiser, it is less acceptable on a higher performance boat or a multihull, where there tends to be very highly concentrated loads and there is not much tolerance for a "just make it heavier" design approach.

Jeff
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