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Marin 12-11-2012 01:14 PM

Design: Objective or Subjective?

Originally Posted by manyboats (Post 118920)

There are some FG boats that are stunningly beautiful and there are quite a few that are good looking like the Sea Dories, Flemming's and Bayliner PH cruisers.

I agree with that (but not the Bayliner PH part). When I said I think fiberglass boats are mostly ugly (to me) I had in mind the more typical production boat--- Uniflite, Tollycraft, Carver, Chris Craft, Sea Ray, Bayliner/Meridian, every sundeck boat on the planet, the two million different "Taiwan Trawlers," and even GBs, which I don't find particularly attractive, either. (We bought our GB because old ones are damn near free and they're well built even if their aesthetics are not so hot.)

I have a very narrow range of what I consider to be an aesthetic boat, and 99.999 percent of production fiberglass recreational boats aren't in it. I think this is the result of trying to provide as much interior volume as possible and keeping the production process as basic as possible to keep the cost competitive. Things like Flemings are exceptions, but as a result they cost an arm and a leg.

Nomad Willy 12-11-2012 01:18 PM

Marin If one isn't too close the Bayliner PH boats are very attractive ... as in .. they have really nice lines and lines are most of what makes a boat beautiful. I've seen you w a "narrow range" on other matters too like anchors but you've said some very objective things on anchors as well.

Marin 12-11-2012 01:34 PM


Originally Posted by manyboats (Post 118949)
Marin If one isn't too close the Bayliner PH boats are very attractive ... as in .. they have really nice lines and lines are most of what makes a boat beautiful.

Design is like music--- it's totally subjective. So to me and what I like, there is not a Bayliner made that looks good. This is NOT the same thing as saying I don't think they're good boats. But even the big PH Bayliners look to me like the only tool on the designer's desk was a ruler. I don't like straight iines on a boat, at least not the dominant lines.


I've seen you w a "narrow range" on other matters too like anchors but you've said some very objective things on anchors as well.
I like what I like, and everything else I don't like. It's a simple as that. The only reason I have a "narrow range" on anchors is that we've found a type that works better than what we had and so far has not let us down. Therefore I have zero interest at this point in any other kind of anchor.

Actually I have no interest in anchors at all outside of the fact I want the one on our boat to hold. What it looks like or how it works is irrelevant to me as long as it works. If the one we happen to have lets us down then we'll look for something else. Until then, outside of the entertainment value in discussing them on this forum, I don't think about anchors at all.:)

Nomad Willy 12-11-2012 02:38 PM

Marin I expected most of your response.

I understand what you are saying "Design is like music--- it's totally subjective." Hmmmmm

Design is: "an organized solution to a problem"

There is absolutely nothing about design that is subjective. It's the perception of the design that is subjective. And your perception of design is subjective. You can like or dislike any design but the design stands on it's own merits of how well it addresses it's organized solution to a problem. You can, however pass judgement on a design relative to how well you think it solves what you think is the problem. That may be your opinion or that of many collectively. All that is external to the design and the design itself is objective.

Marin 12-11-2012 03:12 PM


Originally Posted by manyboats (Post 118970)

There is absolutely nothing about design that is subjective.

Of course there is. The designer doesn't have to curve the fender of a car just so, or draw the sheer of a hull just so, or anything else. It's all subjective. It's what the designer feels is right, and a big part of that is what the designer likes. The sheer of the Bluenose's hull did not have to be exactly what it is for any objective reason. It is what it is because that's what the designer or naval architect liked the look of. Sometimes they get it right, as with the Bluenose. Sometimes they don't, like a Bayliner (in my opinion).

I agree with your claim that the aesthetics of design is based on perception because perception is another way of saying subjective. It's what YOU like or dislike, regardless of what anyone else likes or dislikes.

Some aspects of design are determined by physics, aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, etc. In this respect you are absolutely correct-- the design is not subjective but is based on numbers.

But there is nothing objective that says the topsides of a Bayliner PH boat have to be a bunch of nearly straight and parallel lines. The designer decided to draw them that way. Some of the reason was perhaps based on practicality, like maintaining a constant headroom in the space or something. But a lot of it was purely subjective on the part of the designer. That's the way HE wanted the boat to look. If you agree with him, great. If you don't, as I don't, you will think the boat is ugly or whatever.

I had a long discussion with Alan Mulally, currently the CEO of Ford but at the time the chief engineer for Boeing, on this very subject. And he liked and agreed with my comment that being a design engineer is every bit as creative from a subjective standpoint as being an artist or a musician. Despite the overwhelming presence of design-dictated-by-law/theorum in an aircraft, there are a huge number of totally subjective design decisions that are made, too, outside and inside the plane.

Portuguese 12-11-2012 04:29 PM

Hi Folks:
I cannot talk about your experience with wooden boats. Yet, in an effort to generalize the boating material issue, I can say the following:
The bad fame of the wood as a boatbuilding material, started to be “vox populi” during the birth of the fiberglass technology.
The structure of the first boats built in FG was made of encapsulated wood. Bad wood which, as it was meant would be encapsulated with polyester resin or any other product that could not stop the water from reaching the wood. Therefore, this one would rote easily.
In addition to that, the Dupont and other peers, spent millions of dollars in marketing, to convince the people about the applications of the fiberglass products. Not only them but the giants of petroleum were very interested in ramping up this technology. At same time, the environmentalists started to call attention for the excess trees being cut around the globe to produce wood, etc., etc.
In the actual days, all boats made of wood in Brazil, for example, are made from farmed wood and no more jungle stolen and outlaw cut. Mine for example!
Yes, to build a boat in FG, we do not need many skills as we do with wood, only if you have the plug, and the form and etc. To build these you need a lot of skills.
So who’s better and who’s worse? I don’t know, it looks like we need the first fiberglass boat to last 100 years before we make a valid statement. Other than that, it depends on where you are.

Nomad Willy 12-11-2012 04:46 PM

You speak great truths and well stated.
And yes polyester resin is just another form of trees.

In an organized solution to a problem the "organized" part you don't seem to understand. The Bluenose bow was as it was not because of the whim of the designer but some need. Could have been structural. Could have been esthetics. could have been a benefit in rough seas. Could have been "product identity" for some boat builder. Could have been many things but to be sure it was made that way for some objective purpose. Design is 100% objective. Everything from popsicle sticks to RR engines and cars to cruise ships to egg beaters. There are good reasons for every detail of good design there is. An organized solution to a problem.

Moonstruck 12-11-2012 05:52 PM

Large sign along the wall of the Uniflite factory at Swansboro, NC. . . .


eagle419 12-11-2012 06:00 PM

Good designer = objective
Most clients = subjective

Marin 12-11-2012 08:23 PM


Originally Posted by manyboats (Post 118993)
Design is 100% objective.

I think you will find that just about every design engineer will strongly disagree with you. I know the ones here at Boeing will, and I suspect the ones at Ferrari and Aston Martin and Bugatti and BMW will, too.

The curve of the Bluenose's bow would have been just as functional if it had been a straight line above the water. It would have been way easier and cheaper to build that way. But the designer rightly decided it would be way ugly as a straight line and so made it a pleasing (to him) curve, which was harder and more expensive to build but made the boat look like he wanted it to look.

I know several of the design engineers at Teaque (formerly Walter Darwin Teague), the design house that has been creating the interiors for all Boeing commercial planes since the model 314 Clipper. I got to know quite well the designer who was charged with creating the 777's interior, which has become the model for all our interiors since. You know where he got the idea for the cross section with the curved bins side and center bins? This is a classic function follows form example.

He got it from watching a bird fly. He loved the look of a gull coming toward him with the wings swept down. He decided that that's what he wanted the ceiling to look like in the 777, something that would convey an impression of flight, spaciousness, and grace (his exact words, not mine).

So he started sketching this shape as it would fit inside a tube. This led him to realize that by "bending" the overhead bins to conform to his bird shape, he could not only get the shape he wanted, but he could make the bin capacity even larger. And thus was born the pivot bin (sides) and the translating bin (center). So if you ever fly in a 777 or a 737 with the new Sky Interior or a 787, or a 747-8 Intercontinental, look up at the ceiling. Its inspiration was a seagull.

No disrespect here, but taking the position that design is only objective and never subjective tells me that that person has little or no creative imagination. He is probably exactly who you want figuring out the stress analysis of the structure, or even designing the structure to support the shape the design engineers came up with.

But he's not the guy who you want designing the shape because he's got no aesthetic imagination. That takes a sense of aesthetics and an ability to combine aesthetics with function. Our--- and Ferrari's and BMW's and Aston Martin's and Fleming's--- design engineers have that ability. Mr. deFever had that ability. Philip Rhodes had that ability. Our structural, electrical, hydraulic, tooling, etc. engineers probably don't. So these are not the guys you go to when you are deciding what a product should look like.

The curved bow of the Bluenose was designed by a fellow with a sense of beauty, and that is subjective. The guy who came up with how to make that bow and the structure inside it probably had the aesthetic sense of a clam.

You need both guys to make the whole thing work. Taking the position that all design is objective tells me which one of those guys you are.:) And that is not an insult.

Marin 12-11-2012 08:34 PM

One more example I just thought of. The side supports of virtually all so-called "Europa" cruisers with the covered side and aft decks slant forward. But there is absolutely no structural or functional reason why they cannot slope rearwards. So why don't they?

Sceptic 12-11-2012 09:17 PM

The best looking boat? Well, that’s pretty subjective, but it is this in my view]

Very subjective. I really like my little DeFever.


BruceK 12-11-2012 09:32 PM

Are "objective" and "subjective" the right terms?
Are we not talking about "functional" and "aesthetically pleasing". Certainly the latter is highly subjective. And there are many levels in between,which incorporate elements of both. The two terms are not mutually exclusive.
For example,an Alessi water jug in stainless steel may be highly functional, and aesthetically pleasing (to some) at the same time.
As may aircraft overhead luggage bins and the ceiling space thereby achieved, to some. There had to be a positive feature of seagulls, somewhere in this world.

Nomad Willy 12-11-2012 10:01 PM

A design is a process not a thing.

It's not the subjective/objective words. Boats are not subjective or objective and design isn't either. There's good and bad boats and well designed boats and poorly designed boats but design is a solution to a problem. This "pleasing" and personal taste stuff IS subjective and that can be part of a design. Like Edward's wife wants a speedboat and Ed has someone design the speedboat. The designer seeks out ed's wife's desires and she wants it pink. The resulting boat is constructed and it's pink color is part of the solution to a problem. The boat is justifiably pink and the pink color is part of the "organized solution to a problem" ... the problem is primarily to please Ed's wife and the solution is to present her w the pink boat. There's nothing subjective or objective in the design.

By the way the Hinckly would look better w/o the bow rail. Now that's subjective but it's based on the elements of art. The rail being "clutter" and visibly taking away from the good shape and lines of the basic hull. But it's there for practical reasons and these practical things clutter up in varying degrees most designs. So a good designer tries to make the clutter as unnoticeable as possible but any design is a maze of compromise.

I'm waiting for TAD to emerge and blow me out of the water. haha

Marin 12-11-2012 10:57 PM

The Hinkley is certainly a beautiful design for the type of boat it is. I would not consider it the best looking boat in the world based on what I like. If I had to pick one boat to be that, it would probably be a J-class sloop, the original Endeavour.

If I had to pick the best looking power boat in the world, that would be a tough one because there are a number of basic styles that I like. But probably a double-ended northwest salmon troller in the 36-foot range or so, from the 1940s would end up in the top spot. That or a working lobsterboat. A Grand Banks would not even make the short list.

Marin 12-11-2012 11:09 PM


Originally Posted by manyboats (Post 119076)
A design is a process not a thing.

It's both, look it up. Design is both a verb and a noun.

As a verb, it is an action. To design something. In this use, "design" is a process as you have said.

It's also a noun, a thing. When people say, "I love the design of that car," they are not talking about the design process of creating the car, they are talking about the design of the car as a thing. Here is part of the noun definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary on this iPad.

6 : the arrangement of elements or details in a product or work of art

In other words, it's what the thing looks like, and whether you like it or not is purely subjective on your part.

Tad Roberts 12-12-2012 05:59 PM

Interesting discussion.....

I've always liked John Pile's definition in Interior Design, "the term describes all of the decisions that determine how a particular object, space, or building will be."

Poll 50 designers and get lots of definitions as to what design is and how it's done. For old time boatbuilders carving a block of wood into a half-model was the design, everything else stemmed from that.

The Picnic Boat posted above is not the original (which had a shorter house, one portlight, and no bow rail) but a later EP model. That design was created with one main criteria, "make it pretty". That it turned out to be rather successful at function was extra. I remember telling the company owner there is only 5'4" headroom in the foc'sl, "That doesn't matter."

When I first saw that Bayliner imitated the (Hinckley)window treatment I was shocked, now I'm flattered......That boat could have been quite good looking if they dropped the freeboard by a foot......;)

Nomad Willy 12-12-2012 06:37 PM

TAD ... "if they dropped the freeboard 1 foot" hahaha
And I like the "The term describes" ...........

After thinking about what I said I came to that basic conclusion myself. But the design really isn't the thing. The thing is a visual expression of the design. But some things are in essence what they look like like a piece of sculpture. Other things you can look at and not have the foggiest what it is, how good it is or anything else about it. Still it's an organized solution to a problem. So design frequently has nothing to do w somebody's opinion or emotional take on it. But the design of a pleasure boat definitely does.

Marin 12-12-2012 06:52 PM


Originally Posted by manyboats (Post 119301)
. Other things you can look at and not have the foggiest what it is, how good it is or anything else about it. Still it's an organized solution to a problem. So design frequently has nothing to do w somebody's opinion or emotional take on it.

No argument there. The bracket behind the bulkhead that supports the toilet paper roll holder in the lavatories of a 777 had to be designed, and it has a design. As such, it is an organized solution to a problem. But while never say never, I doubt anyone including the guy or gal who designed it has any emotional attachment to it other than the satisfaction of creating a design that worked for this particular function.:)

SomeSailor 12-12-2012 07:42 PM


Originally Posted by Marin (Post 119047)
I think you will find that just about every design engineer will strongly disagree with you. I know the ones here at Boeing will, and I suspect the ones at Ferrari and Aston Martin and Bugatti and BMW will, too.

But... never lose track of fit or function for the sake of form.

Aesthetics are important, but functional engineering will demonstrate elegant beauty in simplicity all on it's own.

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