A beautiful curve?

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by mcollins07, Jun 20, 2012.

  1. mcollins07
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    mcollins07 Senior Member

    The aesthetics of a boat design are certainly subjective, and few designers seem to venture into analyzing what make a boat beautiful.

    Here is one of the few articles that I’ve seen which address the aesthetics.

    A lot of subjective aspects such as function and traditions get convoluted into the eye appeal. I don’t want to ignore the many aspects of aesthetic, but I’d like to focus on a specific aesthetic goal.

    How do you design a sailboat to look like it is moving even when it is still?

    The classic sweeping sheer and long overhangs seem to contribute to this goal. However, can we get more specific, more analytical? Perhaps camber:chord ratios? Is there objective data regarding this perception? Perhaps graphic designers can contribute here. This design goal was suggested by an automobile designer.

    ~ michael
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  2. philSweet
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    philSweet Senior Member

    One area where the designer of anything has a great deal of impact is in making the mechanics of operating the thing so intuitive that everyone is free to admire the aesthetics. If folks are too busy fiddling with stuff, they don't have the time or the bandwidth to take in the beauty. It's good economics as well. Charm is cheaper than toys. The fastest way to make a charming boat ugly is employ awkward mechanical systems, electrical systems, and control systems. I expect a boat to feel alive, not possessed. That is a huge part of the experience.

    The quicker all the routine stuff becomes "background", the better the impression of the design will be. I think this is why cruisers are thought of as so traditional. They just don't want to spend years relearning everything. There is a bloody lot to do if you cruise. If you eliminate some chore, they will be the first in line.

    There are two ways of looking at this question. Are you wanting to create the impression of motion? This would mean the image evokes fantasies and transports one's imagination to another set of circumstances. Or do you want to create the illusion of motion within the current setting? A sense of restlessness and a "chomping at the bit" attitude? Inspiration is more difficult to target than deception, and I'm guessing it's usually less financially rewarding.
  3. DCockey
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    DCockey Senior Member

    Very talented automotive designers have told me that fore/aft asymmetry is important for cars.

    - Bias the visual mass aft (preferred) or foreward (second choice). Avoid fore/aft balance.

    - Un-equal overhangs.

    - No lines parallel to the ground.

    - No slab sides.

    These can also be applied to boats.
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  4. Alik
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    Alik Senior Member

  5. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Aesthetics in yacht design aren't hard to find, though often can be points of contention. This is the crux of the issue. Some designs remain stylish long after they're been drawn up, while others look quite dated just a few years after the designer signs off on the plans. I don't think there's any mystery to these aesthetic considerations as they are covered fairly well in most design texts.

    As to focusing on a purely subjective goal, well good luck with this, but most that study design or have experience aboard have well defined excitement expectations, in this regard. One persons reversed sheer, to gain valuable freeboard where it can be most effective across several areas of SOR pursuit, could be the styling clue that breaks the camel's back in prospective buyer. Prediction of this is meaningless, except in a production offering setting. If interested in the mass appeal of a production craft's styling potential, irrelevant of functionality, just place all your concept is a jar,, give it a good shake, then hand it off to the focus groups the marketing team will have lined up to pick it apart. You will have a quite functional cup holder, built into the tissue paper dispenser in the head, but to a well seasoned prospective skipper, no sale, in spite of cleverness.
  6. mcollins07
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    mcollins07 Senior Member

    Phil, I agree that the attitude or inspiration is more the goal than deception of motion, however, would not deception of motion contribute to an attitude or inspiration of motion? Do you have any examples to distinguish between the two techniques?

    David & Alik, you both may be on the same line of thought.
    Here is a bit of excerpt from the link Alik provided.

    Trans RINA, Vol 153, Part C1, Intl J Marine Design, Jul-Dec 2011, p C31

    ... the car has a much shorter front overhang and longer rear overhang, it is therefore unbalanced but the car is more dynamic ...

    Cars are dynamic sculptures. This means that the car is designed to look as if it is moving even when it stands still. ...it has been purposefully designed to be "unbalanced". This gives the car a more dynamic aspect, as if the wheels have already gone forward, leaving the body to catch up - it has a sense of motion blur when standing still.

    The highlights and reflections in the bodywork are tear drop shaped; these too work directly on the observer's subconscious associations of aerodynamic efficiency and speed.

    So, do you think a shorter bow or plumb bow with long aft overhang gives an aesthetic of motion on sail boats? I don’t yet see the same concept applying with boats, but I’ll have to play with it more.

    Sailboats don’t usually have the ridges, highlights and reflections that a car would have. Perhaps tear drop graphics on the hull could be applied with the same subliminal result.
  7. DCockey
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    DCockey Senior Member

    I've seen both work effectively.

    But how a design is read also depends on what the "norms" are; ie what the person looking at the design is used to seeing, and what they associate with particular features. For a while starting in the late 1960's a reverse transom and very large overlapping jib were generally seen as a indicators of a fast sailboat. Today sailboats considered fast generally have plumb bows, max beam quite a bit aft of mid-ships, beam at the transom a substantial fraction of the midships beam, and little or no overhang at the stern. (Hmm, I just realized that description also fits a Cape Cod Catboat, not generally considered as "fast". Oh well.) Add a twin rudders, a square headed rig, and a deployable "bowsprit" and most avid sailors would be impressed by the speed of boat before it left the dock.

    From what I've seen production recreational boats, even quite expensive ones, typically have wavy highlights and reflections which would be unacceptable in a car.

    Teardrop graphics on the side of a hull are likely to be anything but "subliminal". The authors of the article Alik referenced were refering to how light is reflected by the surface, not overt shaping of the surface or applied graphics.

    Coves (grooves) and molded sheer planks (or psuedo planks) have been used for decades as styling features on boats. Subtle shapes, even shallow creases and steps can be worked into the topsides of molded boats.
  8. Eric Sponberg
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    Eric Sponberg Senior Member

    The best aesthetic designs have that certain "je ne sais quoi" that simply cannot be defined, restricted, or labelled in any way. Beauty is all in the eye of the beholder. The boat designs that were "beautiful" a hundred years ago may still be beautiful only to those who have a sense of design history and what those designs meant in the context of their times. The young designers of today may not appreciate what that history is, but at the same time, their fresh eyes reveal new features or elements that will garner their own accolades, if deserved.

    I was, for a very brief time, the technical editor at Cruising World magazine. I learned very quickly from the senior editors there, while reading article submissions from people in love with their boats, that all boats are beautiful, it is just that some boats are more beautiful than others.

    Also, boats, and cars, are unique in that, more important to looking good, they also have to perform. Some features considered "classic" or aesthetically pleasing may be counter to good performance. Simply witness waterline length versus overall length--boats with short waterlines will not be as fast as boats with long waterlines. Which is more important to you? Good looks or performance? The nice looking boat with the long overhangs may not be able to hold a candle to the boat with the squared-off ends. But a boat with a squarish profile that performs well can also look good, if it has enough of that certain "je ne sais quoi."

    It is fruitless to define aesthetics in a technical way. We know it when we see it.

  9. bertho
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    bertho bertho

    complicated question...! :) !
    for old yacht , perhaps just how a long plank of good quality wood can bend ??it's already a nice and regular curve !
    regarding design, I remember a professor asking us to think about the link/interaction between between "beautiful line" and "efficiency" ...
    it's thru.. no many ugly thing perform really...
    all the best
  10. Tad
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    Tad Boat Designer

  11. hoytedow
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    hoytedow Wood Butcher

    I broke all those rules.
  12. Leo Lazauskas
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    Leo Lazauskas Senior Member

    I sometimes wonder whether we associate streamlining with teardrop shapes
    because of the misconception that raindrops must adopt the most
    aerodynamically efficient shape as they fall. (They don't, of course, and most
    look like patties before being torn apart into finer droplets).
  13. DCockey
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    DCockey Senior Member

    Comparisons like long overhangs vs squared-off ends depend on the assumptions of what is fixed in the comparisons, which are often implicit. Same waterline, same overall length or same displacment? If the implicit assumption is equal rating or rule then the comparision depends on the rating system or rules. Some old rating systems favoured long overhangs. Current box rules generally favor plumb bow and stern.
  14. bntii
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    bntii Senior Member

    I don't know how.
    I used to believe that we appreciate design through some process of aesthetic tradition we learn through observation of our created world.
    Our design sense is taught as it were.

    I now believe that the process is more subtle or innate if you will. Superlative design work resonates with us and is instantly recognized.
    Proportions are 'correct' or not, and strike us as such. In viewing countless created objects we simple know when the design is robust.
    The timelessness of examples proves the thesis outside of the temporal context and confusion of vogue.

  15. daiquiri
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    daiquiri Engineering and Design

    After years of observing the way people rate and evaluate the aesthetics of boats, cars, houses, objects etc., also by looking back at how my personal taste has changed over the years, I now believe that there is only one universal rule: the sense of beauty is something that we learn through a process of conditioning by the environment we live in. It depends on where you live, and on the aesthetic standards in the part of the world you happened to be grown up.

    For example, if a person lived in a town in which all buildings are wooden shanties, and if he didn't have an access to internet or magazines in which he could see what other forms a house can take, he would end up identifying the house architecture to the shanty-style he is so used to see every day. Each time that person sees another type of house, made of other materials and more elaborate and complex, his mind gets shaken and re-conditioned, and his sense for house aesthetics gets expanded and refined.

    Not all shanties are the same either. It is probable that a japanese will consider a victorian-style wooden house less beautiful than those curvy, coloful and ornamental traditional japanese or chinese wooden buildings. And vice-versa, we might consider their houses too flashy and childish-looking. The same is valid for boats, cars, music or any other art form. For example, the more music of various kinds we listen to, the more we learn about the complexity and beauty it can reach. And the more we will be able to distinguish between poorly made and beautiful and rich compositions.

    Getting back to visual aesthetics, the more we get visually stimulated and conditioned (which ultimately could simply mean - trained) by the environment we live in and by shapes of objects we are used to see, the more we learn and are able to judge the aesthetics of new things we see. But we'll never be able to go too far from our roots, imho.

    These considerations could explain why so many good stylists come from Italy, France, Germany and Netherlands, for example - all countries full of magnificent artwork and architecture left by thousands of artists and architects over the centuries. It is very hard to imagine that a guy grown in an african village made of clay and straw (where harsh life, climatic conditions and poor resources have constrained people to use simple tools, clothing and houses), could produce the same quality of object styling as the stylists of the above-mentioned countries, without years of training and full-immersion into an adequately stimulating environment.

    Besides the regional aspect, the aesthetic standards have been continuously changing through the time too. In the frentic modern times we live in, things and tastes often can change over just one decade. We can often recognize the approximate time period when an artwork was created by simply looking it's shape, colors etc. An art-deco creation, for example, is immediately identifiable, as is a piece of furniture or an electric appliance styled in the 60's or 70's.

    So, if the point of this thread is a search of a universal rule for making beautiful boats or objects in general, then I am affraid that's a goal impossible to reach. ;)

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