How do I create a decent yacht design brief

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by 2020, Aug 6, 2006.

  1. 2020
    Joined: Aug 2006
    Posts: 28
    Likes: 1, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 13
    Location: australia

    2020 Junior Member

    Gday all,
    Attention Professional Yacht Designers
    We have realized we need to build a custom, due to head room and many specific requirements unavailable in standard models.
    Our plan is to project manage construction and fitout on site in asia however we very much intend to select and pay a quality designer to cutting file stage. We therefore need to geberate a brief to distribute for intitial expressions of interest.
    PROJECT: Steel monohull 55 - 60ft blue water cruising genuine liveaboard ketch.
    THE QUESTION:are there any decent design brief templates or similar I might use in generating the tightest brief possible (while leaving room for designer interpretation / input).
    I don't want to waste their time or to be not taken seriously. Clients who can't ennunciate their requirements annoy me enormously and then always complain about cost blow outs. I figure a good design brief is a splendid place to start.
  2. Tad
    Joined: Mar 2002
    Posts: 2,294
    Likes: 168, Points: 73, Legacy Rep: 2281
    Location: Flattop Islands

    Tad Boat Designer


    Good question. A good book on the subject is Preliminary Design of Boats and Ships by Cyrus Hamlin, NA. It is probably out of print but surely available used.

    I don't have a template though I have seen them occasionally in the past. I don't want a template either.

    First because each of my commissions are unique, in one week I may undertake a preliminary for a 160' custom steel motoryacht built to Lloyd's rules, and the design of a production 16' rowboat. A template that could deal with both undertakings would be close to meaningless.

    The second reason for not having a template is that custom design is a process of getting to know a client and understanding what is truly important to that person. This is difficult and follows as many different paths as there are clients. I always ask clients to make a written list of their desires, and frankly the way this list appears tells me a great deal more than if a person checked off a list.

    There are four major questions to be answered.

    1) Who will use the boat?
    2) How will it be used?
    3) Who will build this boat?
    4) What is the budget?

    The answers to these four questions will generate hundreds of detailed questions for your designer. How he or she asks them is an individual matter and the synthesis of these answers is where the art and magic of yacht design lies.

    I would suggest making a list of all the points you consider important to the design of this proposed vessel. Then order the list from most to least important. Or try splitting it into two sections, "must have" and "would be nice".

    Every qualified designer will have a sample written preliminary specification for something close to the type of boat you are after. This will be approximately 15-35 pages covering physical size, construction and finish, and major equipment and systems. You can certainly work from one of these, but it tells the designer little about actual use of the vessel. Request a specification from prospective designers, but don't be surprised if they send you a bill as well.

    All the best, Tad
  3. Tad
    Joined: Mar 2002
    Posts: 2,294
    Likes: 168, Points: 73, Legacy Rep: 2281
    Location: Flattop Islands

    Tad Boat Designer

    I forgot to add to use examples whenever possible, ie, "we really love......", or "we really hated.....", etc. And include pictures if you can find them.

    The design brief for Antonisa, a 124' sloop, ran to one sentence. "Make it just like WhiteFin only with 5 staterooms". WhiteFin is a 90' sloop that was owned by the client at the time, also designed by our office.

  4. Crag Cay
    Joined: May 2006
    Posts: 643
    Likes: 48, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 607
    Location: UK

    Crag Cay Senior Member

    Do plenty of research and try to find where each designer's true heart really lies. Try to find one who's design philosophy matches your own. You are much more likely to get what you want from a designer who also likes the same thing.

    With steel boats try to find a designer who has actually built a steel boat. We tend to design with the builder in mind and our view of what is do-able (at a given price) will make the construction phase far more straightforward.

    List your preferences and desires in order of importance to you. Draw a line at some point down the list to show those things (above the line) which are absolute necessities in the design as opposed to those below the line where an increasing amount of compromise might be allowed as you descend the list.

    Find out realistic and definite prices for ground rent, hourly labour charges and materials etc in the place you plan to build. These will make a comparison with those in yards the designer is familiar with, so he can better advise you what different options will cost you in the design.

    Do an audit of the skills that are availble to you in your build area. Its pointless getting excited about a steel hull and aluminium decks, for instance, if there is no way such a construction method could be realised in your favoured building site.

    If possible find an example of what you like. A picture's worth a thousand words.

    Remain open minded to what the designer says. Some of them know what they are talking about, even if their advice flies in the face of your heart's desire.
    1 person likes this.
  5. MikeJohns
    Joined: Aug 2004
    Posts: 3,172
    Likes: 197, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 2054
    Location: Australia

    MikeJohns Senior Member

    Are you experienced sailors? If you are then you will have some experience to call on. The level of design spec can be as brief or as involved as you like.

    You can go as far as specify all the desired ratios the exact layout and give a similar existing vessel as example, or you can simply specify intended use and throw yourself on the mercy of the designer.

    Depending on where in Asia you plan to build it may be better if you stick to chine construction, I have seen some very unfair round bilge hulls, since the cheaper yards lack the forming equipment and expertise for compuond plate .

    The interior woodwork can be of a high standard but they tend to build to make the hull interior utterly inaccessible so some specific design is a good idea for the fitout wrt access. You will also want either a very trustworthy foreman or personal continual onsite supervision .

    As an aside
    Tax wise it is often bettter to sail something close to the bare hull to Asia for detailed craftsman fitout then Tax is not an issue on re-import. Get the sails made in Hong Kong and freighted to you in Australia. The hull material, and rig, will be cheaper in Australia and the hull may not be that expensive to build. When you come back to Oz there will be no import duty. Otherwise the boat is valued and you pay 15.5% of the valuation, The savings of overseas construction can quickly dissipate ....

    Hope this helps
  6. 2020
    Joined: Aug 2006
    Posts: 28
    Likes: 1, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 13
    Location: australia

    2020 Junior Member

    thanks so far

    Good points raised,Thank you. I love this forum.
    Yes we are experienced(ish) sailors and yes, agreed for budget and quality control (and self-repair down the track), sweetly deigned hard or radius chine seems to be the go.
    While we have a detailed list of needs,wants,and likes; the very reason we will be using a designer is because of what they know that we don't know, don't know to ask or probably - dangerously, haven't even thought about.
    I realise a template is not a perfect solution and perhaps self limiting; we were hoping to use it I guess to help get our brief right in many areas before troubling designers unneccessarily. I wouldn't be suprised to get a bill from any decent designer for this work. That is what they do for a living. That's why we thought some specific guidelines might be appropriate as a detailed starting point. I guess a template is better than a meandering scrawl.
    I couldn't imagine the designer we select not being a part of the project management.
    Any chance a bad set of guideline queries or a checklist exists that somebody might still be a able to supply?
  7. raw
    Joined: Jul 2006
    Posts: 133
    Likes: 5, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 59
    Location: Oz

    raw Senior Member


    All of the above posters have good points,

    Since you have some experience under your belt, and a personal list of wishes/wants/needs, then I suggest that it may be best to take the "same but different" approach initially. That is, take a boat that you like the concept of, then add your own requirements.

    List requirements such as length, proposed use, tankage requirements, accommodation, headroom (if you are tall for instance), etc etc etc. and make it your own.

    In the past I have worked on projects that take the simple line such as above, and also those that are subject to masses of specification documents. Both can work equally well, it depends on the project, Projects like yours can often be an evolution of ideas throughout the build rather than simply ordering a product. Provided you keep to a budget, it can mean a superior product at the end of the process.

  8. tspeer
    Joined: Feb 2002
    Posts: 2,193
    Likes: 157, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 1673
    Location: Port Gamble, Washington, USA

    tspeer Senior Member

    "Designer & Client" by Antonio Dias (ISBN 0-937822-51-5) describes his interaction with 8 clients on different boat designs.

    "Skene's Elements of Yacht Design" (Francis Kinney, ISBN 0-396-06582-1) has a chapter devoted to specifications, along with an example.
  9. alex fletcher
    Joined: Jun 2006
    Posts: 54
    Likes: 2, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 18
    Location: Ettalong Beach NSW Aust.

    alex fletcher Junior Member

    I think, that I would use a consultative approach, ask all the interested parties(owners, crew, customers, guests, statutory authorities and the general public) what requirement thay need the design to do, and what it should not do, develop a "plain English" list of "do and not to do" requirements be as concise as possible with out missing any thing. Present this and your feasibility, operational and enviromental requirements to your architect he then knows what it must do, from that he will write the specifications.
  10. kurt21
    Joined: Aug 2006
    Posts: 6
    Likes: 0, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: British Columbia

    kurt21 Junior Member


    if you would like to speak to a cutting edge designer feel free to contact me. you can visit our website at we do all types of custom yacht engineering and design. feel free to e mail me at:
  11. 2020
    Joined: Aug 2006
    Posts: 28
    Likes: 1, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 13
    Location: australia

    2020 Junior Member

    2020 says

    Thanks to all, you’ve been quite helpful. I guess the answer is the long path is the only path. I like the ‘evolution of ideas’ quote. Maybe we need to find a good designer and just get them seriously drunk?
    We’ll chase up those books and will be in contact with Kurt21 as invited.
    If any other designers would like us to send them the brief we have to date, please let us know.
    Love this forum. Thank you all again.
  12. raw
    Joined: Jul 2006
    Posts: 133
    Likes: 5, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 59
    Location: Oz

    raw Senior Member


    I'm available for a serious drunkening. My best design work is done at the bar on the back of a coaster (like all good ideas).

    Seriously though, contact me via the private messages and I'll take a look at your ideas. Happy to offer my services also. Australian Based.

  13. Eric Sponberg
    Joined: Dec 2001
    Posts: 1,989
    Likes: 192, Points: 73, Legacy Rep: 2917
    Location: On board Corroboree

    Eric Sponberg Senior Member


    Please have a look at my Globetrotter 45, which although small for you, its ideas and philosophy can be easily expanded to 55-60'. The Globetrotter 45 is intended for aluminum, wood-epoxy, or composite construction, and I have considerable experience in steel construction. So a steel yacht of that size in the style of the Globetrotter 45 is not a problem. Round bottom or hard-chine hull form are both possible and acceptable.

    The page starts with a cat-ketch arrangement, but a conventional ketch is also shown and is available.

    Any good designer will be able to collect your specifications and thoughts and be able to write a list of owner's requirements. Generally, specifications start out general and go to the specific. Begin listing the general elements of the design that you want, then break other topics down into categories. For example:

    Hull design and construction
    Deck design and construction
    Rig design (masts, sails, rigging)
    External outfit and equipment
    Internal design arrangement
    Internal outfit and equipment
    Mechanical systems
    Electrical systems
    Plumbing systems

    Under each category, list the hardware and features that you want to have. If you know catalog numbers or sizes of equipment, list those. If you don't know specifics in some areas, say so, and the designer will be able to suggest alternatives. The designer will generally have a weight and specification list similar to the above, and will create a builder's specification accordingly using the same or similar headings.

    Good luck, and I hope you like the Globetrotter 45.

  14. 2020
    Joined: Aug 2006
    Posts: 28
    Likes: 1, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 13
    Location: australia

    2020 Junior Member

    Gday RAW
    I've tried to email and message you to no avail. The email through the ADMIN seems to be waylaid.
    Please email me at
    Serious drunkening looms!
    cheers 2020

  15. raw
    Joined: Jul 2006
    Posts: 133
    Likes: 5, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 59
    Location: Oz

    raw Senior Member


    It is done. email sent.

Forum posts represent the experience, opinion, and view of individual users. Boat Design Net does not necessarily endorse nor share the view of each individual post.
When making potentially dangerous or financial decisions, always employ and consult appropriate professionals. Your circumstances or experience may be different.