A design Forum was recently asked why a client should not hire a
designer to design by the hour, with the client retaining the intellectual
I think most designers would love to work by the hour, an
instant return, but certain practicalities seem to nearly always
kill such a scenario.
Not the least of these: A Designer is unlikely to try as hard
on someone else’s intellectual property as they will on
a Stock plan sold purely on its merits, and to be associated with
the designers name forever.
The reason the stock plan set-up is as it is, is that the hours
taken from conception to full amateur-level detailed building
plan stage, combined with the competition driven low price that
the home-building industry has embraced as "fair", are
such that it often takes 50 sales before the designer recoups
a low hourly rate. This gets better with the size of the boat,
and 40 footer plans still command a decent fee, but small home
build boat plans are a great
bargain, some going for a tad over copy and mail costs.
"A custom Design to Client Specification Scenario"….
To Professionally Paranoid Designers this reads “A lemon
with my name on!”
Clive the CEO Client wants to take his family high speed world
cruising in a purpose built catamaran. He knows all about sailing
fast…he started in Lasers and moved up to Elliotts, and
there is not a seven-meter sports boat in the world whose limits
he has not tested. He figures his family will enjoy the flat fast
240 nautical miles a day that he will extract from a roomy catamaran,
and reckons he’s got a design in his mind that can “create
a Seamless Market Niche” on a world tour, all he needs is
- 1/ A boat faster than the other cruising multis.
- 2/ Total rights to the design.
Clive hits upon the idea of having his brainchild drawn up by
Des, an established cruising Multihull designer who may even have
a few good ideas to add.
Clive has drawn out his design on a piece of graph paper, it
has 6 berths, a dishwasher, stereo, fridge, freezer, washing machine
and dryer in its 38 ft length, along with a wine cellar, and its
communications/computer/office space. All air conditioned of course.
It can be chartered to defray costs, which will be controlled
by subcontracting the work and supervising it personally in the
gable-roofed double garage he has had knocked up behind his tennis
court. All it needs is a designer to shape it up for speed, and
do that stuff they do to carry the weight while making it go fast.
Its true that it carries all the comforts of home, but a man like
Clive doesn’t want his family to suffer. Plenty of sail
area will take care of everything. Lets rock and roll! The accommodation
plan has gotten the hard work out of the way for Des, he can just
tweaks it and give it the stamp of approval. Wait till he sees
how much I’ve gotten in 38 feet thinks Clive proudly.
But Des is implicitly endorsing the product by working on the
project at all, & Des wants PRIMARY control. Else the project
will founder immediately on the simplest of disagreements, and
Des doesn’t know what he disagrees with most. Probably the
concept of an overloaded boat set to planing by brute force. Where
does one start with this. ..
By now Clive, excited by the words Carbon Fibre, has scooped
up a 2nd hand 64 foot rig super cheap. Des says he won’t
be associated with ANY boat sporting that rig, if it is to be
on a Waterline Length under 44 feet. Clive’s building shed
is 40 feet long. Clive bludgeons his personal doubts to death
with a rapid-fire CV of sailing exploits in a tangle of yachts.
Des says "Jolly good show, but sadly I don’t care if
you are the Official Resurrection of Sir Peter Blake, I won’t
bet my reputation against your ability to NEVER make a mistake.
In my opinion you have already made the mistake in overloading
the yacht, then compounded the problem by overpowering it. In
your brash overconfidence, you wish to set up a disaster, then
pit yourself against preventing it”
At this point Clive has realised that these designers “seem
to be a bit unreasonable”, wonders “who is working
for whom” and who is the Boss, Des points out that the Ocean
and the Weather are the Committee in Charge of Cruising, and they
don’t like Corporate Takeovers. Clive and Des must talk
about whether they can work together at all.
If they agree to disagree and Clive keeps artistic control Des
will view the entire job as trying to make a silk purse out of
a sow's ear.
If Des takes primary artistic control and Clive wants a one-off
custom that no-one else can ever build without his Royal approval,
a fair fee would seem astronomical, and would result in a boat
that Clive wouldn’t like. The fee would also be near impossible
to calculate as Des, fully hooked into the problems of what to
sacrifice and keep from the hodge-podge drawn by Clive, is working
on it 24 hours a day, including while he’s asleep. Des occasionally
stops at Green Traffic Lights and stares vacantly at Loved Ones.
Des cant see them, he is staring at a Cross-Beam Detail at Station
This is why we generally see Customer Control stopping early
in the process. To see a customer controlled design, look at a
Designers own boat, or one for a very, very close mate, or a for
a sponsored racing Syndicate.
Designing yachts is not an area in which people can charge about
like a bull in a china shop, then slip an expert substantial dollars
to “do it up right”
Listen to your designer, he or she listens to you.
Jeff Gilbert 2003.