We meet at No.15 Great Pultney Bridge in Bath, winner of multiple design awards, the perfect location to meet an award winning designer.
Jack: So we here at number 15 Pulteney Bridge in Bath and we are going to be talking to Justin Olesinski; a world-renowned designer, particularly in the relation of fusion between Technology and Design. I think Justin that you’re working on a new project, which is very exciting with a bit of a centerpiece on lighting?
Justin: That’s right Jack, we are approaching our next 70m slightly differently than previous projects. Our focus and USP is on how the yacht will look both during the day and night from the offset. Often lighting is seen as an afterthought at the end of a design or even during the production process where lighting specialists are drawn in and have to work around the existing deck. We, however, want to use their expertise during the concept stage so they have the opportunity to use lighting to create their dreams too.
Jack: I really liked in our previous discussions a phrase that you used where really, you should be able to see a yacht, be instantly recognizable by the lighting.
Justin: Yes. In the same way, you instantly recognize a car to be an Audi from its’ LED headlights we want to create the same instant recognition at night for a yacht. By reinforcing the boats’ running lines and individual characteristics allows the owner to say to his acquaintances “See the yacht out there with the blue stripe, that’s my boat”. Yachts like Madame Gu, Lady Lara and Moonshine have already realized the potential of rope lighting but we are trying for a more sustainable, more maintenance friendly solution.
Jack: I think there’s almost now a kind of halfway between what you are as a designer, and a lighting manufacturer, where you need to really interact with somebody who understands the design side of lights. I suppose they are called lighting designers.
Justin: We’re very experienced in the exterior design and naval architectural sector but limited in what we know about lighting systems, lighting effects and requirements. We are collaborating with John Roberts from Aqualuce and tapping into his lighting experience and potential future solutions. He can offer us practical solutions as well as explain the different effects and atmospheric visual options.
Jack: I think overall, I think this morning we had our over coffee discussions, and what we were finding was, I was showing you some of the things that we’ve seen on superyacht technology all the way from the last METS with the OLED Lab for example from EDH and we were talking about a wine cellar potentially, on any yacht this could be, of course, made of glass, and then I showed you the OLED which has the fantastic capacity to recognize wine bottles to match them to cheese, I think that might be quite suited.
Justin: It was an amazing coincidence that the owner we are working with now would like a 600 bottle wine cellar. Originally I had it as a pilot controlled glass room but this certainly has the X-factor to really wow his guests and himself. I think it’s a nice touch to something that’s quite simple.
Jack: But I imagine that presents some pretty unique challenges in itself?
Justin: Being out in the field and being exposed to some pretty tough environments dictates all components must be durable and easy to maintain. You don’t want to have to haul the boat out every time a light goes and you need to be able to maintain the whole system in situ. Superyachts all look great when everything works but things can and do go wrong. The crew or the ETO’s need to be able to repair it with hopes there are some stores on board.
Jack: So, the technical challenges, you have heat, obviously, the integrity of the hull itself, and for the repair and maintenance you need to account for storage, but I suppose if you want to change the lighting at any time it can be pre-programmed and I know for example by VPN, somebody coming in via virtual private network and you could actually, instantly change the programming. You could have somebody on contract to do that, so there’s an enormous amount you can do technically. Are you as a designer aware of these challenges?
Justin: We are to a certain level. We understand you can reprogram the software to create and deliver different sound or different lighting, effects and atmosphere. I think it’s advantageous if you’re trying to sell your yacht because the new owner can personalize his/her yacht very quickly. You just need the right software and hardware and the futureproofing thought to enable it to happen
Jack: I think when we were talking earlier in the year and I did a little bit of an interview feature with IdeaWorks at METS again, and we were talking there of two very interesting things which was the circadian light which is recreating these natural rhythms, the natural light that used to exist, but they were also very focused, as I know for example David Milner of Veritas was, on very simple, you know, I’m having a party, I’m relaxing, or romantic or whatever you want the mood to be, I want simple controls, one touch, and all the lighting changes.
Justin: That it’s really important to tailor the atmosphere to the moment. Hopefully, our layouts and spacial environments lend themselves to being multipurpose areas. However, I do think lighting manufacturers and designers need to consider that less is more to the client and may not be in the interest of their business. Companies will, of course, try and sell and upsell you as many lights as possible but the overall effect of a layer cake may not be the best solution. I personally feel a few key highlighted lines speaks a thousand spotlights!
Jack: I think as well if we go back to the beginning of the previous project we were talking about, It’s been a reversal of things because you’re starting with the lights, you’re not coming in at the last minute.
Justin: During the Monaco boat show a couple of years ago one evening looking down from one of the restaurants in the evening at over fifty superyachts I was amazed to see half of them had no lighting and of those that did only 25% looked suitable, atmospheric and desirable. The night is when you can really change things, draw lots of attention, and be very individual and stand out from the crowd.
Jack: I think ironically right now, we have some quite interesting lighting features in this hotel, we’re trying to get some shots I don’t think we’ll quite get the evening but certainly if we’d come later it might be some inspiration for you right here! I think we can move on from the lighting side of things, although one final point in the lighting, we both agreed, both these simple points, spotlights, every owner is individual, and you can go for what you want, but I agree with you, I much prefer what is essentially the underwater wall of lights, an aura, that is created. I saw the new hybrid come out of I’m not sure if it was Fedship, I’m not sure, the new hybrid, and I was a bit disappointed to see it just have that straight pointy, stars…
Justin: It comes down to the lighting specialist, the type of projection and intensity or range required. A mix of different lights can make for some high intensity but blended effects. We are trying to develop a system that is easily maintained, wide spread of light but without lines created by spotlights. It’s quite a technical challenge we’ve got but the idea is there.
Jack: A halo, mood lighting.
Justin: Yes we would like the boat to appear to be floating rather than it’s a UFO landing.
Jack: Yes, we talked about holograms, now recently I went to visit one of the world’s leaders in holograms, and for legal reasons I can’t mention who they are, and I must say, I was not very impressed at all, it was very Punch and Judy, it was the old Victorian peppers ghost and there were some very distinct problems, one was ironically, lights, of course it has to be dark for a really effective hologram to be produced; now we can project onto smoke, but that’s very party-party, I’m not sure every day you have a permanent wall of smoke, or if a wall of smoke is something that can be done, but there is also a very big problem which is content the reality is the content was very gimmicky, ballerina’s spinning around and things like that, and anything where we imagine the concept of going ‘oh I’d like a very well known superstar to appear in the corner of the room and start singing’, never going to happen. We looked into it, we’re never going to release those because you’d have Beyoncé saying “I’d rather do the concert myself!”
Justin: And be paid by twenty thousand people.
Jack: Or one hundred thousand people or more! So do you think holograms is something, I know you’ve maybe looked at in projects.
Justin: We looked at holograms as part of a stand for the Monaco boat show, to show our designs but due to the bright Mediterranean sunshine we decided against it. Also there you cannot beat something physical. Take your example of Beyoncé in the corner of the room where she could ‘be’ singing away. However you don’t have a real crowd with you, you don’t have the whole picture and atmosphere. The acoustics will be different and even compared to even the best sound system in the world it’s just not the same.
Book your tickets for, click below.
Jack: I’d not thought of that at all, you’ve just completely changed my image of things, I just have a lonely Beyoncé in the corner of a room just standing and singing on her own! You’re very right, so moving on from the lighting, I’ve had a lot of questions that have come in from our various friends and the tech community some who wish to stay anonymous, some who are happy to identify themselves, I had one which was just the design of the hull itself, the rival of flat panel antennas, Phasor, for example, put some questions forward that we’re very interested in, fundamentally, it’s going to change things because potentially you’re going to get rid of domes, and I’m sure many in the tech community would disagree with this, we’d like to hear from you, but for the design, this could have really big implications. How would you see that in terms of streamline?
Justin: As a designer, I think the owner would also like invisible sat-coms. Similarly, we lost ariels from mobiles 15 years ago so we should do the same on yachts!, Obtrusive technical items take away from the form that the owner is buying into, so the less technical things you can see the better.
Previously car’s ariel’s were long wires that were simply screwed into the bonnet or boot whereas now we’ve got the integrated stylized area that has been sculptured and aerodynamically shaped to blend into the overall form of the rest of the car. We aim not to highlight something that you don’t want to see. Everyone now paints their mast stack and domes black, so that visually you didn’t see them. This changes the way that we can design, so we can think about what we’re going to do with the areas where the domes previously were.
Jack: Okay, and I think that with a lot of questions that I had basically can be summarised in, basically a lot of AV integrators saying, “think more about us please designers” and I know that you have, I don’t know if it’s a new process? But a way in which you’re tackling this as a team.
Justin: Previously like many small design houses and limited resources we used a sequential process as opposed to a concurrent we use today. Latterly our naval architect designed the hull, handed it to the structural engineer who then passed it to the interior designer who then passed it to an exterior stylist. The problem then occurred that a systems engineer would say we don’t have enough room for this system and we would go around the whole loop again. It wasn’t so much a design spiral rather a flat spin heading to a deadline! Now we have all disciplines on board from wk0 to allow us to see potential problems as and when the design evolves. It does mean we need more resource as we often have 10 projects on the go at the same time but it does mean the overall time of design development is significantly reduced as well as modifications on the job.
Jack: And with the rise of the ETO/ITO, the fact that you need a dedicated person on board just to run your IT AV systems, who knows a bit about programming, etc. It really shows what this has become, but of course, it does deliver amazing experiences for the owners and also meets their basic business needs to be able to, I think you touched earlier on to maybe like, the use of multiple uses for a single room.
Justin: Jack you have nailed another issue on the head in that yachts have come a long way from just offering the owner a big TV and sound system. The hardware special requirement s are huge and something that we keep in the front of our minds from the word go. The owner will want at least what he’s had in his home. Really high-speed internet connection, high-quality AV, integrated systems and independent HVAC. With the advancement of OLED’s where you can see all the organic LED but when you turn them off they can be transparent now opens up the possibilities using your glass windows as cinema screens. This then has the knock advantage of being able to use rooms and spaces for a multitude of uses. Some newer Feadships have cinemas that can be changed into lounging areas by simply moving the seats and turning of the projectors. It’s all about maximising the space for the activities you use the most but keeping other options available.
Jack: You can’t possibly know everything about all technology, I was thinking towards maybe kind of resort, a database of availability in all the different categories of business of what is the latest technology available, somewhere to go which is almost like a Chelsea Design Centres of Technology and go and do your shopping to relate it to a specific topic that you’re doing.
Justin: That’s really good, because like you said, you don’t know what you don’t know so you can only know a little bit and it’s nice to find a place that you can go to where you’ve got all the experts talking about different parts of their business and you can find out the latest technology. For example, if it is AV, and you’re working on 70 meters, they don’t drop on your doorstep every day. As a design studio, you may be looking at a 30 meter one month a 70 meter the next and an 80 a year later but as we know technology develops so quickly the information you have is outdated and upgraded. It’s good to be able to top up yourself with what’s going on in the world in one place.
Justin: We did dabble with it a few years ago, but at the time, it depends on the time scale, so most of our business is 40 meters, which would take us about 50 weeks to design. By the time you got the data there, enough data for it to be a real representation of what’s going to be produced, the boat, actually is started, the hulls already started, the deck already started, is only a few months or 6 – 9 months, if you got much larger yachts then it’s good to be able to show what they are getting, but you do need to have that data then to create that data and it takes a long time.
Jack: Have you dabbled in VR?
I think it’s useful in some situations. If an owner wants to see their boat before they part with the deposit a designer is showing a concept it is very useful. The real problem with VR is the time it takes to develop the design to a mature stage. The information/data that you need to give the prospective owner a realistic, accurate view of their boat is 50% of the detail we provide a yard and on a 4-year project that is a huge investment and potential delay to the launch date. Our balance is a concept model that can be rotated to the owners preferred view which can be interrogated, changed but is of the understanding that it is conceptual and some changes will be inevitable but we try and keep the essence and DNA.
Jack: That’s understandable, no point if you can see the real thing. the real thing is always going to be better.
Justin: Sometimes with VR, you feel smaller, you’re the wrong height, and the level of detail, when you see something actually makes you want to ask more questions. It nice to be able to see the concept complete and to work and design with the owner. We like to nail a theme, create some conceptual sketch models, run it by the owner, change, improve and sign off. Rather than offer fait accompli.
Jack: Perhaps too many options sometimes as well. If you can go in and change the color of everything you want instantly it becomes that case of too much choice, become a messy project. Looking forward to the future, you’ve won a couple of awards, you’ve won ISS refit of the year?
Justin: Yes it was a tough competition but we won the 2016 International Superyacht Societies’ World Superyacht Award for Best Refit for Falcon Lair (70m). Not bad for our first refit project!
Jack: And a new build as well?
Justin: Yes we won the 2016 World Superyacht Awards in Florence for under 40m new build- Antheya III a 35m Princess. On average we complete 5 new builds every year and now we have expanded into the refit sector. That’s where our 45 years of experience pays dividends.
Jack: Nailed both of those awards –
Justin: Absolutely- the new kids on the block!
Jack: Why do you think you won these awards?
Justin: I think we do so much, we’re so diligent in what we do, we don’t let anything go out if it’s not right, everything we do in the office, if there something that needs to be changed it’ll take a week, if it happens in a yard, it’ll take 10 weeks to change, so we make sure the yard and the owner gets what they want. So for example with the1983 Feadship, the owner said you have the contract and when asked “when do you want me to start?” he replied, “well we are on the way to the yard now!” As soon as the boat was hauled out, we 3D scanned her so we could reproduce the boat as she was currently was on the computer. We then added our extensions and features referring to the sketch that he liked. We invited him to the office, we went through the design with the yard and his representative After adjusting the yacht in front of his eyes the boat for 5 hours he signed the contract – because he could see the boat he wanted, knew it was possible to build within time and budget.
There was one worrying time for me. The owner asked me to join him at the bow and look at the final deck being lowered into place. As it rested in a place he said, ‘Justin what’s that?’ I replied tentatively ‘Well, do remember the model that we reviewed in the UK 5 months ago, the one you signed off well, err, that’s it!” He put his arm around me and said ‘I love it’.
Relief and praise at the same time – brilliant
Jack: That’s a really good story
Jack: Now in terms of subcontractors, we know many yards use different models, some have generational, father to son, live in the yard, others simply bid, it’s just a giant auction to get the work done effectively, putting it a little crudely but does this have an impact, for example, you want to accomplish a great re-fit, you may have designed it fantastically but if they’re working in a yard that relying on that model, how can that affect what you’re doing?
Justin: The sub-contracting model is an unfortunate necessity of the yard business model so you just have to accept and integrate as best you can. Other factors such as owner involvement, management companies can have much more influence that the subcontractors who, if they are worth their salt can deliver. Yards do need to ensure that communication of idea and design and quality can be maintained no matter who the subcontractors are. I think one of the key points of the refit, is the project manager. You need to have a good relationship with them as he’s obviously squeezed by the yard and the owner. It is in their interests to try and get the most from you for the owner, so it is key you can explain the situation clearly and fairly. If you have a good relationship, which fortunately we have done in the past, then creating the dream will go as smoothly as it possibly can. Regular yard meetings walking the boat and compromising when something isn’t possible helps everyone in the long run. CAD is good to a certain point be we all know reality is often not measured in mm.
Jack: It must be, from your point of view quite challenging that reminds me of technology and the way we work with yards, it is like a group of different people, different, situations, cultures, all go in the mix all having to get off, within a certain amount of time, and getting the job done to the best satisfaction of the owner, it’s pretty difficult.
Justin: At the end of the day we have to get along as a team comprising of many different companies, each with their points of view. It reminds me of the cartoon where two people are facing each other with the number 6 on the ground facing one person. The other person thinks it is number 9. They are both right but see the situation differently. Designing a yacht with new contacts means you have to compromise and put yourself in other people’s shoes. I was recently in a conference which may change the way yards work in the future. A Canadian naval architect spoke about printing entire yachts. They have already printed a scaled model of a 50m superyacht in a 1-meter strip, 3 meters high. Within the next 3 years they aim to produce a 12-meter rib that is completely 3D printed and within 30 years times, he believes they will produce a 50 meter, fully printed yacht.
Jack: How big will these machines be for a 50m yacht, I mean are these going to be the
equivalent of a travel lift, but it is a printer –
Justin: They are huge! But it is the idea that is scalable. For example with at Princess Yachts they can create a 40m using much smaller 5 axis milling machines and join the pieces together. The investments are clearly enormous but if you have the demand it may be the way of things to come. I’ll wait to see if it actually happens because upfront costs, global strength, regulations may be its downfall. But if it is a success, and it would be a true feat of engineering if it did it would mean yards will become big printer shops! The onus will be on the designer as a fully resolved solution is needed rather than work “done on the job”.
Jack: Do you think when your dad first started in the design side of things, did you ever thought it would be, as it is today, the size.
Justin: No. when my father started they were building 3 boats of 27ft a year. Now Princess builds over 300 boats a year up to 40m. The leisure boat market was small during the ’60s and ’70s but has rapidly grown both in volume and length. It’s remarkable to think that from one person 45 years ago we now have a studio with 21 full-time employees.
Jack: Do you think there would ever come a time when, in an organization like yours, you actually have a technology consultant, in-house who would almost bring the technology to you, as part of the project you’re doing with the way things are going?
Justin: I think it would be really useful, I think there is a stage where you can bring them in, during certain parts of the process but not all the time. When we work with the yard, we send employees to stay in the yard and they send their team to our studio. During the exchange, we make sure we understand what the client wants, how the yards work and ensure we’re fully aligned. It all comes down to communication.
Jack: If someone came to you tomorrow, and said you have an unlimited budget, and absolute free reign, is there anything, this might be putting you on the spot, but is there a yacht concept out there that you can imagine, or dream of sometimes. Something that you would like to design?
Justin: There is not a whole concept, but more zones that I would like to investigate. The best yachts are those that satisfy all the brief and requirements but in a simple way. Similar to a smartphone that does everything, the way they look is, of course, important but what they do is even more important. If the yacht can stow the owner toys to allow them to dive, waterski, paddleboard and is really quick and easy for the crew to maintain then you have a happy crew and ultimately a happy owner. Keeping maintenance costs to minimum talks a lot of thought and design to ensure the design works for those using it. I have got some ideas that I would like to play around with, they don’t necessarily have to go on a super big yacht, it’s just the emphasis on something. I think chase boats for example if you can have a chase boat that you can home both the crew and toys give you the opportunity to do something more on a larger ship.
Jack: Thank you, Justin, let’s get a cocktail.
Visit Justin Olesinski