Design Center Busan - UX in yacht design


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The yachting market is, on the whole, still product oriented, rather than customer oriented. The focus of the way the industry presents itself centres on the product, rather than on the experience. As the yachting industry has seen its double-digit growth of the past decades diminish in the wake of the economic crisis, it now needs to look inwards, to renew and refresh its own design approach and methodology, and outward, to explore new markets, and to concentrate on how to enter them successfully. This requires a people-centred approach, which considers yachts not as mere physical products, but as facilitators of an experience.

User-experience design is built upon an understanding of and dialogue with the potential consumer, in order to create a more “user-centred” product and thereby drastically enhance the ‘total’ experience of the brand. Yachts are luxury products; their major selling point goes beyond their form or function, but also covers the use of the boat, its rarity and what it expresses about the owner. This fits well with the idea of an experience-driven product: experience is invisible, permeating and memorable. It does not contrast with the production volume. Its very uniqueness and individuality means that it can be offered to many, without reducing the perception of rarity.

Many of the yachting industry’s customers now come from emerging markets, and from a younger demographic base. These new customers often bring with them totally new paradigms, needs and desires. Creating yachts for these markets requires not just product design, graphic design, computer science and engineering skills, but also ethnography, cognitive psychology and sociology, as well as an understanding of interaction design, interface design and service design. Tools and techniques that offer insights into these consumers and how they differ from traditional yacht markets will be vital if the yacht industry is going to go beyond the self-referential designs created for the Western luxury market, and new design disciplines will allow the industry to create experiences that endure across individual, social and cultural contexts. To do so, it will have to address considerations such as the democratization of luxury, the desire for bespoke goods, two-way engagement with consumers, differentiation through service, responsible and sustainable luxury and the integration of web and other developing technologies.

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  • When a look at these two yachts you immediately see major differences.

    I’m not talking just about technical specifications, size, engines, lengths of decks etc. I’m talking about everything that could get someone excited, convince him to visit a showroom, and make him decide to buy one of these yachts. The focus is on what each of these yachts says to potential purchasers about values, identity and self-expression. In short, the experience each yacht offers and how they offer it.

    At the top you can see a nice standard yacht conceived through a product oriented approach and the yacht below provides a lot of experiential sensations. 

    While they are both beautifully designed yachts, the first is linked to the past, the second to the future. The approach that led to the second yacht represents a niche way of thinking in the yachting industry, but it will affect the future, as the industry moves increasingly away from the product-oriented approach to a user-experience one.
  • Boats and yachts in particular are not about basic needs. They are about life choices. Someone who simply wants to have some fun on a boat has a large range of choices, but yachts are about luxury.
  • As Helen Burden, manager of the World Luxury Congress, has stated: “The luxury customer expects more. They want to be surprised, entertained, moved. They want an experience.”

    What this means for designers and engineers, is that building a yacht is a lot more than building a physical product: it’s actually the creation of a subjective, intangible experience.

    Since how we experience things is personal and subjective, our design effort needs to focus firmly on people, and the ways they interact with our products, how they feel about them, and what they mean for them.
  • So when designing any product, but particularly for the luxury market, we need to think of experience design.

    Experiences emerge from the interaction between people and a product, the moments of engagement and dialogue between people and brands.

    These moments of ‘experience’ shape people’s perceptions, motivate their brand commitment and influence the likelihood of repurchase in the future.
  • Let’s look at the parts that make up an experience:

    We can map an experience according to the degree to which it calls for active or passive engagement from the customer, and the degree to which it can immerse or absorb them.

    A play at the theatre is something enjoyed passively. If you are the one sailing a boat, that’s active.

    The environment can be immersive, if customers becomes physically or virtually a part of the experience, for example in a game. Or it can be absorbing intellectually, bringing the experience into the mind, such as reading a book.

    The interaction of these two axes creates four areas, which characterize the type of experience:
    - Entertainment – like watching a play or a television program, where the mind is engaged, and the role is simply to enjoy.
    - Education – the mind is engaged, but the customer takes an active role in the interaction, such as learning how to sail.
    - Escapism – involves the person both actively and physically. Actively sailing the yacht would fit into this category.
    - Aesthetics - While the person can’t directly influence the experience, they can be immersed in it physically, such as sunbathing on deck.

    These four areas describe the subjective ways in which people engage with experiences. In terms of yachting, we must think about a very specific experience – that of luxury.
  • From the point of view of personal perception, there are more differences between a Ferrari and a Volkswagen than a Ferrari and a yacht.
  • One of the major differences between low-end and high-end products is rarity, or, more precisely, the perception of rarity.
    Rarity is traditionally broken down into 4 components:

    •Natural rarity, e.g. precious stones, gold, pearls

    •Techno-rarity, combines top of the range with cutting-edge, such as an infrared camera in a car to see through the fog

    •Limited edition, such as a special series or a customized approach, and

    •Information-based rarity, the exclusivity of the message, and the idea of being “in-the-know” to find the product.
  • To this model, we can these days add the idea of Experience-driven rarity.

    Although it is based around a product or service, the idea is almost post-materialistic – the focus is not on consumption, but on how products and services can facilitate the creation of something memorable: a moment, an interaction, a statement about identity and personality of the consumer.

    The encounter is unique, and can be different every time the product or service is used.

    The commercial advantage of experience is that it is invisible, permeating and memorable. Unlike natural rarity, or limited editions, experience-driven rarity does not conflict with production volume. Its very uniqueness and individuality means that it can be offered to many, without reducing its value.
  • So how can we design an experience? This diagram summarises how we do it at Experientia.

    Envision – first we need to understand the trends in the market, predict possible future scenarios, and create strategies that will help us to navigate these contexts.

    Understand – then we need to understand how people behave, what their actions, needs and desires are in specific contexts. Once we’ve collected the raw data, we need to analyze it, draw insights from it, and turn these insights into catalysts for design concepts that fulfill people’s needs and desires.

    Design – the design stage is the generation of concepts and ideas that satisfy people’s needs and desires, both on a technical and emotional and intangible level.

    Prototype – Prototyping allows us to gain insights on what works, what doesn’t and why, at an early stage of the design process, and helps us to understand the benefits, drawbacks or other issues related to future use by consumers in the intended contexts.

    Testing – Testing with the target market helps lead to iterations and improvements that make the experience more robust and durable.

    If we’ve done our research right, and the best designers and engineers have used the research insights to create the product or service and all its touchpoints, then hopefully, the buyer has had an experience to savor, and which will continue throughout the lifecycle of the product and into the next purchase.
  • And here is what this framework might mean for the yachting market.

    Using these five phases, I’d like to walk you through some of the key considerations for Korea to successfully and enduringly enter the yacht market.

  • While western yacht markets have had a slow-down from their pre-economic crisis days, newer markets, such as India and China, are seeing double-digit growth, albeit from a relatively low base.

    Until now, yacht building has been strongly informed by a Western context, both in terms of location of designers and builders, and in terms of market. While there are some differences between the US and the European needs, they tend to be relatively superficial, and concern mostly technical requirements, such as power/electrical systems, air-conditioning, side-boarding ladders etc.

    Instead, the Asian marketplace is culturally very different, as I will explain, and many companies have learned to their regret that it requires more than simply taking a Western product and trying to sell it in an Asian context.

    Let’s for instance think about the yacht as a kind of “floating villa.” Think about the last time you were inside a house or office building in the USA or Europe, and how it differed from a Korean one. Or think about how the role of social networks and family are different here from in the West. Or simply think of the perception of status associated with a dark tanned skin in the West, versus a fair light one in China. All of those differences are the results of cultural contexts, likes and dislikes. Just as they’re reflected in our living and working spaces, they need to be reflected in our leisure environments.

    In this respect, Korean companies have a strong advantage over Western ones when it comes to entering the Asian yacht market – quite simply, you have the strength of knowing the cultural context from the inside.

    In order to appreciate these trends, we have to do research. But if a market doesn’t exist or it’s still very small, researchers will find it difficult to observe people’s behaviors: how can we observe yacht use in India, for instance, when there are so few boats of any real size?

    We can get around that problem by identifying key elements of local living and relating them to the experience being researched and people’s perceptions and desires. To return to the ‘floating villa’ metaphor, observing how people interact inside their house could provide insights into how yachting could be packaged.

  • Let’s look at six trends across the luxury market, which have strong relevance for yachts.

    The first is the democratization of luxury: it’s no longer just the super-rich who are interested in high-end luxury brands. In response, traditional luxury brands are bringing out more accessible lines, for middle-class customers.

    We’re seeing a move to human-centered design, with an increased focus on the user. Successful products are those that fit gracefully into the requirements of the underlying activity, supporting them in a manner understandable by people.

    There are new users in the yacht market, both from developing and newly developed countries, and from a younger demographic who have the financial resources to purchase yachts. These markets have new demands and requirements for furnishings and for the functions available onboard.

    In the pursuit of something unique, we are seeing people looking beyond products, and demanding experiences.

    The increased focus on green and sustainable values also impacts the yacht market, as people start to seek products that incorporate sustainable benefits, so that brands can free consumers from their feelings of guilt and powerlessness.

    Finally, new and changing communications channels extend traditional interactions with current and future customers - new interfaces, rapid content updates and user-generated content.
  • Once we’ve observed the trends, we need to link them with insights that can help us to create design solutions. This often means finding people’s pain points, or identifying gaps in the market in meeting needs.

    If we think of the democratization of luxury trend, we need to be aware that ,ass affluence increases luxury good sales, but also reduces exclusivity of brands. As a consequence, the richest customers are shifting their interest towards artisanal entrepreneurship, and highly customized, bespoke goods.

    Increased interaction between people and machine doesn’t mean creating complicated interfaces. We must make that interaction human-centered so that it remains simple and intuitive.

    To understand and meet new demands, we need a new approach. We can’t just expect to sell new markets the same old yachts. This means changing from a product-centered design perspective, in which the technical design drives the development, to a people-centered perspective, in which needs and behaviors drive the design.

    The demand for experiences also requires such a paradigm shift. Currently there are few services in the yachting market, and almost no experiences.

    The new green sensibility raises serious problems for the yachting industry, where there are no sustainable materials, and the process is highly polluting.

    Finally, the he yacht industry must take advantage of the new communications channels to get the message out to consumers, particularly dealers and boat shows, which are important first points of contact.

  • Insights, coming from people’s pain points, needs and behaviors, can be mapped on a tool like an opportunity map, which helps us to see promising areas of development and identify scenarios.

    In this opportunity map, we organized the insights and opportunities arising from the research analysis according to the four experience areas that we described earlier.

    Here we see how the various concepts fit into these four experience area, from the passively immersive, such as light management, to more active experiences, such as speaking with the dealer and buying the yacht.
  • So, if we use this process, then what will the boats of the future be like?

  • Well, this depends a lot on the skills and abilities of your designers. What skills does a good experience designer need to have?

    Stimulating the yachting industry in Korea will largely need to start with the future designers of yachts, and making sure that they are receiving the right kind of education, to build the appropriate expertise and knowledge.

    Future yacht designers need to have a wide range of skills, including product design, graphic design, computer science and engineering skills, but also user research, cognitive psychology and sociology, as well as an understanding of interaction design, interface design and service design. Aside from skills, they also need to have certain qualities:

    Collaboration. The increasing complexity of products, services and experiences has replaced the idea of the ‘lone creative genius’ with interdisciplinary collaborators.

    Empathy. By taking a ‘people first’ approach, designers can imagine solutions that are inherently desirable and meet explicit or unexpressed needs.

    Experimentalism. Significant innovations do not come from small changes: designers need to ask questions and explore constraints to proceed in new directions.

    Integrative thinking. Designers not only need to rely on analytical processes, but see all of the aspects of a problem and create solutions that go beyond and improve existing designs.

    Optimism. No matter how challenging a given problem happens to be, designers must realize that the potential solutions are better than the existing ones.

    Now, I would like to introduce some design concepts that address the trends and insights described earlier.

    The first focuses on the issue of new demands. Chinese and Middle Eastern yachts are often owned by companies, rather than individuals, and the boats are not necessarily used for entertainment, but quite often for business meetings. This creates a need for more quiet, private spaces on board.
  • Physical and acoustic privacy could be supported by using smart technologies that create subtle, elegant and unobtrusive solutions.

    On a yacht the owner's privacy is sometimes disturbed by the presence of the crew.

    Quiet privacy is an integrated and non-obtrusive system which defines the areas that are off limits or moments when the owner wants to be private.

    Glass ornaments, operated by the owner, quietly inform the crew of the need for confidentiality through color and illumination.

    Vibrating bracelets worn by crew members reinforce the information.
  • Another design concept addresses the idea of turning a product into an experience, in this case, one that is closer to nature.

    The lack of natural light in the lower deck of yachts is usually addressed with artificial light. Of course, this affects the guests’ yachting experience when they spend time on the lower deck.

    Natural light experience could be enhanced by using technologies such as optical fibers, which allow the delivery of natural light. Other solutions can mimic natural light behavior.  

    This design is by John Liland, a student of one of Experientia’s senior experience designers. The glass floor delivers natural light to the lower deck, which hosts a large hall that can be used for entertainment and shared activities, such as meetings, parties, official dinners or public events.
  • Finally, we highlighted earlier the issue of new communication channels.

    Would you spend two million euro without seeing what you are going to buy? In the yachting market it happens. There are few opportunities to see the final configuration of the yacht, because of the scarcity of available yachts and the high number of options to choose from. New technologies could offer a solution that allows buyers to experience the sensation of first sights and touches.

    The Visual Configurator is a platform which supports dealers and customers during the purchasing phase.

    It provides a better purchasing experience, improves the brand perception and pushes the customer towards a more conscious purchase. 

    How does it work? Well, the customer, helped by the dealer, can see, touch and obtain information about materials. Screens on the walls suggest other materials, with a brief description, contextualized images and an impression of their sensorial properties.
  • The dealer collects small samples of exposed materials and displays the selections on a panoramic visualisation screen, allowing the customer to compare and save different solutions.
  • The customer can also use an interactive table, where, once an area is selected, he can change colors and textures of the interior simply by moving the small samples around. So he experiences his choices in a multi-sensorial session, by handling material samples and seeing their aspects on screen.
  • The Experientia approach is firmly grounded in the belief that prototyping and testing is the only method to arrive at solid and valuable user experiences. This applies to any design: product-oriented design, such as the example shown here, but it can also be done in the experience design process.

    This means creating service and experience prototypes, to ensure that the experience is smooth and consistent across every moment where the customer comes in contact with the brand and product – in advertising messages, in showrooms, in the interaction with the salespeople, in the presentation of the product, its delivery and its use.

    Strong user experiences are holistic – each part of the experience is crafted.
  • Let me begin to wrap up, with this thought:

    If you want to take inspiration from Western boat builders, do what they are going to do, and not what they have done.

    Don’t think about the old product-oriented model, but think about what current yacht builders are moving towards – the experiential yacht.

    Let me then also repeat the qualities that good designers should have: they should be empathic, integrative thinkers, optimistic, experimentalists and collaborative team players. This is a chance for Korean designers to be pioneers, to be ahead of the trend.
  • Here I show you a typical New-Product Development Matrix. If you tackle an existing market composed of established users, the right approach is incremental. This is the position that many Western yacht-builders find themselves in – selling familiar products with small innovations to an established market.

    In the upper-left, we could probably position countries like Brazil and Russia, where new wealth has opened the existing market to a new group of potential customers.

    Along the bottom of the matrix, we could position Western markets: the US, Europe, Australia. These are established users, interested in both established and new products.
    Asia however, particularly China, India and Korea, fits on the top right, into the area of new offerings to new users. This means that the right solutions are likely to be revolutionary: a revolution that begins with people and their cultures. Korea has the advantage here of knowing these people and their cultural contexts much better than your Western counterparts.
  • What we see here is a comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of European companies and Asian companies.

    The right market entry strategy for Asian companies should capitalize on existing knowledge and expertise from European/Western companies, but take full advantage of the local cultural knowledge that will lead to winning design concepts in the Asian market.
  • Building a yachting culture also involves building a waterfront culture - from experiential marinas, to the attitude to the sea and sea sports.

    This can also attract non-boaters – marinas can be more than just a place to park or dock a boat – they can be tourist locations in their own right.

    The experience of a yacht owner continues beyond the boat, and to be satisfying and fulfilling, there needs to be a culture around boating and water in which to carry out their passion.
  • So what are the next steps?
    - Educate designers and yachting professionals according to modern design paradigms.
    - Leverage cultural knowledge to take advantage over the Western boat builders.
    - Know people and devise a design strategy around their lifestyles, before you start the actual designing of the product.
  • Thank you. Are there any questions?
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