Bénéteau has been building sailing yachts and motorboats for all types of boating practices since 1884. In 2018 the company acquired Gigodesign’s long-term client, the Slovenian sports sailboats manufacturer Seascape. With this new project, Bénéteau/Seascape was looking for a new niche in yachting that would provide not only ergonomic and comfortable space, but also take the sailing experience on a new level.
While Gigodesign may not have been a nautical design expert, it relied on its high expertise in innovative solutions based on thorough and creative design research. The early innovation process was initiated by an in-depth design research phase that consisted of several steps. It focused on different types of users: families, couples, sports sailors, boat dealers, racers, combined with a specific sailing style (e.g. daily sailing, coastal cruising, coastal/club racing, training, nightsailing, offshore).
What perhaps set this research apart from the others was that it really aimed to be as close as possible to the end user; to the point where sailing enthusiasts were involved in the project almost as prosumers. We wanted to gather first-hand insights from those who were actively involved in sailing, expert sailing users who enjoyed the wind, the speed and the adrenaline. Our goal was to envision a boat which would offer the excitedness of fast sailing and at the same time allow these enthusiasts to share this passion with their families who were more inclined to seek out comfort and relaxation.
After having conducted 18 interviews (from end users, dealers, sailing instructors, to charter operators, boat constructor and others), we developed a Usage matrix that helped us indicate the most or least frequent modes of use. The results provided by the matrix were used in later stages of the project. All the recruited persons were later synthesised into personas – a tool we employed to check our decisions later in a simulated environment in fast iterations.
Another asset of Gigodesign's team was the selection of methods, tools and the proposal for conducting a survey. For gaining insight into the field of nautical architecture and hydrodynamics, an interview was conducted with the nautical architect Sam Manuard. We visited a production facility comparable to the project requrements and gained knowledge in the field of GRP technologies in the racing segment. The new knowledge wwas used in later stages for testing in a simulated environment and gor preparing solutions optimised for the intended means of production and assembly.
We also supported the recruitment of users for a qualitative and anthropological research of user needs in relation to functional and aesthetic product qualities. We additionally recruited Bénéteau’s distribution network in America, Europe and Australia, as they offer a specific insight into ways of use on these three continents, which is not comparable to the European market, on which the first research sample was focused.
But what made this boat design process so special was that it detected the desired cruising experience. It then really strived to bring together the leisure of yachting and the speed of racing. This was achieved by making the process as co-creative as possible from the early stages, by bringing in the right users we needed – sailing experts and with their families – and by pushing the boundaries and breaking the conventions of the nautical industry. It’s what helped us shape the sought-after experience the industry didn’t even know it lacked.