Coined l'enfant terrible in the super yacht industry for his somewhat controversial and daring designs, it is time to delve into the mind of Alexander McDiarmid, whose creativity is constantly at the forefront to outdo the norm and whose 3 ½ year old son is his biggest critic. Is it a case of the good, the bad and the ugly, or simply genius? We let you decide.
Who is Alexander McDiarmid in your own words?
A humble design merchant serving his clients as a purveyor of creativity.
Who is Alexander McDiarmid to the outside world?
“Incredible design from an incredible designer. Truly spectacular.”
Some might say audacious. You have to be if you want to achieve anything great in life.
When did you know you were a born designer?
I had an early Montessori education and remember overhearing the teacher talking with my mother regarding something that I had created that day. Later on, brilliant high school teachers who encouraged and pushed me. Industrial design is in the middle of the art and science spectrum so it made sense to study the subject.
Where does your creativity stem from?
They say the creative adult is the child who survived. As the son of an engineer and private chef, I was always reading about how things work, drawing with my father’s drafting equipment and building things, all while watching beautiful, edible creations come to life.
Five words to describe your design style/ethos.
I don’t have a style. That’s five words.
Designers should not follow trends especially not for superyacht design.
Do you think your personal or professional parcours has shaped who you are?
Absolutely and you are continually shaped by your environment and experiences both professional and personal. Long standing industry friends who have and continue to be with me from the start of which I am very grateful for their continued influence, help and guidance.
What rocks your boat in terms of design? Not necessarily yachting related…
I love aviation design, fast jets in particular, military and civil design. Car design, futurism, absolute crisp graphic design and beautiful furniture design. I find angles, surfaces, details and symmetry exciting yet all very soothing.
Who branded you with “enfant terrible” and do you think you are?
A Canadian luxury lifestyle journalist based in Shanghai, Stephan Luc Larose. He was one of the first journalists to see my early concepts and feature them in a Chinese yachting article. Shortly afterwards Michael Howorth of Superyacht News amongst others and it stuck. It is a label but very humbling at the same time. I guess it’s a reflection of my work in what is still a very conservative yachting industry. A rebel with a design cause you could say.
What is your stance of the yacht designs we currently see at sea?
We are in a sea of utter mediocrity with regards to the majority of current yacht design. While there are some gems out there they remain few and far between. I’m always curious to see the differences in exterior design and styling solutions by Naval Architects and Industrial Designers. You cannot command both disciplines and expect great results yet sadly it occurs all too often. When you read certain comments in the yachting press you can perhaps see why many yachts look the same: I try to repeat some details that I’m particularly fond of but give them a new twist and make a little change here and there to make it more original and ensure that the clients feel that they’re getting something completely different.
The continued selling of on-spec, usually white or beige, same-as-it-ever-was yachts to repeat customers seem to be the only profiles that regularly move and keep the industry afloat. With the arrival of M/Y A and more recently S/Y A these are true bespoke superyachts in every sense of the word. Not just for their LOA or size as is often the case, but fresh design thinking by their brave, innovative and visionary owner. They are by no means to everybody’s taste but that really does not matter.
Name one factor that makes your projects unique or is their unique selling point?
I’m very lucky to have an imagination and often just joining the dots by making relevant connections.
What is the next step in yacht design?
Introduction and integration of the new and next generation of owners who will bring their visions of yacht design to the industry. It is the job of the designer to provide intelligent solutions for their clients and even the most adventurous designs can be regulated. Reading a recent interview with one of the main brokerage companies who in describing the next generation of new build owners concluded:
What’s your favourite yacht design to date?
The one we are currently working on. It’s pretty. And daring.
Who loves/loathes your designs?
My son. At 3 ½ years old you will not find a more honest design critic. However it has always been and continues to be a succinctly love or hate reaction to my work. I have heard that there are some traditionalists in the yachting industry but things are changing.
Ecological yachts - your take on them?
I don’t think we will ever see a true ecological yacht if you think about the materials that go into the construction. It’s clever ‘Green Marketing’ industry wide but we do need cleaner propulsion and stricter sustainability in material choices. They say 25-30 years for electric aviation solutions so a similar time for yacht propulsion. You cannot rush chemistry in terms of battery technology so we are still a long way off from being able to power and propel a 100m+ superyacht by battery alone.
If you could have any yacht in the world, which one would it be and why?
If I could be an owner for the day only… Christina O, the original superyacht and to sit at ‘Ari's Bar’, created by the original superyacht owner. She was originally a WWII anti-submarine River-class frigate. True visionary, conversion thinking for the time by her owner, old school elegance.
What in your mind are the key amenities any yacht should have?
Owning a yacht should be fun above all else. Amenitiessuch as light, space, volume, comfort, privacy, relaxation should contribute to this enjoyment. Heli deck, beach deck, wellness area, submarine and a well stocked tender garage of toys. Dare I say some real innovation too?
Client vs Designer or Designer vs Client?
Client is always King & Queen. It will always be their yacht design project. But a designer must have the crucial ability to say ‘No’ to their clients if needed. If the laws of physics or manufacturing dictate something cannot be done… Find a solution.
What do you do to make the world a better place?
For the design world I try to give younger designers their first experience and opportunity in the industry. I remember that feeling landing my first design job and starting my career. For the real world, Aix-en-Provence is a very wealthy society bubble and with this comes a lot of homelessness. We regularly bring food and water to those who need it especially during the current heatwave. In general I am a stickler for recycling also.
Outside of the realm of design, what do you enjoy?
My wonderful wife and our family time. Watching our two young, bilingual children growing up, their creativity astounds me. Also cooking. We have beautiful fresh, local and seasonal ingredients here in the South of France. The French really know how to live well.
Your favourite spot in the world?
Our ‘Mas’ home set amongst the olive and almond groves of Provence. We are on the ‘Route des vins’ and spoilt for choice with Côtes de Provence.
What is one question you would like to be asked, that has yet to be asked and what is the answer?
Do you have a design hero? Industrial Designer Raymond Loewy for the magnitude of his design projects across a variety of industries. He dreamed big and made the 20th Century beautiful.
For more information contact Natalia Langsdale of Bright Creativity.