The Art of Boat Design by Tessa Oldershaw

The Art of Boat Design by Tessa Oldershaw

I have been designing boats for half my life.  I did my very first boat designs in 2007; I was 17 with very little graphic design experience, but a lot of design opinions.

In the last 17 years I have evolved to have a lot of boat design experience with very few design opinions. This is because the best design is the one that the paddler is proud to have on their boat.

There are plenty of design rules that are based in colour theory, composition, Nelo's production stipulations, etc. and don't worry- I definitely keep these in mind while creating! But a boat design can be much more than colours and graphics, and that is what makes me excited for the job.  The art of boat design is not actually in the artwork, it's finding the right design for the customer, and bringing together their vision in a way that makes them proud to use their new boat.

So, how do you figure out what works for you? 

When it comes down to it, a boat is used for going fast.  The design should help you get into the best mind frame to do so, which can mean different things to different people.

1. Reflect on how you feel when you feel your best, and think about what type of design would align with that mental state.  Are you someone that gets hyped up and energized? Or do you like to focus inward and remain calm and focused? Design choices can help you feel aligned with that energy so when you pick up your boat to carry it down to the dock, the boat reinforces the feeling and sets you up to perform. This can help me understand the overall vibe of the boat design.

2. Think of specific elements that you draw inspiration from that could be worked into the design. This is not always applicable, but it can be a really special component to a design. This is something I can help with if you aren't sure how to translate your idea to a design element. An example of this is the leaves on a C1 Mark Oldershaw used internationally. There were three maple leaves on the deck, much like most team Canada boats, but these ones were inspired by the maple leaves from the Ontario flag.  This may not be obvious to most people, especially the international audience, but the Ontario specific leaves were a way to have a piece of home on the water with him.

Ultimately, a boat is more than some carbon, gel coat, and paint. We spend hours in these vessels and they can feel like an extension of ourselves. I am here to help figure out the best boat for you and design something that adds to the experience of paddling. 

Check out some of my latest boat designs in my design portfolio, and make sure to follow along on instagram and facebook.

Happy Paddling!

Tessa Oldershaw