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Interview: Paul Mackenzie, Product Development, Princess Yachts

Interview with Paul Mackenzie, Product Development Director at Princess Yachts.

I’m talking to Paul Mackenzie, Product Development Director for Princess Yachts and the man in charge of ensuring that the yachts Princess bring to market across the next few years and beyond are
the ones that you most want to buy. Paul joined the company in October 2016 having previously worked for McLaren Automotive for 17 years. “Antony Sheriff [executive chairman of Princess Yachts and previously Managing Director of McLaren Automotive] asked me to join the team at Princess and head up the design department. It was a terrific opportunity so I took it”. So what relevance does car design have in the marine world? “There are more similarities than you might think” says Paul. “I have an engineering background, both technical and management, with specialist knowledge in the world of composite materials which of course translates directly. But actually, McLaren cars are low volume high end vehicles, and I was responsible for product development of its ultra exclusive road cars like the P1 which was a virtually bespoke build and sold for around £1 million to a similar customer base to Princess Yachts clients. So a surprising amount of the working design processes are applicable to both”.

Paul typically has 12 to 14 projects on the go at any one time, double the output that existed when he joined, which he credits in great part to increased efforts to get it right first time. “We start with a draft brief and then do a huge amount of pre concept work where we can be more creative and explore how the boat will be developed. We’ll hold ‘design offs’ where our talented design team compete to come up with the best concepts. This ‘pre-work’ gives a very clear definition and direction, and has cleaned up the process and ensures that everyone is onside before we move on”. A board member, Paul works closely with the rest of the board as well as Sales and Marketing to develop future products. “We’ll look at the model we’re replacing and talk to dealers and customers as well as our own teams to build on the strengths and design out the weaknesses to create ever better products. We also do a great deal of market analysis to work out what the customer wants from our future products, as well as examining what the competition is doing to ensure that when our yachts come to the market they are the very best”.

One dramatic change in the shift from automotive design to marine is working with real mock ups. “When we were designing cars we’d use virtual reality to try and experience what the finished product would look and feel like. At Princess Yachts it’s taken a stage further to actual reality. We have half a dozen highly skilled carpenters that actually create full scale mock ups out of hardwood so that we can experience our design creations first-hand before committing to them. We’ll hold design reviews inside the mock ups and a surprising amount can get changed at that point”.

So where can we expect Paul to take the design of Princess yachts in the future? “Our designers are very much the custodians of the Princess design language” says Paul. “We’re also very aware that the brand has a strong reputation for sea worthiness, engineering, practicality and quality, so those will remain a given, but we will look to use the latest materials and tech appropriate for Princess. We are looking to move the design on, but the understated elegance for which Princess yacht design is best known will remain”.