Acumen Design Associates

Designer in Profile: Ian Dryburgh, Acumen Design Associates

Acumen Design Associates has been shortlisted for Cabin Design (Business & First Class) Award in The International Yacht & Aviation Awards 2020. Read more about CEO & Founder, Ian Dryburgh, below:

Name:  Ian DryburghAcumen Design Associates

Company: Acumen Design Associates Ltd.

Position within company: CEO / Founder


Tell us a little about your background in design:
From an early age I had a real love of cars and boats – anything that went fast! My family has a strong heritage in yachting and I have always loved the sea, so when I won a Yachting World design competition at 16, the thought of making a career in design certainly crossed my mind.

But I buried those thoughts and it was actually not until the end of my first year of university studying civil engineering that my Head of Department recognised my passion for design and thought I might be more fulfilled studying transport and industrial design. Having discovered my dream course at Coventry University, I never looked back and was honoured to become the first English designer to work at the Mercedes-Benz Styling headquarters in Germany.

A few years later I returned to the UK as a 23 year old determined to continue a career in design – and founded Acumen in 1981. One of our early projects was the design of a new range of Sunseeker powerboats which ultimately led to British Airways inviting us to design what became the iconic ‘Bed In the Sky’ in 1996.

Since 1996 we have pioneered many industry leading innovations in the aviation sector with many patents to our name. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit inherited from my father, so much of Acumen’s time is now spent investing in our own intellectual property which we license to the industry. I have also been a founding shareholder in a medical company and paper company which are both enjoying great success after twenty years of patient investment.

 How would you describe your personal design style?
I am fascinated by the way in which people customise their possessions to create a unique reflection of their personal image.

I celebrate excellence in craftsmanship and bespoke design in all aspects of my life, with a very eclectic personal design taste and style. I have even custom designed my car and yacht to satisfy a desire for the one-off and personal expression – design excellence in my opinion always transcends fashion !

Where does your design inspiration come from?
For me inspiration can come from multiple sources. Typically progressive architecture experimenting with new materials, consumer products and automotive design which marries style and technology are a perennial source of inspiration.

In what direction do you feel that design is moving towards in a general sense?
With an ever changing demographic and shift in lifestyle trends in which conservation of the planet has become an imperative, it is inevitable that designers will need to adjust their focus particularly in the luxury end of design. For example, it will become more and more socially unacceptable to burn fossil fuels seemingly without good purpose. Superyachts that combine sailing and regenerative electrical power and solar energy will inevitably become the more acceptable face of the industry. Likewise private jet aviation will see more hybrid electric technology introduced with an increase in the use of biofuels to power supersonic private jets.

Designers will need to progressively refine their narrative on the ‘green’ agenda in order to justify the continued relevance of their work.

Name five key themes to consider when approaching design in 2020 and beyond. 

  1. The integration of AI into future design programmes with regard to social and psychological impact. In a post-Covid world in which an accelerated focus on interfacing with machines prevails, this issue is becoming ever more prescient.
  2. How to take a more strident view on the ‘total’ net impact of a design in terms of planet conservation?
  3. How can designers create a more ‘inclusive’ designed environment that caters for the needs of the elderly, disabled and out-sized, in a more discreet, effective and dignified manner?
  4. Designers need to anticipate future lifestyle trends in which the boundaries between work and leisure are ever more blurred with a view to a ‘fresh’ approach to design.
  5. As the desire for soul ownership shifts towards fractional or temporary ownership of possessions, designers will need to consider more expansive and flexible design solutions with longer lifespans.

If you could come offer one piece of advice when it comes to design schemes, what would it be?
Always challenge the brief and adopt an empirical approach to deliver true innovation– don’t settle for a status quo solution.

Does the design scheme exceed client expectations in terms user experience, first to market innovations, and brand consolidation? Is the final design faithful to the research, and does it deliver market leading differentiation?

How important are The International Yacht and Aviation Awards?
The International Yacht and Aviation Awards not only celebrates excellence in our industry, but provides valuable encouragement for designers and architects young and old to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible in an ever changing landscape.

What projects are you currently working on?
I’m afraid our client work is confidential, however more than ever we are dedicating our efforts on our own patented creations to take to market in the future.

Final thoughts , tell us a little more about yourself and daily inspirations?

Your most treasured possession?
My art collection

Your favourite holiday destination?
Madagascar and sailing in the Indian Ocean.

Your favourite hotel, restaurant and bar?
Bamaru Plains in the most remote part of the Northern Territories of Australia, Aqua in Hong Kong is one of my favourite restaurants and bars.

Your favourite food and drink ?
I have my own whisky in the making in Islay, Scotland which will be named ‘Kindred Spirit’ after my father’s yacht when eventually bottled.

Your favourite way to spend an afternoon
Cycling in the countryside near my home.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
A professional skipper sailing the seven seas. I was one of the youngest Yachtmasters in the UK at 16 , and always dreamt of making sailing my life.

Acumen Design Associates has been shortlisted for Cabin Design (Business & First Class) Award in The International Yacht & Aviation Awards 2020.

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