Good after bad: Part 2

This week’s 5-part series will be touching on how design affects us after tragedy or disaster. We’ve seen, and some have experienced, events that have shaped humankind, and out of this bad sometimes a lot of good ensues. I’ll be looking at five different results-oriented disaster/scenarios. Here is part two.

On the water

Modern day ships owe much debt to those that have lost their lives in events like Titanic (and not the soon to be released 3D version, the actual sinking of…). There were many other disasters at sea – Titanic is just one that most people know.

One of the main reasons that we also make reference to Titanic because it was (wrongly) billed as unsinkable. I believe that as soon as you label something that is sinkable as unsinkable – you’ve offered up Mother Nature a challenge. And here is the overall record when boxing with Mother Nature – she wins (it may take a while – but every time she is the victor).


From both an obstacle and weather feature, radar has been a fabulous addition. And without ships running into things this would never had been an add-on.

Life Jackets

Beyond the obvious fact that people most certainly lost their lives before the invention of PFDs there have been many advances over the years. Improvements in materials, how they create buoyancy (manual, automatic (both air) or constant (foam)). Various events and incidents have also lead to creating life jackets with beacons and GPS. There are even full body survival suits to combat frigid conditions (4° c) – where hypothermia can result in death in as little as 30 minutes. In the ultimate good out of bad situation, a lot of what we know today about hypothermia comes from Nazi experiments during WWII.

Ships (and smaller ships)

As early as 1870 the question of safety boats (lifeboats) on larger, passenger boats was bantered around in England. To a point of having people argue against it – reasons like it would add to the danger, by filling up the decks. It was only after, you guessed it, the Titanic in 1912 that serious thought was really put towards having enough lifeboats. The fact that the Titanic had only enough lifeboats for 1/3 of the passengers is incredible – but, as an unsinkable vessel they clearly had more than someone’s ego ever thought needed.

Beyond the implementation of lifeboats for all on board, how the small boats get to the water has changed over the years. And it will change again – as a result of the latest marine disaster – Costa Concordia. In the latest good from bad ocean episode, the Costa Concordia listed so badly that the lifeboats at one point could not be launched.

Not just for big

Over the years travel on waterways from point A to B was the main goal. Over the last while casual-use, personal water devices have gained in popularity. Think things like Jet Skis, Four Winn boats and parasailing. These have all added to the good out of bad design approach. Most notably the use of a wrist toggle for the engine on Jet Skis – if you happen to fall off, the toggle is removed from it’s housing and the engine shuts down. This is both a safety and logical feature – safety because it won’t then run over the operator (or anybody else) and logical because you don’t have to swim the length of the body of water to retrieve said device.

There are many other aspects of water safety that have evolved over the years. And as long as bad things keep happening, good will come out of each event that hopefully will space out the frequency of the bad.

What areas would you like to see improved safety in regards to water vessels?


2 comments on “Good after bad: Part 2

  1. Joel Kollias says:

    Hey, Scott! Are you the same Scott McMann who went to Leaside High School? If so, please drop me an email! I hope you remember me-we were in the same Art class in our senior years. Would be very happy to hear from you after 30 years! P.S. I’ve enjoyed your 1st part in this series! Awaiting the next!

    • scottmcmann says:

      I did and it is – I’ve been a bit off my game in terms of the Blog – will complete this section soon and get back to the Blog again. I’ll send a note shortly. Thanks for the kind words.

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