For many years, the design spiral has been seen to be a convenient model of an acknowledged complex process. It has virtues particularly in recognizing the ship design interactive and, hopefully, converging nature of the process. However, many find it unsatisfactory. One early criticism focused on its apparent assumption of a relatively smooth process to a balanced solution implied by most ship concept algorithms. The paper draws on a postgraduate design investigation using the University College London Design Building Block approach, which looked specifically at a nascent naval combatant design and the issues of size associated with “passing decks” and margins. Results from the study are seen to suggest that there are distinct regions of cliffs and plateau in plots of capability against design output, namely ship size and cost. These findings are discussed with regard to the insight they provide into the nature of such ship designs and different ways of representing the ship design process. The paper concludes that the ship design spiral is a misleading and unreliable representation of complex ship design at both the strategic and detailed iterative levels.