The ship was never touted by the White Star Line as unsinkable—the term "practically unsinkable" appeared in a couple of admiring reviews of the ship beforehand and was played up for ironic effect afterward. The perception in the public mind was that the ship exuded modernity and comfort, giving a great impression of solidity and safety—the same way a bank built of solid masonry does even as it founders from unstable finances. The article "Wreck of the White Star Liner Titanic" from Scientific American from April 27, 1912, shows how the ship was designed with safety in mind. Unfortunately the ship was not designed with safety as the first priority. There were watertight doors and bulkheads, but even in 1912 engineers recognized that the bulkheads did not rise high enough—some were only three meters above the waterline. But such barriers cut up the interior space and made it harder to accommodate the easy flow of fare-paying passengers, and so they were discouraged. The ship had a double bottom for safety, but the company decided to save money and interior space and not build double sides. After the sinking, engineers immediately retrofitted the Titanic’s sister ship Olympic with a double hull.
These days we believe there must have been a special kind of Dionysian madness to send a ship into the ocean without enough lifeboats to carry every soul on board. Early designs for the Titanic did in fact call for 64 lifeboats, but by the time the ship was launched, the company had whittled that complement down to 20.
Astonishingly, the number of boats carried was actually above and beyond what was legally required by the British Board of Trade for seagoing ocean liners. One argument said that a full complement of lifeboats would have made the ship too top-heavy, perhaps risking capsize. Another argument was that in an emergency the lifeboats would not have time to be loaded and launched, especially if the ship was heeling over. But the main reason for dispensing with lifeboats may have been to provide plenty of room for luxurious sundecks and sumptuous parlors for the pleasure of the well-to-do passengers. There were certainly plenty of technical fixes available: the front cover of Scientific American from April 27, 2012, shows one possible solution of stacking all the boats on the top deck.
Speed in ice fields
The Titanic was never designed to be as fast as more powerful competitor ships. A fast first crossing, though, made for good media image and better business for the White Star Line in the highly competitive transatlantic steamer business. Therefore, quite possibly, the chairman of the company, J. Bruce Ismay, pushed the venerable Capt. Edward John Smith to steam ahead with all possible speed. Other ships in the area had radioed that they had seen icebergs, and Smith may have altered course slightly to avoid possible locations of these known hazards, but in the balance between speed and risk, the company line won out. Yet there was no shortage of knowledge about the perils of ice, as you can see from this April 27, 1912, Scientific American article. Sonar was developed within the next two years as a way to avoid icebergs.