It should have been a very exciting time. I am in the market for a brand new car and as it is the first time in my entire consumer life I can afford investing in a vehicle fresh from the factory, expectations were high.
Joyride, designed by Per Brolund
Not all designers are car geeks, as in my case, so my design sensitivity pulls me toward a memorable, clean and simple exterior, and even more so thoughtful functionality, interior space and those invisible smart interfaces that would enhance the time experienced in this car. In a car world, unfortunately, those desires seem to be fulfilled by vehicles with lousy drive, outrageous plastic interiors and/or costly all electronically wired features.
Why is the car world still so black and white ? As I stepped into those various vehicles for a test drive I could quickly get a sense of the marketing target associated with each car, and my imagination started to play with the personas they had conjured up to develop this vehicle. This fabricated caricature made me sick (or was it the car drive ?!). I started to question that design practice (of which I would be a collaborator of as well) that tend to depict a “typical” consumer– age, demographics, desire and such. Aren’t we then guilty of reformatting things we already know? How can designers step out of this regulated persona to create a fresh and truly new perspective? Can designers intentionally “break down” this pre-determined segmentation and uncover new territories?
For example, I can’t believe “luxury” is still represented by ostentatious fake wood interior details combined with the confined notion that a vehicle interior should feel smaller (cozier?) inside than it looks outside. Nonsense! Isn’t space a luxury? I would respond to the sophisticated luxury of a MacBook Air or a custom genuine wood furniture piece, so how come car interior design is so stuck in conservative notions?
Colors bring an interesting perspective as well. Combing the entire United States for the right color/ feature combo left me with the choice of white, silver and black. Considering the price tag, I somewhat imagined my crave for color would be satisfied, but that seems to be left behind as well.
The ideal car would have combined the responsive drive of the Q5 with the versatile interior of a Rav4–but those two, according to car marketing rules, don’t belong to the same world. Sadly, no single car seem to fulfill both my needs and desires, any pick will somewhat be a compromise.
One bright note from that sour experience is that there still seems to be a lot of room for the car design practice to evolve, expand and experiment with what new design means. Concept cars are a great first step, although they tend to get diluted once they make it to the pavement.
Citroen Lacoste Concept – Interior, 2010
Beyond bluetooth and Ipod coordination, the next gen car interior designers must really consider the versatile use of tomorrow’s (even today’s ) car. A family versus a single driver shouldn’t mean complete opposite interior designs. Cultural influences should be cross pollinated; in the US, most car interiors will not feature a single trash bin, but have at least ten cup holders!
But there seems to be some pockets of change! I recently crossed road with the new Chevy Volt, drove parallel to it for 10 minutes and it did lighten my day. Both design and technology risks were shaping this vehicle and I felt reassured of the design community’s good will.
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