Our Insight List is designed to keep us on our toes and you in the loop, on a regular basis. Our
Quarterly Insights is sent to our clients and friends four times a year. Our Show Insights provide
in-depth reports from the major International Auto Shows.
New sporty is about ‘punch’ not ‘zoom’
For a century of car design, sports cars and sporty cars were defined by being lower and more dynamic than normal cars; even when parked up they seemed to be straining at the leash to zoom forwards with exterior forms apparently cleaved by air. But this idiom is fast waning; today a sporty car is a car that looks potent and ‘match fit’ like a rugby player, with a four-square stance, rippling muscles and an aggressive face ready to punch forwards on the high-way more so than to zoom up a mountain pass.
Car design should be less about the user and more about the usage
At the beginning of most new vehicle development programmes the Design team sit with the Programme Management team and go through the project brief. Within this will be some form of ‘target user(s)’ — the term used by most car companies to define the core profile of person that a car is designed to appeal to most. But in the future when most cars will be shared by many, not owned by an individual, having a ‘target user’ in the design brief makes less sense than having a ‘target usage’.
Last week we were at the Beijing show to see the latest car designs and talk with the designers behind them - both the many westerners based here and the often less internationally well known Chinese designers - as part of the research we do for the Design Trend Reports we produce at all of the major auto shows.
Given the paucity of clear information about much of the cars, and the nominal presence of western media here, we thought it might be useful to share three of our headline findings and thoughts...
The 2018 Beijing Motor Show opens its doors this week, promising to showcase China's commitment to a clean-powered drivetrain transition. That said, we expect to see emergent and established brands unveil a broad spectrum of low-emission designs aimed at the Chinese and to a broader extent global market. CDR will be in attendance on the press days to experience hands-on all of the latest cars, production and concept.
Rugged-ising the car — taking the 'Allroad' mainstream
In September 1997, Volvo introduced a car called the V70 XC, latterly called the Cross Country. But it was the launch of the 1999 C5 Audi A6 Allroad Quattro that confirmed the ruggedised, high-riding estate as a new product category in the automotive industry.
Since then, Cross Country and Allroad models have become a mainstay of both Volvo and Audi’s ranges and represent an interesting half-way point between regular car line and SUVs (XC and Q models). It’s a type of niche offering that’s popular with well-heeled middle class, liberal families in Northern Europe and the coastal Americas. It’s a fact that partly accounts for Subaru’s meteoric sales rise in the USA, many of the Japanese brand’s models loosely follow this recipe.
UX design in cars today is very much focused on helping the driver easily and quickly realise their needs for an ever more complex system. In games design it is different: the UX designer is not trying to help the gamer easily and quickly realise their end point and win the game, but to prolong and enrich the emotive experience of gaming. With electrification and greater automation reducing the ways cars emotively engage with the driver, so there is a clear challenge for car UX design to learn from games design and focus on delivering richly emotive experiences.
We all have associations with places we know; where we are from, where we spent an important part of our lives, where we live now. As animals we are instinctively bound to place. But as we travel more and interact with things from a wider range of places, our personal sense-of-place is less singular and less fixed than for those even a short while ago.
Places themselves are becoming less distinct too, as international businesses deliver singular design solutions across the world: a streetscape in Germany, China, or the US will much share shop branding, fashions being worn, food being consumed — and the cars being driven.
It's now March, and this month in particular is of key significance to the automotive design calendar — The 88th Geneva International Motor Show shall be taking place between the 8th and 18th, bringing with it a wave of anticipation and curiosity from car fans and industry experts alike. It goes without saying that the CDR team will be in attendance on the press days to look at and get their hands on the latest cars - production designs and concept cars.
There are two ways that people — from a baby to a grandparent — learn: by working things out for themselves; and by stepping-off the practice of others. Some things are best learnt one way, some the other.
Learning core facts or things that have a limited range of solutions, tend to be best learnt from others; how to spell 'cat' for example, or how to tie up your shoe laces.
The tech-upgradable car: would customers pay for hardware they can’t see?
I’m sat in a dark car park, jabbing away at the slick upper screen of a Range Rover Velar. It’s late at night and I’m tired and furiously trying to punch an address into the sat nav, and the system’s lag means it’s not keeping up with how fast I’m trying to type. I make a mistake, but it doesn’t register at first, and then the street name isn’t recognised by the system because of my typo. I curse.