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.
Other things — mostly more subtle things with multiple possibilities — are best learnt by taking a bit of learning from related areas, giving the task a go, and then learning from our mistakes to then work out our own way of doing something. Examples of this include learning how to draw, how to strike up a conversation with a stranger, and how to design a car...
For most experienced car designers, learning from others becomes less focused on the core craft of car design and more about learning indirectly from other areas of design and the wider creative world: to absorb — subconsciously often — external stimuli that shapes their perspective on how to design a car. Many car designers who do this then shun the idea of consciously seeking to know trends in car design as it might pollute their wider creative view with todays’ realisable solution, or even lead them to literally emulate others — the antithesis of creating something truly new.
Yet there are three core reasons why knowing the trends in car design is valuable even for the most accomplished car designer, and might best sit alongside other more etherial sources of inspiration:
1. Design merit is a relative thing, so for a designer not to know the leading practice in their field means they cannot see their work critically — and not having an informed, critical view of the merit of your design is arguably a failing.
2. Knowing design trends is also valuable because today's trends will form the wider context of tomorrow — cars in the future will literally be more like the most trend setting designs of today, so being aware of today's trends in car design helps designers to best see with the eyes of the future car customer whom they are designing for.
3. It is also valuable to know car design trends because this knowledge enables designers to consciously develop new trends, or to choose to ignore them, and not to unwittingly buck or conform to a trend that they were unaware of.
So whilst the best car designers do not copy trends, they are both very aware of them, they learn from them — and they design better car designs because of this.
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