Telling design stories
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then it seems a fair assumption that a car design is worth at least a short story. But mostly these stories lay latent and only partly told; not everyone can ‘read’ car design, and, even those who can often struggle to put it into words, or to explain why the design says the things they think it does. Most of our work at CDR is centred around authoring these stories with design directors that are then realised in metal by their designers, but just occasionally we are asked to speak out the meaning of a design — to curate a car design to an audience so that they might more fully know it, understand it, and appreciate it. And that’s what we did earlier this year for Polestar with a film for their new 2.
We were invited to Gothenburg to talk about the Polestar 2 for a film the company wanted as part of their approachably to-the-point style of communications. The idea was to talk about how the proportions of the 2 define its subtly distinct type, and how its form and graphical design elements and details then convey other facets of what makes it uniquely a Polestar and uniquely the car it is.
It was a short piece (we ran out of time to talk about the interior) but perhaps it shows some of the merit of unlocking latent design value within a car design by curating it in this way — of telling a car’s design story that would otherwise go less well known or appreciated.
Most of our work steps-off how car design is about communicating an identity, not just about trying to be beautiful or handsome. We work with clients to create the design story they want to tell — to work-out the most relevant design identity for their brand, for the particular product area they are looking at, for the future market, for the technical ingredients they have, and relative to other contexts too. By degrees this work then bleeds into authoring some of the story’s chapter titles too; the headlines as to how design may communicate this identity, but it is the design team that makes the story tangible by bringing it into the metal; ultimately it is always their story. Just occasionally though, we work with clients like Polestar, not just to author design stories that inform the design process, but to take finished car designs and curate them to customers; to deconstruct and then explain what a car design means so it will be more fully known and understood and appreciated. Few people can ‘read’ car design fluently, and of those who can even fewer can deconstruct it to know why it speaks to them as it does, so they value learning how car design conveys the meaning that they had only subconsciously understood, just as they might value an art or film critic explaining how elements within art or film work to create meaning.
As well as our recent work with Polestar, we have worked with Audi to curate the designs of their most sporting cars at a series of customer events. Essentially we were walking around the cars and explaining directly to an audience of forty or so VIPs how aspects of the proportions, graphics, form and detailing on these cars communicated their identities — we helped Audi customers see more than they could with their eyes
We have even worked with car companies to help internal audiences better understand how design functions as a commercial tool within its relationship with the markets; as detailed above: car design is not just about trying to be beautiful or handsome.
And last year we were on stage at in a London east-end venue, along with Jaguar Design Director Julian Thomson, to talk with several hundred customers of the car insurance company Adrian Flux about different ways that people can ’read’ car design, how car design in general is ‘consumed’.
Demystifying design, unlocking latent value within car design, and generally engaging customers in design, is something we think is a win-win for any company. But for a company that champions good design, or has customers that particularly value design, telling design stories is a no brainer.