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For car designers, the sky is the limit for creativity

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla | Updated on November 07, 2019

Lamborghini Sian

New opportunities in electric will also put the extra mojo into designing

Electric and new age cars are set to herald a revolution in car design.

Take Hyundai, which has been using virtual reality tools to speed up and enhance its design processes. Ten years in development, the tool enables the design team to experience both vehicle interior and exterior designs in the virtual world, and move design data into the system.

The tool also allows design data to be quickly shared with engineering teams via the cloud, allowing multiple departments across the globe to work on elements simultaneously.

Toyota’s e-Palette, which takes to Tokyo’s streets next year, is another example. Its global design chief says the advent of such vehicles is set to usher in a new ‘golden age’ of creative and personalised automotive design.

Lamborghini Sian

The price of the new Lamborghini Sian also falls in this category. The hefty price includes something that has never been offered on a series production car before: time with the head designer.

Welcome to the new world of automobiles, where game-changing design is set to become the standard. As Srinivasan K Swamy, Chairman of R K Swamy Hansa Group, says, “In today’s world, aesthetics of everything assumes more importance and product features and benefits are taken for granted, which I would call table stakes.”

Noting that automakers have recognised this long ago “and many of them sweat the details so that the product is alluring to the customer”, Swamy says car companies also add features that actually have nothing to do with functioning of the car, but add to the style and luxurious feeling. “The same is true for other assets bought by customers like residential apartments, air conditioners, mobile phones, etc. Companies are indeed bending backwards to get customers’ attention in their favour,” adds Swamy.

Tata Harrier

A senior official at Tata Motors concurs, insisting good design is imperative to build better consumer connect. Pratap Bose, V-P Global Design, says the automotive industry is on the brink of a new paradigm, with design securely in the driver’s seat.

Bose is the man behind the new age Impact 2.0 design of Tata Motors, the Tata Harrier being the first production vehicle to feature this trait. At a recent awards event, he spoke of business and design as two words that Tata Motors has been trying to put together for the past two decades. Design, he added, has always been an integral part of the company’s business.

Noting that a new car model would cost anywhere from ₹700-1,000 crore to transpose the idea from a sheet of paper onto a sheet of metal, Bose reiterated that a designer’s responsibility is huge. Good design is not just about using colours, shapes, textures, images, and content in a harmonious, balanced way. It can make or break your business.

Peyush Agarwal, Global Strategic Design Director at DesignIt, acquired by Wipro, says given the new battleground that has emerged for car brands, auto designers are being urged to free up their imagination. Good design creates meaningful first impressions, he adds, and helps differentiate one company from its competitors. While it can even solve problems, it helps boost brand awareness and the bottom line.

A “beautiful car would not just look beautiful on the outside, but be made of beautiful parts”. Though smaller components of some luxury vehicles are not really aesthetic masterpieces in their own right, they are most often interesting works of engineering, adds Agarwal.

Insights for designers

While observation, immersion and interaction are valuable insights for designers, the auto industry is on the brink of a design revolution thanks to electric cars, Agarwal says sometimes it leads to participatory design and co-creation of integral aspects of a brand.

The analogy drawn is to tequila, which apparently derives some of its popularity from the design of the drinking ritual: licking salt from one’s hand, drinking a shot and sucking a lime.

With consumers these days focussing on more than just the product, designers point out it is important to look at the entire consumption experience. This is what Lamborghini has done with its new Sian whose buying experience includes an exclusive tete-a-tete with its head designer.

It is not just luxury vehicles that have set the standards high. Hyundai has been working towards establishing a standalone premium brand of its own, Genesis, launched over two years ago.

For its Advanced Design Studio, it recently brought on board Filippo Perini, who began his career at Alfa Romeo, then Audi, before moving to Lamborghini.

Perini joins big names like Manfred Fitzgerald, former director of brand and design at Lamborghini and Luc Donckerwolke, former design director of Bentley and Audi at the Hyundai Motor Group, of which Genesis is a part along with Kia.

Italdesign, a subsidiary of Audi since 2010, recently appointed veteran Audi executive Carsten Monnerjan as head of design. Monnerjan succeeds Perini who joined Hyundai. Designers have never had it so good before except that they need to constantly reinvent themselves to take on new challenges.

Published on November 07, 2019

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