Free car Styling course
Automotive Design & Marketing Management
In the previous post we saw the design language, key in the conceptual design of cars. In this post we will see how the styling phase develops in a large manufacturer, remember that we are going to see all the phases and processes of car development.
Then, we are going to see the evolution of automotive design, entering the historical part as little as possible and giving greater importance to the automotive design strategy. That is, we're going to focus on what is useful for the professional development of a designer.
In the next post we will see some points of the current design to close the evolution of automotive design. With all this and what we have learned in the previous post about the car design language, we will start with the first notions about the car sketching.
Because this course gives us a global vision of the automotive business, from idea to commercialization, we cannot over-focus on all areas. That is why it's recommended that each student inquire in their preferred area.
PHASES OF AUTOMOBILE STYLING
Phases of automobile styling
During this phase three stages are completed:
1. Concept: Preliminary ideas are developed based on the development and manufacturing requirements for the new model, or on a restyling of a current model. It also indicates the needs that the model must satisfy and the different technical design requirements, such as a wheelbase or the capacity of the luggage compartment. You can generate between 1,000 and 2,000 different sketches before finding the final solution. As the initial concept progresses, some considerations such as possible manufacturing costs of the model, necessary machinery or required labor are taken into account. This becomes more latent if the design is very disruptive or if new materials are applied. For this reason, many times the sketches that the manufacturer presents to us have nothing to do with the real model that is finally produced. The concept has to find its point of viability both economically and constructively. The road is really long, so it is totally different to design a unit model for a particular customer than a car to be mass produced by a manufacturer.
2. Proposal: This phase is very common in design when working in large companies. The proposal defends the project against the different heads of the different technical areas, so that each of them can show their objections. It has to be approved by all those responsible for each technical area, from suspensions to the engine department. Production times, costs and volumes are also indicated.
In this phase is where the car designer is distinguished from a cartoonist, the designer knows the key aspects and knows the structure of the vehicle. Because of this, you can argue your design in front of technical departments. That is why, if someone wants to dedicate himself to styling, it can be a great advantage to have a global knowledge of car development.
3.Decision: Once all the technical departments are in agreement with the proposal, the project and the budget are approved by the company.
HOW TO WORK ON CAR STYLING?
How to work on car styling?
As the Luppo Design school tells us, In the world of large automotive industries there is a connection between the academy specialized in design, professionals, brands and industry. Therefore, an integration is generated between students, professionals and automotive industrial projects, combining all its phases from administrative planning and design to product manufacturing. This union generates value at commercial and strategic levels in the processes and in the brand identity.
Luppo Design tells us that if you want to design cars, it's important to be passionate about this sector, because it is not only sketching, but also having a lot of discipline and dedication. For example, if you want to sketch and have a good level of styling, you have to start with the basics: know how to draw straight lines and circles, with your arm loose until you have mastered this basic technique.
To become a professional, it is necessary to specialize and dedicate every day to generate processes, and therefore progress. Drawing begins as self-taught. This is a fundamental part of growth, but it is also important to find the point where there is no visible evolution to seek the support of professional experience.
Around the world there are universities and other institutions that are transformation and training entities in automotive design. These academic and business services must have the formula: academy + field professionals + industry. These schools of automotive design must show a personalized teaching methodology, demonstrating the ability to generate ideas, design, use tools and styling techniques. In addition to recognition in the market through its results and networks.
Academic programs and courses must be personalized to enhance professional skills. In this way, it is possible to generate value in the design portfolios and thus orient them towards the current market. This value in creative processes is key to being able to professionally access automotive design.
EVOLUTION OF AUTOMOTIVE DESIGN
Evolution of automotive design
In this section we are not going to see the historical context, but the evolution of styling during the different decades. Knowing the evolution of design is key to predicting the future lines of the car, remember that a designer does not design today's car, but the car that will be released in about five years. Evolution in design has come with technological advances, cost reductions, the imagination and talent of designers, as well as cultural and legislative changes.
Initially the aesthetic design of the car was not relevant, cars were simple technical solutions that emerged as an alternative form of transport. The structure of the car responded only to technical aspects and the bodywork was only to protect the components; without aesthetic intention in most cases. In addition, especially in the luxury sector, it was common for the manufacturer to provide the chassis with the complete mechanics and then another workshop made the bodywork.
1930’s - This was one of the decades that brought the most changes to automobile design; since the styling began to acquire importance. Without being defined as a matter yet, cars began to acquire more aesthetic importance, ceasing to be simple technical solutions to accommodate mechanics and passengers.
Engines began to be installed at the front rather than the rear, and the hoods began to lengthen to appear more powerful. We still currently maintain this mental connection of the size of the hood to the power we estimate the vehicle has. Although with the democratization of the electric vehicle, this trend will gradually mitigate, because that front space is no longer necessary to accommodate an engine, but is used for a second trunk. The designer has to be especially careful in this regard, because he will have to respect a transition time until the market adapts 100% to the functional aesthetics of electric vehicles. That is, if we currently lower the hood of an electric sports car, the buyer may show a rejection because it does not provide a feeling of sportiness, since they are not used to it.
With the Porsche Taycan we can see how a 1930 design trend, linked to technological needs (accommodates the engine) is still latent in current designs. The front end is an inheritance from internal combustion sports cars, it does not answer a need in an electric sports car. But, if the front is eliminated, in addition to altering the aerodynamics of the vehicle, the customer would not perceive it as a sports vehicle. The designer can find a challenge here, managing to design an electric sports car that still maintains a sporty look without having to make a front end. So far, the only electric cars that do not have a front are those urban vehicles that prioritize the space of the passenger compartment over a sporty aesthetic.
In this decade, the bumpers begin to be more complex, although they are still metal, simple metal bars are no longer used. Manufacturers are beginning to give it an aesthetic importance and use it to give the car a greater presence. Especially in the United States they are beginning to use chrome, and increasingly protruding. This trend will increase over the next two decades.
In 1927, General Motors launched what was possibly the first design department in an automotive manufacturer, run by Harley Earl, who had to confront a multitude of engineers and managers who saw superficial design as something totally unnecessary. Nowadays, we all know that aesthetics is a great differentiator of the car; but at that time it was not conceived in the same way. This gives us an idea that even today, the designer must be able to paddle upstream and justify it properly if you want to succeed. The problem is that there is an increasing use of data and information available, so the justifications will have to be more exact and not just based on a hunch or impulse.
Harley Earl is widely regarded as the person who introduced sketches and clay models to the American auto industry, and he was practically the creator of the profession of car designer in America. Harley Earl introduced the computer in the car, the chrome, the two-tone paint, the hard top in the convertibles, etc. The designs had to respond to the demands and preferences of the market, and to the production processes of the moment. Manufacturers, both for automobiles and for any other type of object, understood that embellishing and redesigning objects would encourage consumer purchase.
Styling, in addition to being linked to improving production processes and lowering costs, gradually introduces the concept of programmed obsolescence as a marketing and sales tool. This obsolescence was not based on reducing the quality of the product, but on inducing a new desire to purchase by introducing a newer product, both in the aesthetic and technological sense. This will eventually lead to the concept of restyling (and even retrofit), in which the same model undergoes a makeover to encourage buyers to continue purchasing a new vehicle. Therefore styling is directly linked to consumer psychology.
This would later lead to streamlining, by designer Norman Bel Geddes. This move leaves us with an impressive and little-known design lesson. In streamlining, vehicles were styled using chrome to give a futuristic feel and giving aerodynamic shapes for aesthetics.
According to the designers of the time, this didn't make a functional sense. In fact, this trend was transferred to static objects such as coffee makers, so it didn't help that it was really aerodynamic, it just had to look like it and give a feeling of speed. It was an authentic movement that broke the schemes, fleeing from the concept that the shape of the object responded only to the need to cover the internal parts, opening up new options, and in turn getting detractors.
So, were these designs really just aesthetic? This was the main argument of the designers who promulgated this style. They were based on redesigning the aesthetics of the object giving it a futuristic style to obtain higher sales, this convinced the company, so they were hired and paid for their services. This is true, but there is also another little-known reason. They responded to a production function, which the designers knew how to take advantage of: The curved shapes of the cars responded to the capacities of the moment to press the steel sheets. Many times the chrome was an ingenious solution to cover joints, rivets and holes. So the cars were easier to build. But of course, we can not compare the power of argument that has to use chrome to cover a gap, to increase sales and create a new style. It was a brilliant move.
In addition, the designers understood very well the need of American youth to have their own cultural movement without having to inherit it from Europe. In addition, they were presented through spectacular shows to capture the attention of the public, this was also part of the product design strategy.
This meant a major change in the industry landscape. Until now, cars were commercially defined according to their mechanical capabilities, status or certain attributes such as the comfort of the car. Due to the resurgence of styling, the aesthetics of the car became more important for the commercial part. So a design doesn't just change the body of the vehicle, it can even change the advertisements and sales pitches of the vehicle. At present, they even change the business model, for example, with the expansion of car-sharing.
Nowadays it seems logical to us that a car must be aesthetic as well as having good characteristics, but at that time this philosophy had many detractors. At present we are facing another similar change in mentality, hence the importance of making this small historical review. Currently, what is the first thing that is shown of a car ?: The functions, the connectivity, the emissions ... We are experiencing another paradigm shift like the change that occurred in the 1930s, that change was called Harley Earl; but the current paradigm shift has no name, perhaps it could be yours.
So here we can propose another possible interesting exercise for the designer: Identify the current paradigm shift by studying what is the first message that is launched from a car as a sales pitch, and fully transfer it to the design of the vehicle. That is, see the commercials, see what messages they send and design based on those messages. It would be the reverse design process, as an exercise, it can lead to interesting concepts.
Regarding the previous point, it should be noted that when we talk about streamlining or streamline cars, we refer to the design style that is based on aerodynamic shapes only for aesthetics. In those years, aerodynamics also advanced enormously in the technical aspect. In fact, this led to the streamline aesthetic, since everything is linked to the technology of the moment. We can find the term "streamline" on vehicles that were really aerodynamic at the time. Hungarian Paul Jaray, founder of Stromlinien Karosserie Gesellschaf, is known as the father of streamlining when it comes to aerodynamics from a technical point of view, and not from a commercial one. In fact, its first prototypes were anything but commercial. Tatra with its model 77 and to a lesser extent Maybach, were the only manufacturers who dared to use their design in a commercial car. Although manufacturers such as Chrysler with its Airflow model and Peugeot with its 402 had to pay royalties for the use of his ideas, thanks to the fact that he registered many patents.
1940’s - World War II involved a major paradigm shift and disruption in the natural evolution of automotive design. This entails a change in needs, priorities and mentality after the Second World War.
It was the rise of design style "Pontoon", in which the protruding wheel arches were eliminated, resulting in a more homogeneous body with fewer interruptions in its lines. The running boards were also eliminated, more bulky hoods were used and also headlights that protruded but remained in coherence with the lines of the body; this created a lean, muscular visual effect.
This trend, which has its origin in some concepts from the 1920s, was evolving from the 1930s to the 1960s. At present, there is also a tendency to homogenize and simplify the lines, and this will continue to be done. Just as in the 1920s it was difficult to conceive a car without fenders, today it would be difficult to conceive a car without all three volumes (bonnet-passenger compartment-trunk). The new paradigm shift that we are experiencing, in which habitability will be prioritized once the autonomous vehicle begins to democratize, will give an opportunity to change the design standards again and continue to homogenize and simplify the lines. This could be done, for example, by eliminating the three volumes and converting them into one, something that happens today with robo-taxis.
This design style is also known as slab-sided styling. Although it is currently in disuse, since practically all vehicles have the bodywork integrated today, so it makes no sense to make a distinction. In fact, today, some cars like the Morgan take up that classic style through the use of fenders, called neoclassical.
1950’s - Bumpers acquire increasing aesthetic importance in the car, they begin to integrate into the bodywork. Although they still differ from the rest of the vehicle, the gaps between the bumpers and the bodywork are eliminated.
1960’s - Beginning to introduce plastic bumpers, the 1968 Pontiac GTO was one of the first vehicles to incorporate them. Four years later, it will be introduced in Europe by the Renault R5.
1970’s - Safety restrictions are tightened, causing designers to abandon the use of dangerous bumpers, especially in the United States. Among other restrictions, it was established that the vehicle should withstand an impact at 5mph without sustaining damage. This gives us a clear example of why the designer has to know the current regulations. It is different to draw a car for a video game or for a toy, than to draw it for mass production.
In this way, the plastic begins to take on a greater importance, and the metallic bumpers begin to disappear. This need leads to research on new plastics (especially to improve their flexibility) and on new injection molding techniques, which will see a significant improvement in the next decade. In addition, bumpers are increasingly being integrated into the vehicle body.
They even experimented with water-filled bumpers.
All of this resulted in many cars having to be quickly redesigned in the early 1970s. Anecdotally, many of these bumpers are black because car brands could not find a manufacturer in time that could provide a flexible paint or coating.
The silhouette of the vehicle also changes in this period, due to bumpers with a much greater overhang, designed to comply with the regulations.
1980's - The democratization of the vehicle meant that in the 80's, cars were designed with a predominance of straight lines and more basic proportions. This seems unrelated, but was due to the production needs of the time. As there is a greater demand, there is a greater need for industrialized production. Due to the limitations of the stamping processes at the time, the designer was technically limited, so he had to make a vehicle with less curvatures.
In addition, we can see that the wheel size was smaller than today. In the same way, the glazed surface (Greenhouse) is much larger than the current one, in fact, they have almost the same proportion of glass as that of sheet metal, in this way visibility is enhanced. Currently, due to the use of cameras and sensors, other design elements are prioritized.
The bumpers weren't fully integrated into the body, so we can see how the current design trend is to homogenize the body as much as possible and achieve greater cohesion between elements. Today we avoid that the car appears to be assembled with different individual parts. Similarly, car pillars tended to be thinner than today.
In the previous decade they experimented with a wide variety of bold colors, but in this decade there was an abandonment of the use of vibrant tones and began to use more neutral colors.
At this time the vehicle was totally analog. It will not be until the late 80's when some digital changes begin to be introduced. The 1986 Buick Riviera introduced the touch screen and versions such as the Citroën BX Digit or the Renault 11 Electronic were introduced.
1990’s - Advances in stamping begin to liberate the automotive designer, so the edges are replaced by more rounded surfaces, improving the aerodynamic appearance and seeking the sinuosity of the forms.
We can see that the wheels are starting to be larger than those used in the 80's. It also reduces the glazed surface (greenhouse) compared to metal. Previously the windows occupied approximately 40% of the vehicle, now they usually occupy a third of the side of the vehicle. The bumpers and optics are beginning to be integrated into the bodywork.
Better engine cooling techniques allow the size of the cooling at the front of the vehicle to be reduced, which in turn improves aerodynamics. This resulted in the designer being able to modify the face of the vehicle, which entails important psychological factors. We will see these factors later, in the next installment.
In the 90's, habitability was lower than in the 80's.
The aesthetics of sports cars were attributed to the wedge shape to make it appear that they "cut" the wind, and therefore the public recognized them as faster vehicles. This wedge-shaped form is known as Gandini in honor of the designer Marcello Gandini. Later, in the aerodynamics section, we will see that this type of shape does not have to be synonymous with good aerodynamics.
Below we see some of Marcello Gandini's designs, we can easily go back to the time and understand why all sports cars had that wedge shape that prevailed during the 1970's and 1980's, and was even latent in the 90's. For more than 30 years, if you asked someone to draw a car, they would probably do so in the shape of a wedge because it was preconceived.
For this reason, it is important to know the historical part, since it helps us understand where the design of the car has been anchored. We mentioned it before regarding the unnecessary front ends of electric cars, but it is very difficult to change the mentality of the public, so we will have to find the right way to do it. That is, if at that time, a sports car responded to a wedge-shaped vehicle, how could we break the schemes? If a sports car were designed without that preconceived shape, it was quite possible that the public would not interpret it as a sports car, but as another type of car.
That is why we can find a great example of design disruption when talking about the Audi TT launched in 1998. When at that time, almost all sports cars responded to the Gandini shape, Audi launched a rounded sports car whose lines were more similar to the lines of a VW Beetle than to the shape of a sports car. When precisely the VW Beetle is the least sporty car we know. Currently we already know that the Audi TT is a sports car, no one doubts it, but at that time it did not exist and the most similar thing on the market that had these forms was the aforementioned VW Beetle. In theory, it seemed crazy. Still, it managed to be a totally innovative sports car that broke all the molds of that time.
The use of the aluminum color and the marked wheel arches helped a lot to give a futuristic and minimalist image. This same disruptive design concept can be employed today by any design student to try to break the molds established today, especially in the design of electric vehicles that inherit unnecessary aspects of internal combustion cars.
With this we conclude today's delivery, we have seen all the evolution of design until the 90s, trying to enter as little as possible into the historical part and highlighting some interesting design strategies that we can apply today.
In the next installment we will finish the evolution part, entering the 21st century. We will see how the design of a car saved a large brand from bankruptcy. Then we will go into the sketching of cars, with the support of the School of Luppo Design.
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