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Automotive Design & Marketing Management
In the previous post we saw the automotive design evolution, among other topics. We saw some product strategies, in this post we will finish closing that previous part. Then we will see some key aspects of the current design, and an interesting note about the "face" of cars. After that, we'll go over some sketching basics, so keep a pen or pencil handy.
AUTOMOTIVE DESIGN EVOLUTION
Evolution of automotive design
2000's - Vehicles are increasing in size and there is a great general concern for the safety of the vehicle. In fact, even today the consumer still keeps the following relationship in his mind: "the larger the size, the safer the vehicle." Something that isn't always true.
The interior habitability improves in volume of space compared to the previous generation, but remains similar to that of the vehicles of the 1980s, despite the vehicles being larger. The size of the wheels also grows in this decade.
In fact, SUVs (Sport Utility Vehicles) are becoming more popular. In this type of vehicle, consumers find big cars that provide a greater sense of security and greater habitability. In addition, they've much lower purchase and maintenance costs than a conventional SUV. These new SUVs didn't need a 4x4 reduction gear box, reinforced chassis, nor long-travel suspensions, nor especially powerful engines, since their use was conceived for the city and to overcome some bumpy roads. It can be said that some of these models, such as the Nissan Qashqai and the Porsche Cayenne, saved their respective companies from bankruptcy.
These cars arose from detecting the needs and making a QFD matrix (Quality Function Deployment) to, above all, discard specifications for which the customer didn't want to pay. In other words, many people “bought SUVs to go shopping”, without having any intention of off-roading. They bought these cars for the space, ride height, and sense of security they provided. With this data, the Nissan Design Center worked on a car that mixed an SUV with a traditional utility vehicle. In this concept, the technical specs were crucial, and therefore, the cost-cutting. For this, they had to figure out which items to keep from real SUVs, and which items to discard to get the best of both worlds. It was about creating a utility vehicle with the most attractive elements of an SUV.
In the Nissan market study it was revealed that many customers rejected conventional SUVs because they were difficult to maneuver through the city due to their size, they had a low-quality and boring interior, in addition, they consumed too much fuel. So they worked to solve these problems by creating a new segment, they didn't invest in improving the current SUV, but in creating something new and different that could really meet the needs of consumers, and they were absolutely right.
Actually, this concept wasn't new, and you can see several examples back in history, but the Qashqai is a good reference model since it managed to save a large brand from bankruptcy and was practically the cause of the current SUV boom.
Next we see the 1987 Nissan Judo, an SUV concept within the same brand that went completely unnoticed; and the 2004 Nissan Qashqai Concept
Another important aspect of this decade was the internet democratization and the use of smartphones. The car tries to adapt to it and begins to show important advances in electronics.
The car design process also showed an evolution due to a greater inclusion of the Cad and the interconnection between the different design centers and factories due to the internet, which allowed a fast delivery of information.
2010's - Electronics are increasingly taking center stage in the car, even influencing the car exterior design. We saw this in more detail in the technological trends in a previous post, in which we notice how the car of the future is beginning to be conceived as a home-extension. This is the decade when this concept begins to form, but it's still at a very early stage.
Cars begin to use digital instrumentation and touch screens. The interior begins to take center stage in the car design, as well as the infotainment. This is a set-point in the car development.
At this time, the use of Led technology extends, which was introduced to the market in the previous decade with the Maserati 3200GT. This opens a new panorama in the design of the car front, for example, with the use of the LEDs that characterized the Audi range.
Safety regulations against pedestrians are also toughened, which is why manufacturers abandoned the use of hidden headlamps. Due to these regulations, the fronts of the cars tend to gain height. Similarly, the greenhouse (or glasshouse) continues to shrink due to the use of cameras and sensors.
In addition, technological advances in stamping processes allow more and greater use of complex surfaces.
The car design must be consistent with current market trends and the people-preferences of each era. This doesn't mean that classic vehicles cannot be designed nowadays, but they will be aimed at a very specific market niche. As we have commented on some occasions, the important thing is to know how to justify the designs. For example: A vehicle with a classic design currently in production can afford to have a much more traditional process because the designer should estimate a lower number of units produced, therefore, a fully industrialized production would be less necessary. This would involve a much lower initial investment to produce it.
That Austin Healey Sprite, Is it happy or sad? Is it friendly or not?
As we can see, this is also reflected in the design and they convey different sensations to us. We can see angry, sad faces or aggressive looks. A car with a "sad face" becomes less attractive to people.
Relatively few articles have been written on pareidolia in automobiles. There is always a subjective aspect, but what is described below is based on studies with a scientific basis, so it is not limited to an opinion, they're based on technical studies and some doctoral theses.
For sporty-looking vehicles, longer air intakes and narrow, angular headlamps are used to help create the feeling of an angry face with aggressive features. The headlights are located far away from the central axis of the vehicle. In addition, the lower they are, the greater the feeling of power that the vehicle reflects. It usually goes hand in hand with low and wide volumes. Especially in city cars, you tend to keep a friendly and wide grill; otherwise, it would be excessively aggressive.
Sympathetic and pleasant features are also well received, with a slight predominance in the female audience. It has been studied that, for vehicles with these types of characteristics, consumers are less likely to want to replace it with another vehicle after a while . This isn't always a positive thing, due to the car's current business model, which we will discuss in detail in future posts. With this you have an important key that you can use to justify your designs.
Circular headlights near the grill on a rounded body give the feeling of innocenc. We can see this in the Mini and New Beetle. They tend to be narrow and tall, and anthropomorphically reminiscent of a baby.
A mature-design tends to feature a longer hood, squarer headlights and a wider grille. It's mainly intended for parents between the ages of 30 and 40.
 Thinking of Objects as Alive- Chandler and Schwarz (2010)
A youthful design has widening, so the bonnet is something wider than the windshield. The headlights moves away from the central axis of the vehicle.
In this way, designers apply anthropomorphism to their designs, that is, they attribute human traits to objects to generate an emotional stimulus in potential buyers and enhance their attraction to the vehicle. For example, many of these cars are assimilated to female faces. In this case, we compare the BMW 8 Series Concept 2017 with the face of Adriana Lima. If we see, the grill isn't excessively aggressive, but the headlights are very aggressive. In addition, the blue of the laser headlights brings it even closer to the human face of Adriana Lima.
There are a multitude of features with which the designer can play. For example, a group of traits give off maturity, domain, arrogance and anger. Another group of features can give off childish or pleasant features. This approach will be really important to align it with the target and with advertising messages. This is because today there is an increasing link between the buyer and the car, that is generated around the social meaning that the vehicle projects. A clear example: a BMW always generates a certain status, it doesn't matter what model it's. So that personality that projects the vehicle is attributed by the society itself thanks to certain design elements and the brand image.
For this reason, when a car brand launches a vehicle that is too far from its product portofolio's personality, they have more difficulties to gain a foothold in the market. For example, this would happen if Tata decided to bring a car up to the status level of a BMW. Something similar happens with the Volkswagen Phaeton, it's an impressive and exquisite car in every way, but it has always been hampered by having the Volkswagen symbol instead of Mercedes, Audi or BMW. This effect is well known by brands, and it's one of the benefits of having a sports car or a luxury car in their product line. Regardless of the number of units they sell, these cars help reinforce the rest of the product line.
A sports car doesn't always need to be financially profitable for the brand. BMW has the BMW i8 and BMW M3, so it can afford to create 120hp utility vehicles with an image of status and power. This image is also reinforced with the racing, with certain prototypes or with vehicles that have been made in the past, they are capable of transmitting these attributes to vehicles intended for the general public. It should be noted that the issue of emissions and percentages also plays a fundamental role in this strategy.
This anthropomorphism in the car design can also be part of the design language of the brand. For example, KIA introduced the "tiger's nose" in 2007 with the intention that its models are differentiated from the rest and express confidence and positivity, instead of aggressiveness.
With the emergence of electric vehicles, a new range of possibilities opens up for the designer. Now the designer can choose to place a false “mouth”, since the vehicle doesn't have the same refrigeration needs. But he can also choose to rethink the front in a totally different way. This latter case will gain market-weight as the electric vehicle becomes popular.
This is where the conceptual design of the vehicle begins. Markers and digital drawing tables are typically used. We recommend Chartpak markers, but there are a multitude of brands.
The difference in quality is notable, but the difference in price is even more so. If it's to learn, the cheap markers will be enough, although they don't mix as well and the result isn't that good. But for the learning process it's useful, in addition, you will not have the same fear of spending them on the first sketches due to its low cost.
It's important to respect the brand's design language to develop the different concepts. When starting the concept, the basic volumes of the vehicle are taken into account, such as the wheelbase and the dimensions of the vehicle. Each designer works on their sketch independently, competing with the rest for their sketch to be the winner.
We're going to see in a basic way the sketching steps. This course, being so extensive, doesn't allow you to delve into all topics. For example, later we will see Cad / Cae, aerodynamics, marketing, dynamics ... all directly related to the car design. The vision that you're going to obtain will be awesome, but for that same reason we cannot specialize in all areas. Being an expert in a single area takes years of study and dedication.
With this technique, you can make a basic sketch, and then with practice you will improve. If you're an engineer, without having a special interest and mastery in drawing, this will give you the skill to raise a basic concept with the correct proportions.
First of all, you have to warm up your hand, on a blank sheet quickly release straight lines and also make circles. They don't need to be perfect, it only serves to loosen and warm the arm for at least ten minutes. All the drawing can be done freehand, in fact, it's the usual thing.
Initially, you start by drawing the sides of the cars until you learn to draw in perspective.
We're going to start with the wheels and the first proportions. Start with a horizontal line and draw a first wheel. This wheel will be the front wheel and will be a reference, in addition, the wheels are used as a “unit of measure” in the sketch. Then draw three wheels that will be fictitious and will help us to have a correct proportion of the vehicle. This number of wheels may vary, we will see it later. After that, draw the fourth wheel, which will be the rear one. Therefore, we will have five wheels, three of them dummy.
Author's note: Regarding the sketches, I have no previous notions of drawing, in addition to this, I have not drawn in pencil for 10 years. For which I beg your pardon for the quality. As we have said on several occasions, in most of the car design processes the pencil isn't used (market study, parametric CAD design, vehicle testing, industrialization ...).
To fix the dimensions of the car and mark the front and rear, we will draw an additional rim both to the right and to the left of our row of wheels.
Above the first row of wheels, draw another wheel to help us mark the height (image below). In the case of a sports car, it will be ¾ of a wheel. In an off-road vehicle for example, we would add a wheel and a half on top.
We also mark the car's belt line (línea de cintura), it must be above the first line of the wheels. That will be the guide to draw the lines of the window. In this case, it's positioned approximately 1/3 of the upper wheel. It's recommended that it be slightly inclined upwards. Remember that the trend is to reduce the size of the glass, so you can dare to increase this dimension if you increase the use of cameras and other devices to alleviate the lack of vision of the passengers.. Currently, 2/3 of the side of the vehicle is sheet metal and 1/3 is glass, called Daylight Opening or DLO.
From the front wheel axle (the real one, not the fictitious one) a line of about 45 ° rises as a general rule, and may be of less inclination. At the intersection with the belt line it will give rise to the A pillar (Point A). The inclination may vary on certain cars, but as a basic concept, it is a good reference.
We mark the car dimensions, both the front limit and the rear limit, never exceeding the last wheels that we add to both ends.
Then we add the floor of the car. To do this, we make a horizontal line at ¼ wheel. The rear can then be tilted at a certain angle; but the front floor line will always horizontal.
The fictitious line that joins both tires usually match with the door cut. We can also make the wheel arches, the lines will remain equidistant from the wheels in the first upper half, but afterwards, they will tend to go down almost horizontally.
With this, basic proportions are already obtained in which each one can continue the car sketch. We will trace the vehicle shapes and general side lines. A logical space must be keeped between the bodywork and the wheel arches.
With these proportions, it's really easy to make a basic sketch. As we can see, even without having any prior knowledge or experience in drawing, as is the case. The front windshield will show slightly; being able to tilt even more than what is seen in the image.
On the car front and on the back, we will draw two lines that simulate the curvature of the vehicle, since cars don't have straight edges. So the headlights of the vehicle will be seen. To increase the sensation of three-dimensionality, the wheels are added on the side that is hidden, which will appear slightly.
From here it depends on the experience and "the hand" of each person. We show you some sketches made without having previous training in drawing, as can be noticed. Meanwhile, we will continue with our free design course in which we will continue to see the next phases of car design.
The markers used in these exercises are the inexpensive ones, not the Chartpak markers which give a much better result. Being in the learning phase, we start with cheap drawing markers.
Anyway, in the actual process of car designing, hand-sketching is a small part of the entire design process. It will depend on the area of interest of each one. An engineer dedicated to aerodynamics doesn't have to know how to draw, although it's always positive to know how to "express" oneself with a pencil to define an idea. Let's imagine the first engineer who wanted to propose a "shark fin" on the car and needs to justify carrying out a series of tests in the wind tunnel. In order to explain the initial idea, a full-color illustration with a high level of detail wouldn't be necessary, but it's advantageous to know how draw out a basic concept that is understandable
Proportions in car sketching
The proportions are always indicative.
For example, for a sports car, three wheels are used to separate the front and rear wheel. For the height, 3/4 wheel is used to mark the maximum height.
With this we conclude the sketching, remember that we're learning the whole car design process. Initially, a series of market studies were carried out to obtain criteria to work with, then the styling team began to work on that idea to shape it. To do this, the first step is sketching, it's transferred to a computer and a 3d design is made. Afterwards, we move on to a clay model, although in between there are some steps such as the tape drawing.
Tape Drawing: In addition to the sketches, the profile of the car is captured on a white panel on a wall. With adhesive tape the vehicle is dimensioned to get an idea of the current dimensions. Despite great innovations in the industry, essential elements such as tape are still used. This is due to the flexibility of work that it provides by allowing you to quickly change any curve of the vehicle. With this, we get a first 2D visualization of the size, this is an advantage because there are curves that are better appreciated in two dimensions than in three. It also allows designers to place the fixed elements of the car such as the headlights.
In the next post we will see some analysis of the car design. With this, we close the sketching part but we will make our way to the automotive 3d design. We will also see the strategic part of the curves.
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