Haters bust out the Haterade: I mastered your drama back at the College of Creative Studies. My luxury car proposals sported stand up grilles…and why not? The (beautiful-ish) 1990 Lexus LS400 proved an upright grille happily exists on a sleek, masterfully engineered machine. But very talented, well-praised drama queens in the design studio can’t be proven wrong by a talentless schmuck. Even if they get super butthurt when your Lexian-precedent made their grandstanding look like the adolescent ranting of one unfit to judge a grade school art show…
To wit, an extreme argument: The Nissan Cube. (Read More…)
I was in a bad place about a year ago: fighting problems that resurfaced 10+ years of (secret) regret that my life at the College for Creative Studies shoulda ended differently. But then a few silver linings showed up, motivating me to write the first installment of this series. While I still am in (occasionally) bad places a year later, designs like the Nissan Juke keep me motivated, excited.
So, to celebrate this series’ First Anniversary: THANK YOU for letting me share my Venom. And know how much I appreciate it when you click that link:
Did you see an instant classic at last week’s Detroit Auto Show? Maybe that new Stingray. And hearing that the first C7 Vette was on the auction block to support the College for Creative Studies made me a little proud of my former school, too. But, aside from the always nerve-racking bus ride between CCS and Cobo Hall, my “instant classic” moment from the (1999) NAIAS was the introduction of the MK IV Jetta. All of a sudden I couldn’t keep my eyes off of Jettas, especially a silver one in the lower hall of Cobo. And time hasn’t changed my opinion…aside from making it more extreme. (Read More…)
I apologize for torturing you, dear reader, with over-analysis of absolutely mundane machinery for far too long. I blame it on my style–or lack thereof–as a student at the College of Creative Studies. So on Christmas Day, how about I let you in on another secret? No matter which bias (American, German, Japanese) got you into car design school, everyone loved Ferraris. This predominantly male student body often equated a Ferrari’s universal gorgeousness with that of the female anatomy. Surprised?
One thing that really burned me about design school: when a student applied their talent outside of their comfort zone, subsequently ruining a famous bodystyle, make or model. Hey, I’m guilty of it too. VERY guilty. But a foolish, ignorant student at the College for Creative Studies is one thing, getting paid by the manufacturer of said brand is a whole ‘nother. And while the original, JFK-Continental infused, Lincoln MKX wasn’t far removed from the Ford Edge from whence it came, the redesign takes what was once a solid reinterpretation of the Lincoln brand and well…completely screwed it up.
Again…ever since the Mitsubishi Diamante face of the Lincoln LS, that is. Let’s get this over with.
Sometimes promises are kept in the car design biz: the 2013 Civic sounds like a big step up from this 2012 model. Which was a big step down from the ’70s concept car chic of the 8th generation Civic. Aside from Wayne Cherry’s professional nightmare, how often does a manufacturer make such significant changes after one year of production? This model insulted more than one autojourno and countless fanbois, apparently Honda doesn’t mess around when reputation and $$$ are on the line. But just how bad was it in 2012? (Read More…)
Some designs are perfect in their initial run, others need a mid-cycle rethink to make ‘em sing. The 4000 is the latter: cost effectively ushering a new era of modern and luxurious Industrial Design for Audi. I loved the styling, but a classmate at CCS showed me the light: he was an SCCA racer with a similar CS Quattro in the dorm’s parking lot. And while CCS was a total bummer at times, we enjoyed the 4000 in the horrible winter weather around Metro Detroit. Especially at one of our favorite hangouts: Belle Isle. At night. In a 4000 CS Quattro. Oh hell yes. (Read More…)
One of my Automotive Design teachers at CCS made us take a personality test to determine our strengths(?) as a designer. It was beyond stupid, or so I thought. To wit, a (paraphrased) question: do you collect old things? The answer was supposedly neutral: no matter what you answered on this query, your overall score didn’t change.
Which is a total crock. The history of design is so very important, especially for a powerhouse like Audi. Please! (Read More…)
Damn near everyone in the Industrial Design department at CCS said my engineering/gearhead/history buff background was killing my potential Car Design career. In hindsight they had a point, but most were complete jerks about it. With three art history courses at three different colleges in mind, automotive brands/models/trim levels do indeed nod to something more than PR-hyped styling takeaways: perhaps a vintage automobile, a vague reference to a sub-culture not normally associated with a large corporation, or an entire genre of fine art. But the Scion FR-S isn’t retro… (Read More…)
Sometimes we work too hard for success. We listen to others, constructive criticism or not, doing our best to make a change for the better. But are we really accomplishing that? I’ve always wondered if the ends justify the means. Not for me at CCS in Detroit: after trying to change myself to fit a certain mold and failing, I realized I’m totally okay with (most) everything I do. On or off the vellum.
I wonder if vehicles like the Infiniti JX are the byproduct of a design studio trying too hard to address criticisms. Or maybe this is just a common case of “over-styling” a vehicle. Either way, here we are.
Let’s be clear about one thing: racism sucks. Be it the recent, tragic temple shooting or some BS you experienced when doing/not doing what your culture demands, this is a fact of life. That said, geo-cultural influences are everywhere, including the car design biz. Take my time at CCS: one of my classmates was a South Korean lawyer who wanted to style cars for Hyundai. His work was unique amongst all studio creations, reflecting a culture that’s borderline impossible to understand by the uninitiated. Which is damn near every college kid.
This person’s work reminded me how culture influences design, and how people can negatively react to it. Which leads us to a flagship Mercedes heavily(?) influenced by a Mercedes design studio in Japan. Yes, Japan. So let’s get to it. (Read More…)
Sometimes designers become super stars in the car biz: just ask that dude who made the Ford GT, or the other dude responsible for the Chrysler 300. I am sure both made other vehicles which they truly hated. Perhaps the 300′s designer shares some amount of blame for the last Chrysler Sebring? I am sure that Ital Design’s Giorgetto Giugiaro has the same problem, but Hyundai wrote him a check and he made it happen. Quite honestly, the original Hyundai Excel here in the USA wasn’t a bad car at all. Bad looking, that is.
And honestly, after walking around this example at a historically savvy Hyundai dealer (next to a Lamborghini Dealership that bored me after 20 minutes) I suggest to you, dear reader, that the Excel sold so unbelievably well on both price and design. Because this machine could look much, much worse.
Circa 1998, I was mentally ready to move from the (lower-middle class) suburbs of Houston to the College for Creative Studies’ (CCS) dorm in the heart of Metro Detroit. Oddly my big surprise came not from Detroit itself, but from the dorm’s many Sony PlayStations…and something called “Gran Turismo”. I knew about the Nissan GT-R, but I was like every other kid playing this amazing game: absolutely blown away by the GT-R’s prowess.
That said, I raced all CCS’ contenders in “arcade mode,” in the big block ’67 Corvette. With the most power and the easiest to rotate chassis, I wasted most of my Japanese car loving dorm mates. The GT-R was/is rarely my weapon of choice in Gran Turismo. Which kinda explains my general apathy to the GT-R in the flesh. (Read More…)
It was 1986. One of the cruise ship’s ports of call was Puerto Rico. At a local gift shop, a 9-year-old boy received his first “nice” car model, a 1:18th scale Ferrari Testarossa. He’d spend far too much time in his stateroom, with no lights but the small bedside reading light, turning the model while admiring how the light danced over the curves and edges of Ferrari’s most influential car: a World Car in every way. The vehicle that refined the Super Car. It defined a decade, and warped the minds of several generations of car enthusiasts. And it took this boy to a Motown design school, and eventually to a little car blog called TTAC.
Sergio Pininfarina once called the Testarossa “an exaggeration in flamboyance.” A fitting quote for what must be the most famous vehicle to leave his design studio. And while he might be right, compared to today’s flamboyant Fezzas, the Testarossa was veiled in understatement and modernist modesty.
So let’s dig deep into the Mehta Brothers garage, and check out Dr. Mehta’s 1989 Testarossa: a car we’ve wanted for decades. (Read More…)
“I wish I came up with that.”
That’s a phrase I said many a morning when the studios at CCS woke up to a bumper crop of new student designs for the week. Just because you can visualize it doesn’t mean you can make it happen. Self pity/loathing aside, the 5th generation BMW 7-series is one of those visions in my head that I could never make. It’s not my cup of tea, and perhaps you don’t like it either. But the attention to detail (ATD) in this shockingly cohesive Luxury sedan implementation are not to be ignored. (Read More…)