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…)
The problem with the FR-S’ unrefined bumps, lumps and Trapezoid Homage to the 1977 Mercury Cougar now has a decent solution. And what of this workaround? It’s brutal. It’s borderline inexcusable. But my goodness, it works…too bad I’m making you click to see it. (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…)
At the Japanese launch of the Volkswagen Up!, VW’s design chief Walter de’ Silva told a group of assembled journalists that “overdesign”, his term for the recent spate of flamboyantly styled vehicles is now passe, and that the future belongs to clean, minimalist design.
My first couple days at TTAC weren’t so much a baptismal by fire, but a surprise dunk in the ice bath by the Best & Brightest. My now-infamous post, where I dubbed the unseen-at-the-time 2013 Ford Fusion as a “gamechanger” based on my embargoed preview of the car in Dearborn, became a punchline for the first month of my tenure. But now I get to gloat. Sort of.
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…)
The (mainstream) staying power of GM’s B-body is pretty much history. Panther Love shall live for the next decade or so, not much longer. I was in this state of mind when auto writer extraordinaire Alex Nunez posted a picture to my Facebook wall, suggesting that the Chevrolet Caprice’s proportioning is somehow a worthy successor to these Iconic American Sedans. My response? Relative to the Chevy Impala, sure. But proportioning is more than having rear-wheel drive and a lot of real estate. If you proportion it wrong, you create a Fool’s errand. You create the Chevy Caprice.
While we say Panther Love, we really mean Cab Backward design for an Iconic American Sedan. Can you dig it?
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…)
It’s funny how a college professor goes from cool to angry in a split second. Case in point: my first transportation design class at CCS. People showed off their designs as per usual, but one day I opened my big mouth. I mentioned that a classmate’s rendering sported wheels that looked like the Star of David. He seemed completely clueless about what he did. But I just had to “keep it real.” Oh boy, was that ever a mistake!
A design school that caters to the big automakers, staffed with adjunct professors who work in the business…well, they know better than some punk design student. My wrist was (kinda) slapped, and everyone was warned to not include religious symbolism in their products. Because everyone in this business wants to sell their product to anyone with green money. Nobody gives a crap as long as you can “splash the cash.”
Stop reading if you believe TTAC has no business discussing religion.
One thing I heard over and over in the Transportation Design biz is how the real world of car design is nothing like what you learn in school. It’s probably the same for any Industrial Designer or anyone in the creative arts, but to a lesser extent. We are passionate about cars. To wit: my former CCS classmate Mike Chan is taking his education and automotive (okay, motorcycle) design experience to launch his own design: the Chrono Case. Do me a solid and check out the man’s hard work, and maybe consider participating in the Indiegogo funding thing. Why?
Because we all need to save designers from creating design nightmares such as the VW Routan. The weatherstripping is reason enough to become a design entrepreneur à la Mike Chan. From one CCS person to another, best of luck to you, Mike. (Read More…)
History repeats itself. I repeat, History repeats…well, you see my point. Which was probably one of the reasons why my creations in Car Design College were universally panned as being “too retro”, among other things. It was a similar fate given to Lenny Kravitz, except he was very talented in his form of artistic expression. And while you can’t “sell” most design studios on the power of history, I present to you the latest Nash/AMC Rambler.
I mean Nissan Leaf. You’ll have to forgive me for seeing the similarity between the two, in spirit, historical context and on the Vellum. (Read More…)