Vellum Venom Vignette: The Steak, the Sizzle
What is it with all these fake vents on the front and rear grilles and valances of new cars?
I admit, I recently bought one of the worst offenders, a 2019 Avalon (I bought it for the Audi-esque interior). But for crying out loud, why all the black plastic trying in vain to fool the eye that these are… what, exactly?
Vellum Venom: 1992 Cadillac Brougham
Vellum Venom: Trabant 601
Vellum Venom: What is DLO FAIL?
Having previously discussed Day Light Opening (DLO), let’s define DLO FAIL.
And perhaps learn why DLOs sometimes fail?
Vellum Venom: Daylight Opening (DLO), Defined
With reader feedback always on my mind, perhaps an overview of commonly used terms in the car design trade is needed. Let’s define the Daylight Opening (DLO) and dig into one of the more confusing terms in a car designer’s handbook.
Vellum Venom: Dash-to-Axle, Defined
With reader feedback always on my mind, perhaps an overview of commonly used terms in the car design trade is needed.
Let’s discuss the dash-to-axle: a notion that’s (probably) been a car design staple since Edsel Ford’s vision for an European-inspired flagship — one which added 7 inches to the hood of a mere luxury car.
Vellum Venom Vignette: Pointless Bumpers, Sacrificial Body Parts
Vellum Venom: 1988 Lincoln Town Car Signature Series
Tell me something: how can one fault Lee Iacocca for suggesting this vehicle — this blend of architecture, curves and beveled jewelry — generated over a billion dollars annually for Ford?
And how could you resist? There wasn’t a Lexus yet!
Vellum Venom: 2017 Toyota Camry XLE
Vellum Venom Vignette: Flattened Fenders and Air Curtains
I have noticed something on newer cars, and it’s been bothering me for awhile now. Perhaps you, with your deity-like omniscience (and access to inside information) will be able to provide some clarity.
As you can see from the picture below, a new Toyota has this vertical flat area around the wheels. And it’s not just this particular model of car — nearly every modern car I see on the road today has a similar design feature, though they vary in the width of the flat area around the wheel arch. Contrast this the Clinton-era Toyo at the bottom, where the body lines follow a graceful curve all the way to the fender opening.
Vellum Venom: 2017 North American International Auto Show (Part II)
My long-standing personal vendetta against DLO FAIL — an internet-slang definition of black plastic “ cheater panels” — takes center stage in this episode of Detroit Auto Show coverage.
Consider this: if manufacturing and design teams cannot decide on the same roof, if they cheat to make it right, did they design something worthy of the auto show lights?
I [s]complain[/s] report, you make the final decision!
Vellum Venom: 2017 North American International Auto Show (Part I)
Vellum Venom: 1985 Lamborghini Countach LP5000 QV
I stood face-to-fascia with a childhood dream, thanks to a tangential connection to Houston’s 2016 Lamborghini Festival. And yet, like all designs born pure and modified to remain relevant, the original Lamborghini LP400’s purity of form is sometimes absent in this time capsule, all-original LP5000.
But please believe that, LP400 or no, it took every fiber of my being to avoid the typical auto journo blather on this sheet of vellum.
Vellum Venom: 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata (ND)
I had the distinct non-privilege of sampling an ND Miata at a Mazda event for the general public, which was also covered by one of TTAC’s sister publications. A gaze at the hood bulges at (slow) auto journo track speeds netted a surprise: there was an urgency to get this cab-backward profile on the Vellum.
It’s no different than being a design student; visions quickly sketched on vellum (lower case) were crucial. Today’s urgency isn’t for my GPA, but for Vellum Venom’s readers (all 51 of you) and for my soul. It’s been too long.
Vellum Venom Vignette: Innovation, Planned Obsolescence and Fisher Body
Vellum Venom Vignette: Pantone 448 C
In visual perception a color is almost never seen as it really is — as it physically is. This fact makes color the most relative medium in art. —Josef Albers, Interaction of Color
This is my favorite quote from the most intriguing textbook during my year at the College for Creative Studies. As an administrator of the Brown Car Appreciation Society, I’ve embraced this quote at every poorly chosen “brown” car that’s too close to yellow, red, gray, and green for most eyeballs.
So, when an Australian market research firm’s anti-smoking initiative found Pantone 448 C — a “drab dark brown” called Opaque Couché — the most off-putting color to cigarette smokers, it was no surprise the news eventually trickled down to my corner of the Interweb.
Vellum Venom Vignette: The Proliferation of Plastic Cladding
Vellum Venom Vignette: A Primer on Black Plastic?
Can you explain black plastic on cars? I saw an Audi Q7 with black plastic all over the bottom, but then a Q5 doesn’t have it. Sometimes the plastic isn’t black but color coded like an Eddie Bauer Ford or something else.
Vellum Venom Vignette: Sartorial Color Selections?
TTAC commentator Windy writes:
I just started the once-every-few-years process of shopping for a new car. When I ordered my Mini 12 years ago, I was able to pick from a vast selection of colors and options. Since then, automakers have dwindled down and constrained their available colors. I’ve played the configurator game with many marques, and the choices in color were frankly dismal for most cars.
Vellum Venom Vignette: Turn Down (Exhaust Tips) For What?
I have a question that I don’t believe you have answered before in your talking about design features, and that is the weird obsession car makers have with exhaust outlets.
Vellom Venom Vignette: 2015 Awards Edition
Today, TTAC’s editors present their annual round-ups for 2015. Sajeev brings you his winners and losers in the highly subjective field of design.
Vellum Venom: 1988 Jaguar XJS
One of my CCS Design professors had a saying: it’s all about Proportion, Proportion, Proportion. Just typing that makes me cringe. Perhaps it’s a popular phrase for car design wonks, or a riff from the restaurant business.
However, the theory is valid: Imagine if the Pontiac Aztek was proportioned a la Range Rover Evoque. It’s a fair notion. If that were the case, the Aztek may not have been bound for every “Top 100 Ugliest Cars” list since 2000.
Proving the theory is this 1988 Jaguar XJS. It’s a beautiful grand touring coupe because the proportions are right.
Vellum Venom Vignette: Protect Me From What I Want
I thought you might know: What’s up with so many recent cars incorporating an oversized, black plastic, gaping maw in place of what’s been normal-sized grilles on cars? Lexus comes to mind first, with a visage that any Predator could love. But also, Hyundai Veloster, the revamped Yaris, various Audis, and so forth.
Is this related to some Euro pedestrian law, compliance with which mandates some high percentage of very breakable plastic up front? Darned hard to explain otherwise. At least for me. So I thought I’d ask.
Vellum Venom Vignette: Center Gauge Cluster-****?
I’ve always had an aversion to dashboards where the main gauges are in the center of the car (Mini, Yaris, etc.). I can see why an automaker would do it if they sell internationally. Once, back when I used to listen to the Autoblog podcast, one of the hosts said that having the gauges in the center made them faster and easier to read. No way! That just can’t be so. I think I stopped listening to the podcast right then and there.
Would you care to comment?
Vellum Venom Antidote: In Defense of the Lego F40
Sajeev’s hot take on the Lego F40? Unclean! Abomination! We don’t need no studs in our Italian stallions. The blocky limitations of Lego have bricked Pininfarina’s flow, making a supermodel’s curves about as sexy as Samus Aran in her NES bikini.
I just finished putting together this thing and I disagree entirely. Judged as an accurate representation of the breed? Who cares? Here, the medium is the message.
Vellum Venom Vignette: Diecasting A Designer's 8-bit Nightmare?
I suspect there’s more than a handful of Transportation Design students finding employment in the toy business and I know my fellow design classmates at CCS collected diecast model cars. They’re inspirational, personally helping me render light/shadow reflections on the vellum.
Visits to (Pasteiner’s) Auto Zone happened regularly, sometimes with the same higher regard than local religious institutions. So spare me, oh mighty autoblogosphere, from the manufactured excitement of Lego’s F40 kit.
I reckon it’s a designer’s 8-bit nightmare.
Vellum Venom Vignette: Styling the Shark Jump?
Hi Sajeev. I’m annoyed by styling that makes the trim height look wrong. Most cars today look like the front is sagging or the rear is too high. The stylists even slant side creases and trim strips down toward the front (Man, I hate that. – SM) to create this look even though a close look at the rocker panel shows that the car is level.
Why are they doing it? Does the public really like it?
The delicate balance of physical + visual trim height adjustment is standard practice, proving itself over decades for both aerodynamic and stylistic enhancement. The problem? Jumping the shark.
Vellum Venom: 2014 Rolls Royce Wraith
While designing top-dollar luxury cars was a rare success during my year at CCS, it’s gotta be tough to get these into production. Consider competition from lower-rung manufacturers, namely those parent companies owning the likes of Rolls Royce. How much shared engineering is forced upon them? What financial (beancounting) and legal (pedestrian safety, carbon emission) design constraints are forced upon the uber-luxury Transportation Designer?
Design directives get muddy in any vehicle, yet weak design is intolerable at a $354,000 price tag.
Vellum Venom Vignette: Peak Emblem
This just happened. (photo courtesy: Ram)
Most design students don’t consider Peak Oil in their studies, but The Reckoning was on my reading list back then. While Peak Oil is tangentially connected to car design, we clearly reached Peak Emblem.
It cannot get any worse than what’s being introduced in Chicago this week.
Vellum Venom Vignette: The Brazil Vacation, Part III
A Fashionable Savior for the Budget Minded?
Rio is full of beauty: beaches, gorgeous people on said beaches, delicious caipirinhas served beachside and…wait for it…a healthy alternative to DLO FAIL.
Yes, a way out from the infestation of black plastic cheater panels: triangles of FAIL that plague Car Design from the cheapest subcompact to the most flagship-iest Cadillac.
Vellum Venom Vignette: The Brazil Vacation, Part II
A Captiva audience?
Aside from the car-less world of cruise/train travel, my post- CCS Design vacations involve seeing an American on the road only to feel their styling and (more importantly) proportioning are sleeker and prettier. Douchey perhaps, but it’s my benign contribution to American Exceptionalism.
Even if this “proper” Chevy is a German Opel (sold alongside many a Korean Daewoo) introduced in Frankfurt as the Antara GTC. Harley Earl may spin in his perfectly-proportioned grave…but I digress.
Vellum Venom Vignette: The Brazil Vacation, Part I
This was my first vacation in, like, ever. And it was supposed to be a break from cars. No driving, wrenching, writing, photographing! Stop looking at that Ford Versailles, don’t take a photo of that Renault, because car design is no vacation in such a beautiful place…right?
And then “my” Ford Ranger found me in Leblon. Oh, for the love of why did I walk down this street I can’t believe that stupid truck followed me from…
Vellum Venom Vignette: Less Is More With In Car Entertainment
I’ve been accused of Automotive Hipsterism for bragging about my bare bones Ford truck instead of aspiring to expensive vehicles. It used to be different, back when top-drawer dashboards were more Malevich and less Pollock in design. Because good design embraces Less is More, while poor design over thinks the solution.
Vellum Venom Vignette: In Praise of The Regular Cab
Cafe regulations be damned, the regular cab truck is a fantastic design. It deserves a better rep: working for people with multiple vehicles, value-conscious fleet buyers, and bottom-tier credit risks dying for a cheap new non-econobox. Or a new lease on life, after an unexpected trip to the hospital.
Vellum Venom Vignette: 2015 Camry Regression Analysis (Part II)
I was wrong about the 2015 Camry: it’s a handsome family sedan. But not for us, for the Russians.
Vellum Venom Vignette: My Brother's Keeper
Reader Request: discuss the Lincoln Mark VIII, preferably the second generation’s modest restyle. He likely didn’t care for my reply, as it follows my disapproval of the Original Testarossa versus that rolling abortion that disrespectfully ended Ferrari’s most iconic series.
Then I parked beside a 2000 Mercury Sable on a fine Houston evening.
Vellum Venom: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES
Design School forces considerations outside of a student’s artistic comfort zone: a unique price, demographic, or geography for starters. Just don’t present a pragmatic design based in sociocultural fact: a conventional sedan for the Indian market–isolating the wealthy from their hired help and their untouchable luggage—was a fantastically stupid mistake. Cultural and profit-minded relevance aside, that’s the not-so-secret secret I’ve mentioned before in this series. Cars are made under a litany of profit-minded constraints, no matter what they may teach in design school.
And some thrive in their design constraints.
Vellum Venom Vignette: Cadillac's SEAT In Ibiza
One interesting thing about living on-campus at CCS was the precious little available to purchase within walking distance. Such is the life of a car-less design student in Metro Detroit. That’s until a friend took me to a Meijer Hypermarket in the ‘burbs: a new world of “stuff” entered my cloistered world. Cheap but nice stuff, with an intrinsic value far higher than its retail price.
Vellum Venom: Honda N600
What’s the difference between car design and styling? My stint at CCS in Detroit makes me think styling is the shallow, frilly, cosmetic side of car design. Freshman designers are (were?) trained to focus on styling, but anyone integrating with marketing/accounting/engineering departments after school knows the real deal. They gotta know car design.
The folly of a sheltered life aside (don’t us delusional autobloggers know it?) the Honda N600’s heavily constrained blueprint came to life with nearly to zero style.
Vellum Venom Vignette: World Industrial Design Day
This Sunday is World Industrial Design Day, a day when the ID Community brings awareness of this profession’s value. Though I left The College for Creative Studies with my tail between my legs, ID’s blending of business/entrepreneurship, art and science still charms me. So let’s examine two ignition keys that owe their existence to the craft known as industrial design.
Vellum Venom: 2013 Lincoln MKZ
Car Design college was a wake-up call for this auto-obsessed kid: it festered with two-faced people. There are bastard-coated souls smiling to your face, stabbing you in the back during Portfolio Review. Or friends that pity you, being your crutch via white lies and false kindness. Bad news, especially for a Lincoln-Mercury fanboi saddened by how the MKZ became as two-faced as the industry that spawned it.
Vellum Venom Vignette: 2015 Camry Regression Analysis
As expected, TTAC’s Best and Brightest called it: the 2015 Camry has Chernobyl-grade DLO FAIL.
Or maybe that’s heavily tinted glass?
Vellum Venom: MINI Cooper Hardtop (2012)
The end of the year, the end of an era for a famous British Marque. Let’s get crackin’ before the ink on the vellum dries for the (all new) 2014 model.
Vellum Venom Vignette: Ovoid Fixation Edition?
OK, so the granddaddy of oval car logos must be the Ford blue oval, but they sure do have a lot of imitators. So, how about a Vellum Venom on Comparative Oval Logos in the Automotive Industry? Or if you don’t like this pitch, maybe put Sanjeev on it. I bet he’d do this article.
Vellum Venom Vignette: 2013 Awards Edition
In a few days, TTAC’s editors will present their best and worst automotive picks of 2013. Today, Sajeev Mehta brings you his winners and losers in the field of design. Winners and losers below the jump.
Vellum Venom: 2013 Dodge Charger SRT
@SajeevMehta Art history teacher talked about using vellum today. Nobody else knew what it was #bringbackvellumvenom
Vellum Venom Vignette: Art and Design at The 24 Hours of LeMons 2013
My worst moment at the College for Creative Studies was during Portfolio Review: a presentation of one’s body of work since the beginning of the semester. So it comes as no surprise that my favorite parts of a LeMons race is judging the artistic(?) themes of the cheaty $500 race cars in attendance. Let’s combine the two for this quick vignette into an alternate world of automotive design: come up with a moderately creative theme, say or do something idiotic, make me laugh and perhaps I’ll forget about that fancy header…or those super cheaty shocks that supposedly “came with the car.”
Did you really think that car design ends in the studio?
Vellum Venom: 1970 Dodge Charger RT-SE
My departure from the cloistered world of automotive design was anything but pleasant: leaving the College for Creative Studies [s]scarred[/s] changed me, possibly ensuring the inability to conform to PR-friendly autoblogging. Luckily I am not alone. While Big Boss Man rests in Chrysler’s doghouse, a remotely nice comment about their door handles perked the ears of the local Chrysler PR rep…and she tossed me a bone.
Perhaps you’ve never heard of Hovas’ Hemi Hideout: so here’s a slice of Mopar history worthy of a deep dive into the Vellum. Oh, thanks for the invite, Chrysler.
Vellum Venom: 1966 Datsun Sports 1600 (Fairlady)
Can you remember when sports cars were a staple of design studios? When these wee-beasties were vellum fodder like today’s CUVs? Me neither. But Europe once made these in spades, and–much like today’s utility vehicle craze–Japan regularly followed suit. Let’s examine that rich history with a deep cut into Nissan’s “Fairlady” series.
Vellum Venom: Uwe Bahnsen, Car Designer, RIP
Never forget: people make all the difference. This often overlooked fact in the glamorous world of automotive styling rings true for the life of Mr. Uwe Bahnsen. I froze in my tracks when I heard of his passing on Car Design News. His work at Ford and with the Industrial Design community influenced me, and every American who loved cars in the 1980s.
How ironic that Mr. Bahnsen’s passing was the week TTAC’s own Ford Sierra passed its citizenship test in Texas: so here’s a great Germanic-Texas Beer for you, Mr. Bahnsen.
Vellum Venom Vignette: Center Stage, High Mounted!
TTAC commentator Darth Lefty writes:
I was looking at a new Fusion in the company parking lot and noticed how its center brake light (CHMSL) is basically a very thin flap jutting out of the top of the window. Subtle… The center brake light is always like this. We are right now in a golden age of headlight and tail light design. The complex shapes and chrome and LED’s and rocket thrusters dominate the style of a car. But the center light gets none of this.
Vellum Venom: 2012 Honda Crosstour
Here are a few books I consider required reading for Transportation Design students: The Reckoning, Rude Awakening, All Corvettes are Red and Car: A Drama of the American Workplace. These show what it takes to make a car…to make a designer’s work come to fruition.
Sadly, during my (short) time at the College for Creative Studies, we focused on creativity at all costs: pay no attention to the business behind the curtain. So while the Honda Crosstour is a curious stylistic exercise, does this dog hunt in the real world?
Vellum Venom Vignette: The Emperor Has No Clothes
Like Dizzy Gillespie’s cheeks playing trumpet vs. at rest, cars are bigger in every direction compared to their predecessors. Perhaps you’ve seen a 1980s Honda Accord in front of the latest platform. Or perhaps an old/new Chevy Silverado. But what about a copiously large Cadillac, like the one made (somewhat) famous in a Moby music video?
What happens when you put that machine, an unrivaled King of The 1970s, against a pair of modern land barges? You already know, but go ahead and click to see anyway.
Vellum Venom Vignette: Of Portal Handling Pleasures
G’day from Down Under. Big fan of the Vellum Venom column of yours. Car design, and more importantly the smaller details of car design have always fascinated me, even though I couldn’t design a car if my life depended on it. The first bit of design that really hit me was the first appearance of BMW’s “Angel Eyes” on the E39 M5.
Anyway, I’ve always wondered when and more importantly why have the “pull-type” door handles become the norm?
Vellum Venom Vignette: Auto Dealership Design? (Part II)
In our last installment, we focused on the fancy and frilly world of premium car dealership design. A place where corporately-mandated building design matches (hopefully) the quality materials of said corporation’s luxury car…adding to the experience for would-be customers.
The same is true for lower priced, more approachable brands: except when the Bass Pro Shop influenced Mark Heitz Chevrolet takes the fight against The Man to new “Heitz”…and loses. According to the David Stanley Facebook page (above photo), the great outdoors is still there…but what’s gonna happen once the RenCen Boyz have their way with this building?
Vellum Venom: 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid
Aside from the fame, fortune and talent, my design school stylings were criticized much like the early works of one Mister Lenny Kravitz. I felt, as idiotic as it seems now, both of us were pigeonholed for our unabashed use of “influence” in our art. Kravitz overcame. I left the College for Creative Studies to pursue a less interesting career. A career that makes me travel. With rental cars.
How fitting that I’d be blessed (cursed?) with The Son of Aston: the Ford Fusion Hybrid for 8 days and 800 miles.
Vellum Venom Vignette: Auto Dealership Design?
I enjoy highlighting automotive design, yet cars aren’t everything: architecture happens. So let’s combine ’em for the world of automotive retailing.
Vellum Venom: 2012 Ferrari FF
Jeff Sanders, my best friend and reason for this series’ existence, once said “Ferrari’s are the tits” for all designers. It’s true, as his immense skill received far more praise from the design boffins at the College for Creative Studies when he set his sights on a Ferrari instead of his beloved American brands. But tits for all (so to speak) changed when a friend gave me her guest pass to the Ferrari Club of Houston’s monthly meeting. Arriving in appropriate style thanks to my brother’s Testarossa, I chilled out with my Ferrari lovin’ gal pal. I also prepped myself for the Pimp-Mobile Testarossa jokes, often rehearsed by heavily depreciated Ferrari 348/355/360 driving bon vivants. It was a CCS design review all over again, to a lesser extent.
Then I opened the showroom door and saw my first Ferrari FF. Everything about this day changed. Won’t you join me for the rest of the story?
Vellum Venom: 2012 Nissan Cube
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.
Vellum Venom Vignette: Ridin' Spinners (Part II)
I’d be a day late and a dollar short if I cared about being professional automotive journalist. To wit, we recently discussed how the digitally rendered C7 Stingray droptop Vette’s 5-spoke wheels look like a last-minute “virtual” hackjob for a looming deadline. The nice folks at Corvetteblogger show otherwise during their visit to the New York Auto Show: these hoops made production spinning the wrong way.