Automotive design

Automotive design

Automotive design is the profession involved in the development of the appearance, and to some extent the ergonomics, of motor vehicles or more specifically road vehicles. This most commonly refers to automobiles but also refers to motorcycles, trucks, buses, coaches, and vans. The functional design and development of a modern motor vehicle is typically done by a large team from many different disciplines included in automotive engineers. Automotive design in this context is primarily concerned with developing the visual appearance or aesthetics of the vehicle, though it is also involved in the creation of the product concept. Automotive design is practiced by designers who usually have an art background and a degree in industrial design or transportation design.

Design elements

The task of the design team is usually split into three main aspects: exterior design, interior design, and color and trim design. Graphic design is also an aspect of automotive design; this is generally shared amongst the design team as the lead designer sees fit. Design focuses not only on the isolated outer shape of automobile parts, but concentrates on the combination of form and function, starting from the vehicle package.

The aesthetic value will need to correspond to ergonomic functionality and utility features as well. In particular, vehicular electronic components and parts will give more challenges to automotive designers who are required to update on the latest information and knowledge associated with emerging vehicular gadgetry, particularly dashtop mobile devices, like GPS navigation, satellite radio, HD radio, mobile TV, MP3 players, video playback and smartphone interfaces. Though not all the new vehicular gadgets are to be designated as factory standard items, but some of them may be integral to determining the future course of any specific vehicular models.

Exterior design (styling)

The stylist responsible for the design of the exterior of the vehicle develops the proportions, shape, and surfaces of the vehicle. Exterior design is first done by a series of digital or manual drawings. Progressively more detailed drawings are executed and approved. Clay (industrial plasticine) and or digital models are developed from, and along with the drawings. The data from these models are then used to create a full sized mock-up of the final design (body in white). With 3 and 5 axis CNC Milling Machines, the clay model is first designed in a computer program and then "carved" using the machine and large amounts of clay. Even in times of high-class 3d software and virtual models on powerwalls the clay model is still the most important tool to evaluate the design of a car and therefore used throughout the industry.

Interior design (styling)

The stylist responsible for the design of the vehicle interior develops the proportions, shape, placement, and surfaces for the instrument panel, seats, door trim panels, headliner, pillar trims, etc. Here the emphasis is on ergonomics and the comfort of the passengers. The procedure here is the same as with exterior design (sketch, digital model and clay model).

Color and trim design

The color and trim (or color and materials) designer is responsible for the research, design, and development of all interior and exterior colors and materials used on a vehicle. These include paints, plastics, fabric designs, leather, grains, carpet, headliner, wood trim, and so on. Color, contrast, texture, and pattern must be carefully combined to give the vehicle a unique interior environment experience. Designers work closely with the exterior and interior designers.

Designers draw inspiration from other design disciplines such as: industrial design, fashion, home furnishing, and architecture. Specific research is done into global trends to design for projects two to three model years in the future. Trend boards are created from this research in order to keep track of design influences as they relate to the automotive industry. The designer then uses this information to develop themes and concepts which are then further refined and tested on the vehicle models.

Graphic design

The design team also develop graphics for items such as: badges, decals, dials, switches, kick or tread strips, liveries, flames, racing stripes, etc.

History of automobile design in the US

In the USA, automotive design reached a turning point in 1924 when the American national automobile market began reaching saturation. To maintain unit sales, General Motors head Alfred P. Sloan Jr. devised annual model-year design changes to convince car owners that they needed to buy a new replacement each year. Critics called his strategy planned obsolescence. Sloan preferred the term "dynamic obsolescence". This strategy had far-reaching effects on the auto business, the field of product design, and eventually the American economy. The smaller players could not maintain the pace and expense of yearly re-styling. Henry Ford did not like the model-year change because he clung to an engineer's notions of simplicity, economics of scale, and design integrity. GM surpassed Ford's sales in 1931 and became the dominant player in the industry thereafter. The frequent design changes also made it necessary to use a body-on-frame rather than the lighter, but less flexible monocoque design used by most European car makers.

Another turning point came in 1935, when automotive engineers abruptly dropped aerodynamic research after discovering, among other problems, aerodynamics would tend to produce one single optimal exterior shape. This would be bad for unit sales,Fact|date=May 2007 and for GM it would obviously work against their new strategy of market differentiation. Style and engineering went their separate ways, and all body shapes underwent cosmetic changes every year, whether or not the underlying automobile had changed.

Since 1935 automotive form has been driven more by consumer expectations than by engineering improvement. Form still follows function, but the primary function of the car was to get itself sold.

The most famous American auto stylist is probably Harley Earl, who brought the tailfin and other aeronautical design references to auto design in the 1950s. He is joined among legendary designers by Gordon Buehrig, responsible for the Auburn 851 and iconic Cord 810 and 812 (hence also the Hupmobile Skylark and the Graham Hollywood).

Development process

Includes the next steps:
* Concept sketching
* Computer-aided design
* Computer modeling
* Drive train engineering
* Scale model creation
* Prototype development
* Manufacturing process design

See also

External links

* [ Auto&Design Magazine] An archive of the leading print magazine for automotive design
* [ Car Design News] News and resources for the international automotive design community
* [ Chrysler Design Institute] Insight into Chrysler's design studio processes.
* [ Design Council Automotive Design] Design Council UK's one stop shop information resource on Automotive Design by Chris Clements.
* [ Concept Car Design] Automotive design information, news, reports & directory
* [ Designerspace] Interactive space for the automotive designers: portfolios gallery and world contests.
* [ DesignerTechniques] Free resource where you can learn the techniques and skills of auto designers
* [ Foresight Vehicle] British automotive R&D programme and Knowledge Transfer Network
* [ Cost analysis of an advanced vehicle design] .
* [ Car Design Online] Automotive design from concept to production

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