What Influences Car Design?

Automotive Design

Automotive design is clearly an important factor when approaching the market. There are some fundamental similarities (ie: 4 wheels, 2 or 4 doors, etc.), yet the subtle differences can change the entire look and feel. Where do these subtleties come from? I find myself asking, “what influences automotive design?”

Designers are given a project based on certain assumptions. Perhaps incorporating the chassis from an earlier model, or some applications-based requirements, such as: mini-vans are intended to serve a busy family with lots of activities and storage needs. But when it comes to the curves in the taillights, the defining lines along the body, or the expression of the front-end… where do designers develop these visions? How are their visions supported by engineering and performance requirements?

20160303 Automotive DesignIn many cases you can reference the name of the car to identify the inspiration. The VW Beetle clearly is inspired by those the bugs I see crawling around on a spring day. The Ford Mustang has a strength and aggression that is adjacent to what you might expect from the horse itself, although can you imagine the original name of the vehicle was supposed to be the Cougar?  Imagine how that could have changed things!!  So, while some of the animal brands might have a clear example of what the designer was going for, what about the models with names like NSX, Model S, R-8, etc. Simply a combination of letters and numbers cannot provide the ultimate desire for artistic expression.

I believe cultural trends are at the sub-conscious level of these designs. Consider clothing and fashion. The years of bell-bottom jeans aligned with the years of the ridiculously flared fenders, back when bigger meant “better”, and cars looked like land yachts. Now as technology is driving more and more functionality into a smaller and smaller device, cars are getting lighter, maximizing interior space with the minimal amount of fuel and emissions.

So why are some cars clearly more attractive and alluring than others? What is it about the car that draws buyers toward it?

I’m trying to understand why Tesla’s design for an electric vehicle is so vastly different from the others. The BMW i3 looks nothing like the rest of the BMW lineup, the only similarity being the kidney grills. Does an electric vehicle have to look like it came from the Jetson’s era in order to appeal to the typical consumer? I suppose that there is a point where form meets function, that in order to be expected to meet the needs of a particular consumer the car must have the appearance of its intended purpose. If it looks like a minimalist, high-tech, space-age ride, then it must perform like one?  I don’t know though … VW certainly doesn’t think so … look at the e-Golf.

What are your thoughts? Does a car’s design impact the way you feel when you drive it? Clearly the answer is “yes.” The next question is, what inspires a buyer?

Ananda ArasuAnanda Arasu

Ananda Arasu is a Product Marketing Manager at Autodesk with focus on Automotive products and solutions. Ananda has a background in applications engineering, product management and product marketing. He has been with Autodesk for over 4 years in a product marketing capacity, with a focus on automotive solutions.His aim is to understand automotive customer needs and communicate the ways in which Autodesk’s products can best meet those needs.


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