Dating back to the industrial revolution the automotive industry established the foundation for industrial design and continues to lead today. Why is that? Simply put, the complexity of the automotive design process from conceptualization through production requires extensive engineering and collaboration. Many other highly innovative industries such as consumer products utilize the automotive template created for industrial design today.
Beginning with conceptualization, the process initiates feedback generation from consumers, mechanical engineers and marketers. These three stakeholders hold the key to the design’s success.
Automotive designers must have a clear understanding of the target market. The consumers (drivers and passengers) are purchasing more than a machine for functionality, but an experience. The style needs to align with the character and core values of the targeted market. The maker’s business strategy is incorporated in the concepts, whether that’s leveraging existing platforms, transitioning design to fit a hybrid or EV motor, or making sure that the design is a real-world illustration of the maker’s brand. Leveraging existing designs, the concept car helps designers mature existing models based on evolving consumer expectations and desires.
By taking a concept to the public, automakers open the door to first-hand opinions of consumers and can capitalize on the feedback by incorporating it into the following design phases. The conceptualization phase inspires consumers through emotion with sensual curves, front-end personality and an imaginary driving/riding experience.
Consider Hyundai, transitioning from a low-end, economical, plain style and brand to reinventing themselves, showing at Pebble Beach and establishing a new foundation of customers looking for a modern, practical, yet luxurious ride. What changed? The designer.
The fact that design is at the front-end of the automotive manufacturing process is manifest in a style-centric industry as compared to an end-product in need of functionality with minimal design elements. A large bakery wouldn’t be apt to identifying with a stylish oven, they are more focused on how well the bread bakes. A furniture store wants to have a diversified portfolio of products that can change the mood of a furnished space. Style is once again, everything. What makes furniture different from automotive? Well, furniture has a limited number of moving parts, mechanics, and functionalities. While a car’s style affects its performance with aerodynamics, ergonomics and weight distribution.
Once the style of the auto is realized, the mechanics come into play. This is also influential of the product’s design. When the mechanical engineers are looking at space allowances, material recommendations, and airflow patterns, adjustments need to be made to the design to accommodate the requirements for optimal performance. Collaboration between designers and engineers is the key to a successful final product.
The skillset required to create a concept, incorporate design and performance-enhancing recommendations effectively include: engineering, style, organization and communication. Not only are automotive designers visionaries from the start, but they are leaders in the world of automotive manufacturing.
Spy cars hit the streets to get some real-world data and experience without the premature release of the product to the public.
Creating a product with conceptualization, simulation and production is nothing short of complicated and expensive, but the steps identified in the automotive world provide a template for success in all industries. Automotive continues to raise the bar by shortening the time-to-market, enabling consumers to customize materials and options, and creating autos that positively impact the lives of their end-users.