TREND | Design Chiefs talk 2016 and beyond

Automotive News has been chatting alot about design lately. They recently spoke to several design chiefs at many different studios about what they see happening in design from 2016 and beyond.

Of course written for a non-designer audience, at first read it seems superficial- i.e. “designs will be less extreme but more sculpted” seems like a contradiction. But reading between the lines you can definitely see a common quest for both new approaches to surface development and technical details.

Mercedes’ Gorden Wagener, Mazda’s Derek Jenkins, and BMW’s Karim Habib all talk about new approaches to “break up” the bodyside. It appears in their minds the defined vehicle shoulder is passe, and that exploration into bodyside development could result in cues that as are identifiable as brand signatures as front end graphics have become ( or are trying to become. ) I remember retired GM chief Bill Porter once describing in a lecture how the Corvair started the waterline around the car, which of course defined car design through the late 60s and more so in the 70s, and in my opinion, led to the orthographic 80s. The defined shoulder line as a common approach to bodysides appears to be viewed as new frontier.

Photo credit:

Speaking of front ends, there seems to be a common agreement that while they’ll lose none of the expression as the face, especially the grille as brand DNA, exaggerating the headlamps may become less favorable. Technological ( and hopefully financial ) advances in smaller lighting components may enable us designers more freedom in size, location and composition.

Packages have increased significantly even over my career, mostly due to safety and crash regulations on roof height, pedestrian protection, and the 102 airbags. While this has led to safer cars, the exteriors have grown larger, and perhaps even more important in today’s economy, they’ve grown heavier. The subheading “It’s all about aerodynamics” of course isn’t accurate, but there seems to be an agreement that aerodynamics, or experimenting with less frontal area, longer quarters or tails, and locations of crease lines may be used as tool for surface development, as opposed to items we try to hide for the sake of interfering with the theme. GM’s Welburn discusses the approach at Cadillac and Habib discusses experimenting with creases on the rear end at BMW, while Kia’s Tom Kearns says everything is on the table, including lightweight materials and smaller wheels.

Photo credit: Cadillac

So while its a little superficial in its presentation, the article is definitely an insight as to how leaders of different studios are mentally approaching “what’s next”. Definitely worth the read. Link here.

1 Comment

  1. Classical Style says:

    I most certainly hope that the designer stay tuned to the popular heritage of there companies traditions.When a car looses its signiture and traditions it looses its soul.The grilles of Mercedes,BMW,and Rolls do not or should not change.Evolved,but not removed,The return of Audi’s bold AutoUnion,or Horch boldness really made them popular.Cadillac must be cutting edge,power,elegant and wahts next.It must lead with its heritage,and not blend with the trends.Those rear fenders should be pronounced,and fin like.The lights bold,or even slipstream globes.Do that and they will fly literrally out of the show rooms.When designers of al the brands uses the greeatness of the legands in there lines as starting pints the vehicles are desired.Try to reinvent yourself and you become Oldsmobile.

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