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My thoughts on design, is anyone interested?

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Devin

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My thoughts on design, is anyone interested?

PostTue Mar 26, 2013 12:37 pm

Alright, so I've been kicking around writing a bit about design, and now I'm just curious if anyone would actually want to read it. I've got a few ideas kicking around already, concerning both new and old stuff (as well tracing a line from old stuff to new stuff) but it's going to be a hell of a lot of work if nobody is interested, so I figured I'd throw out the question. I figured I'd throw it out after I felt the sudden urge to over-analyze the leaked photos of the new CTS.

I'd also need some kind of source for images, if anybody's got ideas (though some would just come from myself). If there's an interest I could probably just post a list of stuff I'm interested in talking about here in the hopes someone could find them.

I don't have any practical experience in design, but I did win a minor local art award once and I do regularly read Robert Cumberford's column in Automobile. :D
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drshimmies

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Re: My thoughts on design, is anyone interested?

PostTue Mar 26, 2013 8:18 pm

Very cool! I love over-anylizing design and would definitely read this. If my last thread shows anything though, it's that I'm rubbish at finding copyright-free images.
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desolit

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Re: My thoughts on design, is anyone interested?

PostTue Apr 02, 2013 7:13 am

i always welcome a good conversation about design and will try not to bore people with my long winded opinions.
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mdharrell

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Re: My thoughts on design, is anyone interested?

PostTue Apr 02, 2013 10:48 am

Robert Cumberford? I must question his use of rugous for asperous:

http://www.automobilemag.com/features/by_design/0911_1980_kv_mini_1_design_analysis/viewall.html
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Devin

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Re: My thoughts on design, is anyone interested?

PostWed Apr 03, 2013 1:32 pm

So, here's my first attempt. If you want to see more mention it. I did it on something ugly. Since it's just on the board, I'll just use a grab bag of Google Image Search stuff.

The Dodge Avenger.

It's always interesting when a manufacturer knows they have a problem. Dodge, for example, knows that there are some serious issues with the look of the Avenger. There's a good reason for this, it has some real problems, especially in the middle section. So, Dodge has resorted to trying to hide that, and does not have a single clear shot of the car's profile on their website. Every image they have is positioned to hide the most problematic angle for the car, resulting in a lot of images of the vehicle driving angrily towards or away from the camera. You can get a vague idea of what it looks like, but it's not quite clear.

So what's the problem? What are they trying to hide?

Well to understand that you have to understand the problem Dodge's designers were facing when designing the vehicle. The Avenger was based on Chrysler Sebring. That alone is a challenge, but they also wanted it to look like the actually somewhat successful Dodge Charger. It should have been obvious that it would be a challenge to make this:

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Look like this:

Image

The problem should have been obvious from the start. The Charger's most prominent styling cues rely on its size to work, and wouldn't translate to the stubby Sebring. So in order to try to capture big brother's magic, we got this:

Image

They actually didn't completely fail. The Dodge styling handbook of the time was mostly shapes rendered with the grace and lightness of touch of an angry chainsaw, and it did follow the brand's quasi-industrial look quite well. There are problems, the inner headlight looks like a mistake, since it's cut off by the inner edge of the frame, but it has a rough aggression that stands apart from its contemporaries, which were mostly pretty inoffensive. It's not a car with even a suggestion of grace to it, but at least it has a visual identity. It's all big crude blocks. You could probably make your own Avenger out of Lego and still have it recognizable.

But then they got to the middle, the part which they couldn't throw out and was also the most problematic from a design perspective. It gets a bit more obvious when you look at it from another angle.

Image

There are a few different issues here. One, the roofline itself might be somewhat practical from a headroom perspective, but it's shaped in a manner that makes the car look overly tall. It's not helped by the door frames, which are far too thick in general and in an awkward, very upright shape. It's practical, but it's hardly dynamic and serves to emphasize the problem - the Sebring and Avenger are both cars that are tall, narrow, and not very long. That's a problem when you're trying to recall a car that's long, low and wide.

The solution was to attempt trickery, but that just made things worse. Part one, the shoulder line, was probably the more successful of the ideas they had. It visually separates the upper and lower body, and gives the stubby little trunk a distinct identity that goes into the rear doors. It visually lengthens the car, something it needs badly. Unfortunately, it doesn't work, because someone made a mess of the window above it.

It was an attempt to replicate the rising window line of the big brother, but without the space to do it. So while the line below gives a much-needed horizontal base for the rear area, the window subverts it by having the bottom line upward, continuing off the downward turn of the shoulder, and that draws the eye up. That serves to emphasize the height of the car, which is the opposite of what you want when you've got a body this stubby. It leads into a little black plastic panel, which looks cheap, and also serves to give the car an absurdly thick C-pillar area. Plus, it points an arrow to the door cutline, which is similarly way too thick and always looked like they were forced to use the door of another, unrelated car.

In trying to make a car look like a much bigger model, they accidentally emphasized all of the proportional flaws of the body they were dealing with. It looks like what it is, an attempt to graft some styling cues on a model that was never meant to bear them. Worse still, the attempt made for a car that's also less practical and much more difficult to see out of.

The Avenger was doomed from the outset, but it is an example of why designers have to be careful how they tie in different model lines. It's easy for a styling cue to go wrong when placed on the wrong body.
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desolit

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Re: My thoughts on design, is anyone interested?

PostThu Apr 11, 2013 8:08 am

You didn't really leave much room for discussion.

The number one thing i learned in design school was - if engineering dictated a design element that didn't match the aesthetics of the product, feature the element or echo it throughout the design. In light of that, I believe the reason for your disgust in the door edge in the C-pillar is because the rest of the design is very hard-edged and angular. Visually, there is no other radius on the product which makes the radiused-corner of the door jump out of the profile like a sugared-up toddler on a five hour flight. That same corner is not as pronounced on the Sebring/200 because it is echoed elseware in the design.
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Rust_MyEnemy

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Re: My thoughts on design, is anyone interested?

PostSat Apr 13, 2013 9:23 am

This topic is relevant to my interests. I'm really sorry if I now go off on a long, rambling psychological odyssee of no value to anybody but myself....

As may have possibly leaked out in my posts I studied vehicle design for four years at Coventry. I loved every second of the course; 2000-2004 was quite an exciting time in automotive design and there was always something new happenning, the first stages of Bangleism, the Le Quement era Renault creations; the gradual conclusion of Fords' "Edge" design, etc. etc. etc.

I propose the following as a statement and await further discussion/ correction:

"....Car stylists today are hamstrung more than ever before by having to work with a shape and form that cannot be allowed to differ by much between similar vehicles. They are left with only being able create indivduality and personality through the manipulation of details and accessories."

They can also, and often do, shoot themselves in the foot by creating a corporate image.

Image

Take the current Fiesta. It's a great looking car, IMO, they've made as much use of the metalwork as they could and its a well judged little car, although side on is definitely not its best angle. Now, let's look at the KA. When Ford replaced the aging (but still much loved) KA they could have evolved that cars' styling to suit the requirements of todays safety / ergonomic / mechanical package, but instead they opted to style the car after the Fiesta.

Image

For me, cramming all the features of the Fiesta into the scale of a KA just condenses things much too far. Much better just styling the KA as an individual machine rather than forcing a corporate look onto it.

Image

Things can be taken too far, of course.

I had a bit of a moan about the Lancia Ypsilon, which has some wonderful detailing, but unfortunately those features don't really have enough space to breathe. Also; why lose the door handles for the second row doors? There's no way anybody is ever going to be fooled that this is a two-door, so why not be honest about things?

Image

If you look at the Delta, though, things have gone a little too far in the opposite direction. Hooray for the presence of rear door handles, but the styling that Lancia was aiming for would probably have worked best if the car were somehere between the Ypsilon and the Delta in terms of size.

It's a great shame that evolution has done what it has; it's even more of a shame that fashion is only a part of things. It's rare these days to find a car with anything less than 16" wheels, for example; necessitating massive wheelarch openings and consequently high beltlines and bonnet lines. At the beginning the quest for ever bigger wheels may have been a fashion thing, but with the growth of the weight of cars for all the de rigeur safety gubbins and "essential" equipment, and for the greater power and performance that everybody craves, bigger brakes are necessary.

Ironically, the extra rolling friction of these huge tyres brings economy penalties, so other measures have to be taken for this to be offset; the first thing being usually a reduction in weight. Which you can't do because of the safety gear and equipment, so instead you increase power so the car doesn't have to work so hard; but if you increase power you need bigger brakes; and more power makes for heavier engine.... oh the frustration.

But, mostly, the annoying thing for me is that far more attention is paid to the details of a car than the elegance of the shape and form itself. Really, anyone cn take an amorphous shape and jazz it up with ever brighter and more creative LED treatments, more and more aggressive and visually arresting grilles and front air-dam treatments, and ever more convaluted pressed-steel bodywork slashes.

Take any of the current Mercedes models; virtually everything that dictates the personality of their current range has been achieved by ironing creases and swages and swoops and hollows into the bodywork panelling. Strip away all the gouges and there's very little of interest left behind. By that token, though, look at a W126 SEC or a W124 Coupe. The spirit of the car here was dictated by their profiles, their proportions. The styling was honest; not "painted on". The surface manipulations of today are merely the equivalent of the stuck-on graphics of yesterday. And bear in mind the SEC managed to look that good on mere 15" wheels.

I had written a long speil here about how I hate bodykits, but I went off on a ridiculous tangent and ended up writing billions of paragraphs of personal opinion that nobody will ever read, far less agree...

Thanks for starting a great thread!
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peugeotdude505

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Re: My thoughts on design, is anyone interested?

PostWed Apr 24, 2013 11:04 am

Ooh, do my car!

Image

"We wanted to make a really cool looking car , but we ran out of money"
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peugeotdude505

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Re: My thoughts on design, is anyone interested?

PostWed Apr 24, 2013 11:05 am

this is the best angle

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pj134

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Re: My thoughts on design, is anyone interested?

PostWed Apr 24, 2013 11:12 am

It's weird that you posted pictures of an empty parking lot twice. Same sort of thing happens when I try to take a picture of my Sonata.
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desolit

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Re: My thoughts on design, is anyone interested?

PostWed Apr 24, 2013 11:51 am

Like the Malibu commercial when the guy walks straight into the previous model? Fantastic advertising.
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Devin

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Re: My thoughts on design, is anyone interested?

PostWed Apr 24, 2013 5:24 pm

The Galant would be really hard, because there's not much there. It doesn't actually have features, it's just long swaths of blank surfaces and simple shapes. It looks kinda like a GTA sedan, actually.
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