Automobile Design is the very pinnacle of design – all other design forms are a substrate. Chris Bangle, arguably one of the most influential auto designers of his generation, says, ‘Great cars are art.’
‘I think that cars today are almost the exact equivalent of the great gothic cathedrals; I mean the supreme creation of an era conceived with passion by unknown artists and consumed in image, if not in usage, by a whole population which appropriates them as a purely magical object’ Roland Barthes, Mythologies, 1957
Automobiles are an embodiment of art, entertainment and sculpture, which, coincidentally also happen to provide transportation. The design of an automobile is essential and is often decisive for its success. In addition to technical qualities, design triggers the impulse to buy.
The automobile has, more than anything else has become a product with highly emotional properties and a significant impact on society. Worldwide, automobiles are the second largest purchase after a house.
Automobile design evolved in the frontier between art, market and science, and progressively became an aesthetic reference. Aspects such as aesthetic appeal, emotional response, brand impression and expression are heavily influenced by product appearance, and thus of main concern for automobile manufacturers today. Aesthetic and identity related factors such as exterior styling, interior styling, trends and ‘makes me feel attractive’ are among the ten most important purchasing criteria across the world.
J D Powers says that the Design weight age factor of an automobile in most segments is higher than the related factors of reliability and performance. That is the importance of design in the market success of a vehicle.
Since direct sense perception acts strongly on the world of feelings, styling assumes a key function in the development of an automobile; styling often determines individual acceptance or rejection of a given product even before technical features are evaluated.
Automobile design implies taking into account of several elements: function of the car, market, production, distribution, promotion, price reduction, and increase in safety, ergonomics and environmental concerns. Automobile designers work in multi-disciplinary teams to define interior and exterior forms, materials, textures, surfacing and colors applied in the shaping of an automobile
As an automobile designer:
You decide New Styles and New Patterns that make Lifestyle statements.
The average life of a car design is 6 years. At any given time there are about 5000 different cars being designed globally. Each designed car would have gone through at least five to ten design variations. A car design lifecycle is about 5 years. That’s 50,000 designs that are churned out every five to six years.
The demand for designers in India is rising as the automobile industry in India grows at a frenetic pace and Indian consumers demand more. Designers will find a place in R&D departments of large manufacturing companies, or in specialized design consultancies, or could work as freelance designers, and most exciting of all, drive start-ups.
While the need of engineering and managerial manpower is being met by IITs and IIMs, there are no dedicated institutes for automobile design and research. The DYPDC Center for Automobile Research and Studies is one such place, which is dedicated to the purpose of Automobile Design and Research.