automotive design - the design process

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16 Νοε 2013 (πριν από 4 χρόνια και 7 μήνες)

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utomotive design


the design process

jakub havlík 3.A

Selce 25_05_09







the definition


esign elements


.1 e
xterior design (styling)


.2 i
nterior design (styling)


.3 c
olor and trim design


.4 g
raphic design


.5 h
istory of automobile design in the US


he standard car proportions

n overview of


design process




There are certainly more reasons why I

have decided to work on a

ct from
design area. The three main ones: I

am an absolute car design enthusiast, It is my dreamjob
since I

was ten, and I

also wan
ted to improve my vocabulary from

this area.

What is car design? A

package? Just a

matter of fashion? A

trick just to attract
customers? Whatever you say

will be true,

except for being just fashionate,



something functional about it too.

In general, from the moment any of the products reached a

high level of reliability and
started to satisfy t
heir customers‘ needs well enough, the customers (
the market
) were
ng for something more than just

a good working product

. The answer to this
requirement was “the new form“, and since the mid fifties till now on


italian/french o

dessin/disegno meaning drawing)

Automotive industry

invests millions into the desi
gns of their new products, establish new
centers even
on the

side of
globe, and almost every year, on the
international motor shows, they introd
uce new concept cars, which will never get into the
series production. WHAT is the point of all this?!

A modern capitalistic proverb says: “package sells”
International statistics claim
, that up to
90 percent of customers choose their new car not by the way it works, but by the way it
looks! This means DESIGN is one of the most essential factors to make
car successful
in a
market, even though its contribution to the function is minimal

ept for the ergonomics).
This was

the answer for the question
in previous paragraph

and all the previous lines


started to make sense
….A little paradox, wouldn’t you say?


In this project, I would like to introduce


to the design proce


step by step

from the
very first sketches to the final production model.

utomotive design

the definition

Automotive design

is the profession involved in the development of the appearance, and to
some extent the
, of motor vehicles or more specifically road vehicles. This most
commonly refers to

but also refers to
, and
. The functional design and development of a modern motor vehicle is typically done by
a large team from many different disciplines included in
automotive engineers
. Automotive
design in this context is primarily concerned with developing the visual appearance or
aesthetics of the vehicle, though it is also involved i
n the creation of the product concept.
Automotive design is practiced by designers who usually have an art background and a
degree in
industrial design

or transportation de

esign elements

The task of the design team is usually split into three main aspects: exterior design, interior
design, and color and

Graphic design

is also an aspect of automotive design; this
is generally shared amongst the design team as the lead designer sees fit. Design focuses not
only on the isolated outer shape of automobile pa
rts, but concentrates on the combination
of form and function, starting from the vehicle package.

The aesthetic value will need to correspond to ergonomic functionality and utility features as
well. In particular, vehicular electronic components and parts
will give more challenges to
automotive designers who are required to update on the latest information and knowledge
associated with emerging vehicular gadgetry, particularly
top mobile

devices, like GPS
satellite radio
HD radio
, mobile TV, MP3 players, video playback an
smartphone interfaces. Though not all the new vehicular gadgets are to be designated as
factory standard items, but some of them may be integral to determining the future course
of any specific vehicular models.

3.1 e
xterior design (styling)

The stylist
responsible for the design of the exterior of the vehicle develops the proportions,
shape, and surfaces of the vehicle. Exterior design is first done by a series of digital or
manual drawings. Progressively more detailed drawings are executed and approved.

(industrial plasticine)

and or digital models are developed from, and along with the drawings.
The data from these models are then used to c
reate a full sized mock
up of the final design
body in white
). With 3 and 5 axis CNC Milling Machines, the
clay model

is first designed in a
computer program and then "carved" using the machine and large amounts of clay. Even in
times of high
class 3d software and virtual models on powerwalls the clay model is still the
most important tool to evaluate the d
esign of a car and therefore used throughout the

3.2 i
nterior design (styling)

The stylist responsible for the design of the vehicle interior develops the proportions, shape,
placement, and surfaces for the instrument panel, seats, door trim pa
nels, headliner, pillar
trims, etc. Here the emphasis is on ergonomics and the comfort of the passengers. The
procedure here is the same as with exterior design (sketch, digital model and clay model).

3.3 c
olor and trim design

The color and

(or color and materials) designer is responsible for the research, design,
and development of all interior and exterior colors and materials used on a vehicle. These

, grains,
, headliner, wood trim, and so
, contrast,
, and pattern must be carefully combined to give the vehicle a
unique interior environment experience. Designers work closely with the exterior and
interior designers.

Designers draw inspiration from othe
r design disciplines such as: industrial design,
home furnishing, and
. Specific research is done

into global trends to design for
projects two to three
model years

in the future. Trend boards are created from this research
in order to keep track of design influences as they relate
to the automotive industry. The
designer then uses this information to develop themes and concepts which are then further
refined and tested on the vehicle models.

3.4 g
raphic design

The design team also develop graphics for items such as: badges, decals,
dials, switches, kick
or tread strips, liveries.

3.5 h
istory of automobile design in the US

In the USA, automotive design reached a turning point in 1924 when the American national
automobile market began reaching saturation. To maintain unit sales,
General Motors

Alfred P. Sloan Jr.

devised annual model
year design changes

to convince car owners that
they needed to buy a new replacement each year. Critics called his strategy
. Sloan preferred the term "dynamic obsol
escence". This strategy had far
reaching effects on the auto business, the field of product design, and eventually the
American economy. The smaller players could not maintain the pace and expense of yearly
Henry Ford

did not like the model
year change because he clung to an engineer's
notions of simplicity, economics of scale, and design integrity. GM surpassed Ford's sales in
1931 and became the dominant player in the indust
ry thereafter. The frequent design
changes also made it necessary to use a

rather than the lighter, but less

design used by most European car makers.

Another turning point came in 1935, when automotive engineers abruptly dropped

research after discove
ring, among other problems, aerodynamics would tend
to produce one single optimal exterior shape. This would be bad for unit sales,
citation needed

and for

GM it would obviously work against their new strategy of market differentiation.
Style and engineering went their separate ways, and all body shapes underwent cosmetic
changes every year, whether or not the underlying automobile had changed.

Since 1935 au
tomotive form has been driven more by consumer expectations than by
engineering improvement.
Form still follows function, but the primary function of the car
was to get itself sold.

The most famous American auto stylist is probably
Harley Earl
, who brought the

other aeronautical design references to auto design in the 1950s. He is joined among
legendary designer
s by
Gordon Buehrig
, responsible for the

851 and iconic



(hence also the

Skylark and the


4. the standard
car proportions

When we start drawing cars, the first time
we do it is because we like them. Maybe we
have been looking at a car that we like for
hours, and then we think “I want to do
something like this”. Even wh
en we do not
want, the first draw of our own car has
something of that car. Most of the times, it
has the gestures or graphics over which our
attention falls. But there are a lot of hidden things that escape from our sight.

If we ask people the reason beca
use they like that or that other car, they will not give a
convincing answer. They like it, but many times they do not know why. And a big number of
cars are still sold around the world because of their look.

One of the most important things is the harmoni
ous proportions of the architecture. As
Leonardo da Vinci did with the human body, and his Vitruvian Man, a great number of
studious men have done the same thing with the right proportions of the vehicles.

Talking about cars, the harmony of lines and volum
es must pass unnoticed. Only when one
of the rules of the proportions is broken we can view there is something wrong. Obviously
the idea of the perfect proportions changes with the years, as happens for instance with the
human beauty, because it has a soci
al and cultural face which evolves.

It is important too to clarify that in design (as in almost everything) there is nothing absolute.
You can find on the streets some cars that do not totally match with the rules we are going
to expose. But, of course, if

you break a rule, you must know you are doing it. You can decide
not to follow some of them, so you know you must work to equilibrate the result.

Sometimes the technical features of the vehicle condition the result. Is not the same, for
instance, to have
the engine in the front that in the rear; to have transverse or longitudinal
engine… Designers must, in many cases, to work for disguising ugly but technically needed
elements or their disposition.

Since you can find so many types of different bodies, we c
ould make a different analysis for
each one of them, and perhaps we will do it in a near future. But, for now, we will take the
most representative of them: the four doors saloon.

We can start from the analysis of the today’s
considered harmonious proport
ions to know and
understand its future changes. Let’s take a look
over one of the best
proportioned cars of the

The lines of the Mercedes E
Class are the lines of a classic three volumes saloon. In other
words, it is designed avoiding the radical a
esthetic innovations and the showiness. So, if we
do not see anything strange in its lines or volumes, that can be useful to make a study of its

1st rule:

When we start a new project or car drawing, the first reference point we take are

wheels. Once the wheels are positioned, we can construct line by line the rest of the car.
Often you will see drawings of
professional designers which have
really big wheels and they look great.
But we must know that the distance
between the wheels in the

same side
of a car is about three times the
diameter of one of them. In our
example is around three and a half

Is true that big wheels give a better look to any car, but the wheelbase as well as the wheel
size, are very important for the car dynami
cs and for the interior space. An evidence of that
is the size of our car's wheels: even if we cab yse up to 21” or 22” rims, the street cars rarely
cross the barrier of 19” (and only if it is a really big car or a super sport coupe!!). The
resource used b
y designers to make the street vehicles look like show cars, is to accentuate
the wheel arches.

You can draw a car with bigger wheels than real ones, and so it will have the necessary
drama to make it look faster and more powerful; however you must not pla
ce them too
nearly, because it will look like a toy and later making that car in a 3D model you will be
forced to use real size for the wheels. In that case you will loose the drama of the car that
you just imagined.

The wheelbase must have an adequate

length too. Think that the
wheelbase length is one of the parameters which have more influence over the chassis
rigidity. The longer wheelbase, the more weight needed to reinforce the structure. (And the
more money in materials and the more power needed t
o move the car).

2nd rule:

The position and the
orientation of the A pillar are
important. If we draw an extend from
the base of the A pillar it will end near
the centre of the front wheel:

This rule can be differently applied for the front than for the

rear wheel drive cars for
technical reasons.

The FWD cars, usually, have transversally placed engines (unless they
are ready to mount a 4WD system, as for instance Audi). The front wheels must be placed
behind the engine, because of the transmission pl
aced itself behind the engine. You can see
this detail in new cars as the Peugeot 407, which has the wheels so close to the front door
than the opening line is pulled back. Their designers have done a very good work disguising
that detail, but, if you take

a look, you will see that is a big part of the car hanging beyond
the front wheel.

The RWD cars usually have their engines placed longitudinally and the
wheels are placed near the corners.

3rd rule:

If we draw a vertical line from
the lower point of
the C pillar, this line
has to go straight to the center of the
rear wheel. As we have seen before, we
may see some differences between FWD
y RWD cars:

The car in the image is RWD. As explained in the previous rule, that kind of cars has the front
wheels c
loser to the corners than the FWD. In other words, the entire cockpit is pulled back
to make place for the longitudinally placed engine. So, the C pillar, which marks the rear end
of the cockpit, begins over the axis of the rear wheels.

In the FWD the co
ckpit is moved a
little bit forward, in relation with the RWD car, so the C pillar usually is centred in its base
over the rear wheel axle.

4th rule:

If we draw a line connecting the
centres of both wheels of a side, the
bottom opening line of the doors
match with it:

No much more to say about it.

5th rule:

Usually there is a line defining
the height position of the front lamps and
bumper. That line starts from the top of
the front wheel:

That line can be now found in a lower
position than a few
years ago. You can see some concept cars which have the front lights
even lower than street cars (for instance, the Lexus LF
C Concept). That is not only because
the show car wheels are bigger, but because the designers explore the more aggressive look
the car with the front lamps in different positions. You can also find extreme cases like the
Royce Phantom VII, that had their lights so high that it was necessary to add a couple
more (the round ones) in a lower position leaving the originals in or
der to keep its aesthetic

6th rule

One of the most important
aspect of the car is given by the
proportions between the glass and the
body. That most used is up to 1/3 of the
total car’s height for the glass:

Keeping in mind this proportion
, let’s take
a look at what happen if we alter the glass surface. Less than 1/3 means a sportier and more
aggresive looking. But we have to know that the access in the car is harder, and once inside,
the passengers can experiment claustrophobic sensation,
especially those from the rear
seat. Think, for instance, at the differences between our example car, the Mercedes E Class,
and the CLS: the latter one is so more sporty because of these proportions and the potential
buyers for one or the other are so diff
erent that there are two shapes for the same car.

we change the proportions by increasing the glass surface, we will obtain more cab
cars. The more surface you give to glasses, the more increases the practical aspect of the car.
If you want to
do so, think always about the way on which the window opens, because if the
glass is bigger than the space available in the door you must know that they can not be fully

7th rule:

At last, the total height of the
body should be about two and 1/4

and 1/2 times the height of a single

It is important to remark that all those rules are so universally accepted than they have
become themselves a standard in the automotive industry; new cars must agree with
them to fit the platform on which t
hey are going to be assembled.

An Overview of the Design Process


Design is the process by which the needs of the customer or the marketplace are
transformed into a product satisfying these needs. It is usually carried out a designer or
engineer b
ut requires help from other people in the company.

Design essentially is an exercise in problem solving. Typically, the design of a new product
consists of the following stages:

The development of a new product may also require the development of a pro
totype to
prove that new technologies work before committing resources to full
scale manufacture.

The traditional view of the design to manufacture process is that it is a sequential process,
the outcome of one stage is passed on to the next stage. This t
ends to lead to iteration in the
design. I.e. having to go back to an earlier stage to correct mistakes. This can make products
more expensive and delivered to the marketplace late. A better approach is for the designer
to consider the stages following des
ign to try and eliminate any potential problems. This
means that the designer requires help from the other experts in the company for example
the manufacturing expert to help ensure that any designs the designer comes up with can be

So what factors
might a designer have to consider in order to eliminate iteration?



Can the product be made with our facilities?



Are we producing a product that the customer wants?



Are the parts specified in stock, or do why have to orde
r them?


Is the design going to cost too much to make?



Is the product the right size for the method of transporting?


How will the product be disposed at the end of its life?

Design Brief

The design brief is typically a statemen
t of intent. I.e. "We will design and make a Formula
One racing car". Although it states the problem, it isn't enough information with which to
start designing.

Product Design Specification (PDS)

This is possibly the most important stage of the design pro
cess and yet one of the least
understood stage. It is important that before you produce a 'solution' there is a true
understanding of the actual problem. The PDS is a document listing the problem in detail. It
is important to work with the customer and ana
lyse the marketplace to produce a list of
requirements necessary to produce a successful product. The designer should constantly
refer back to this document to ensure designs are appropriate.

To produce the PDS it is likely that you will have to research
the problem and analyse
competing products and all important points and discoveries should be included in your PDS.

Concept Design

Using the PDS as the basis, the designer attempts to produce an outline of a solution. A
conceptual design is a usually an o
utline of key components and their arrangement with the
details of the design left for a later stage. For example, a concept design for a car might
consist of a sketch showing a car with four wheels and the engine mounted at the front of
the car. The exact

details of the components such as the diameter of the wheels or the size
of the engine are determined at the detail design stage. However, the degree of detail
generated at the conceptual design stage will vary depending on the product being


is important when designing a product that you not only consider the product design
specification but you also consider the activities downstream of the design stage.
Downstream activities typically are manufacture, sales, transportation etc. By consideri
these stages early, you can eliminate problems that may occur at these stages.

This stage of the design involves drawing up a number of different viable concept designs
which satisfy the requirements of the product outlined in the PDS and then evaluati
ng them
to decide on the most suitable to develop further. Hence, concept design can be seen as a
stage process of concept generation and concept evaluation

Concept generation

Typically, designers capture their ideas by sketching them on paper.

ation helps
identify key points so that their ideas can be communicated with other members of the

There are a number of techniques available to the designer to aid the development of new
concepts. One of the most popular is brainstorming.

This t
echnique involves generating ideas, typically in small groups, by saying any idea that
comes into your head no matter how silly it may seem. This usually sparks ideas from other
team members. By the end of a brainstorming session there will be a list of id
eas, most
useless, but some may have the potential to be developed into a concept. Brainstorming
works better if the members of the team have different areas of expertise.

Concept evaluation

Once a suitable number of concepts have been generated, it is ne
cessary to choose the
design most suitable for to fulfil the requirements set out in the PDS. The product design
specification should be used as the basis of any decision being made. Ideally a multifunction
design team should perform this task so that each

concept can be evaluated from a number
of angles or perspectives. The chosen concept will be developed in detail.

One useful technique for evaluating concepts to decide on which one is the best is to use a
technique called 'matrix evaluation'

With matri
x evaluation a table is produced listing important the features required from a

usually this list is drawn up from the important features described in the product
design specification. The products are listed across the table. The first concept i
s the
benchmark concept. The quality of the other concepts are compared against the benchmark
concept for the required features, to help identify if the concept is better, worse than, or is
the same as the benchmark concept. The design with the most 'bette
r than' is likely to be
the best concept to develop further.

Most people who use the matrix technique will assign points, rather than simple, better,
worse, same, so that it is easier to identify which concepts are the best. It is also likely that
some fe
atures of the design will be more important than others so a weighting is used.

Detail design

In this stage of the design process, the chosen concept design is designed in detailed with all
the dimensions and specifications necessary to make the design sp
ecified on a detailed
drawing of the design.

It may be necessary to produce prototypes to test ideas at this stage. The designer should
also work closely with manufacture to ensure that the product can be made.


During the process of
creating this project, I

have learned some new technical vocabulary,
found out, what happens before we see a

car in an exhibition, and realised, that design isn’t
only about sketching our dreamcars.


would say, that this project has matched my expectations pretty much. I

lost some illusions,
busted some of the myths I

was holding in my head since I

was a

, set some new future
challenges for on.





Z lexikon of modern design