Automotive design - The design process

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Autor: Chlapec studak
Typ práce: Referát
Dátum: 07.02.2014
Jazyk: Angličtina
Rozsah: 4 115 slov
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Automotive design - The design process
 
1. Intro:
There are certainly more reasons why I have decided to work on a project from automotive design area. The three main ones: I am an absolute car design enthusiast, It is my dreamjob since I was ten, and I also wanted to improve my vocabulary from this area. What is car design? A package? Just a matter of fashion? A marketing trick  just to attract customers?  Whatever you say will be true, but except for being just fashionate, there is something functional about it too. In general, from the moment any of the products reached a high level of reliability and started to satisfy their customers‘ needs well enough, the customers (or the market) were asking 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 – the DESIGN (from italian/french origin – dessin/disegno meaning drawing). Automotive industry invests millions into the designs of their new products, establish new design research centers even on the side of the globe, and almost every year, on the international motor shows, they introduce 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 a car successful in a market, even though its contribution to the function is minimal (except for the ergonomics). This was the answer for the question in previous paragraph, and all the previous lines suddenly started to make sense….A little paradox, wouldn’t you say?

Aim:
In this project, I would like to introduce you to the design process - step by step - from the very first sketches to the final production model.
 
2.automotive design – the definition
Automotive design is the profession involved in the development of the appearance, and to some extent the ergonomics, of motor vehicles or more specifically road vehicles. This most commonly refers to automobiles but also refers to motorcycles, trucks, buses, coaches, and vans. 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 in 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 design.

3.design elements
The task of the design team is usually split into three main aspects: exterior design, interior design, and color and trim design. 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 parts, 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 dashtop mobile devices, like GPS navigation, satellite radio, HD radio, mobile TV, MP3 players, video playback and 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 exterior 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. Clay (industrial plasticine) and or digital models are developed from, and along with the drawings. The data from these models are then used to create 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 design of a car and therefore used throughout the industry.
 
3.2 interior 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 panels, 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 color and trim design
The color and trim (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 include paints, plastics, fabric designs, leather, grains, carpet, headliner, wood trim, and so on. Color, contrast, texture, 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 other design disciplines such as: industrial design, fashion, home furnishing, and architecture. 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 graphic design

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

3.5 history 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 head 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 planned obsolescence. Sloan preferred the term "dynamic obsolescence". 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 re-styling. 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 industry thereafter. The frequent design changes also made it necessary to use a body-on-frame rather than the lighter, but less flexible monocoque design used by most European car makers.
Another turning point came in 1935, when automotive engineers abruptly dropped aerodynamic research after discovering, 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 automotive 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 tailfin and other aeronautical design references to auto design in the 1950s. He is joined among legendary designers by Gordon Buehrig, responsible for the Auburn 851 and iconic Cord 810 and 812 (hence also the Hupmobile Skylark and the Graham Hollywood).

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 when 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 because 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 harmonious 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 volumes 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 social 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 could 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 proportions to know and understand its future changes. Let’s take a look over one of the best-proportioned cars of the market:
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 aesthetic 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 proportions.
 
1st rule: When we start a new project or car drawing, the first reference point we take are the 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 times:

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 dynamics 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 by 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 place 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 to 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 placed 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 closer 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 cockpit 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 should 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 of the car with the front lamps in different positions. You can also find extreme cases like the Rolls-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 order to keep its aesthetic equilibrium.
 
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 different that there are two shapes for the same car.  If we change the proportions by increasing the glass surface, we will obtain more cab-looking 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 opened.
 
7th rule: At last, the total height of the body should be about two and 1/4 - two and 1/2 times the height of a single wheel:
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 they are going to be assembled.
5. An Overview of the Design Process
Design
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 but 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 prototype 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 tends 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 design 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 made.
So what factors might a designer have to consider in order to eliminate iteration?

- Manufacture - Can the product be made with our facilities?
- Sales - Are we producing a product that the customer wants?
- Purchasing - Are the parts specified in stock, or do why have to order them?
- Cost - Is the design going to cost too much to make?
- Transport - Is the product the right size for the method of transporting?
- Disposal - How will the product be disposed at the end of its life?

Design Brief
The design brief is typically a statement 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 process 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 analyse 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 outline 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 designed. It 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 considering 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 evaluating them to decide on the most suitable to develop further. Hence, concept design can be seen as a two-stage process of concept generation and concept evaluation

Concept generation
Typically, designers capture their ideas by sketching them on paper.  Annotation helps identify key points so that their ideas can be communicated with other members of the company. 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 technique 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 ideas, 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 necessary 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 matrix evaluation a table is produced listing important the features required from a product - 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 is 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 'better 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 features 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 specified 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.

6. Conclusion:
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.  I 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 child, set some new future challenges for myself...and...so on...
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