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Design Remains More Art than Digital Science

Designers search for the balance between passion and hard data.

by on May.08, 2014

GM Designer Tom Peters with the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette. He led the exterior design team.

While sophisticated technology has become an essential tool in the modern automotive styling studio, it still requires a human touch to bring designs to life.

“The artistic aspect is critical to car design,” stressed Tom Peters, the lead designers at General Motors for performance cars, during a discussion on car design at a meeting of the Automotive Press Association. “It’s through the human touch the passion is instilled in cars,” added Peters.  “Our products are very tactile, you have to engage the senses.”

Designed for You!

Though infotainment systems and fuel economy have becoming increasingly critical, competitive elements in today’s auto market, design remains one of the most important factors for shoppers choosing a new vehicle, studies reveal. In fact, there are many who contend that this is a new “Golden Age” for stylists as even brands like Toyota and Hyundai that traditionally settled for “plain vanilla” styling push for more passion in their products.


Designed to Please

Focus is on styling at annual Eyes on Design extravaganza.

by on Jun.21, 2011

Bob Lutz with his father's Aston Martin DB2 Vantage.

There was something familiar about the car stuck in the back of a Swiss restoration shop, something Bob Lutz confirmed when he found the ancient owner’s manual and saw the neat notations made by his father nearly a half century earlier.

It took Lutz, the now-retired General Motors car czar just moments to decide to buy the old 1952 Aston Martin DB2 Vantage and ship it home to begin a long and laborious restoration process.  But it eventually paid off, the one-time Marine pilot winning a Best-in-Class trophy, this past weekend, at the annual Eyes on Design show.

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“The car was a mess,” recalls Lutz, having gone through several inappropriate modifications, “but it was my dad’s so I bought it.”  Ironically, the long-time industry icon admits, he could have gotten it from his father in 1959, “But I was in the Marines, then, and had no place to keep it.”

There were plenty of treasures found and restored on display at the Eyes on Design event, held each year at the Eleanor and Edsel Ford mansion, in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.


Styling Sells – Battery Cars – More Than Mileage

Alt-fuel vehicle sales rising, but exterior design may be more important than fuel economy.

by on Jun.18, 2010

Styling sells, even when it comes to high-mileage "green" machines.

How much of a market is there for battery cars and other “green” powertrain technologies? 

The answer seems to depend on who you ask and what your basic assumptions about fuel prices are, though there’s little doubt demand for alternative fuel vehicles is growing steadily.  But concerns about such issues as rising fuel costs and global warming may not be the biggest motivators, suggests at least one new report.  Styling may be equally important.

The current year will be a milestone in the green movement, what with two significant launches scheduled for later this year: the 2011 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid and the pure battery-electric Nissan Leaf.  Makers around the world are ramping up production of more conventional green powertrain vehicles, as well, Hyundai, for one, readying its first hybrid-electric vehicle for the U.S. market.

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While Volt and Leaf will come too late to make any real impact on the market, a new study by J.D. Power and Associates predicts that global sales of alternative-fuel vehicles will surge a significant 28% this year, “outpacing the 8% growth we expect in light vehicle sales.”


Classic Cars, Modern Influence

High Museum shows 18 cars that influenced modern design.

by on Mar.30, 2010

This 1953 Porsche 550 LeMans was successful both on and off the track.

By the 1930s, motor vehicles had already proven their utility so the first stylists in Europe and North America began shifting their focus to more expressive design — leaving behind what turned out to be an indelible impression of the automobile as art.

A new exhibit at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta highlights 18 unique vehicles built between 1930 and 1965 that reflect a period often seen as a “golden era,” but which has continued to have an enormous influence on the look of modern automobiles.

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“This exhibition will showcase the greatest feats of engineering and luxury design from 1930 to 1965, when cars became synonymous with success, power and wealth,” says High Museum director Michael E. Shapiro. “Created for the privileged few, the luxurious, custom-built automobiles embodied speed, style and elegance, and influenced art, architecture, fashion and design.”


New Boss for BMW Designworks

U.S. operation designs everything from cars to computers.

by on Oct.15, 2009

New boss at BMW's California-based DesignworksUSA, which designs everything from cars to computer graphics.

Schaffer takes over a renowned operation with 135 designers.

Say the name, BMW, and you’re likely to have an image of a sleek German car come to mind, whether a compact 3-Series, luxurious 7-er, or perhaps a big X5 Sport Activity Vehicle.  But there’s another side to the company, one tucked into the hills outside Los Angeles, where BMW designers are busy at work styling everything from sunglasses to laptop computers.

Established by design legend Chuck Pelly, back in 1972, DesignworksUSA was acquired by the Bavarian automaker in 1995, and has served not only as a source of revenue but also a training ground for some of BMW’s best and brightest designers, including Adrian van Hooydonk, now the corporation’s top style-meister.

A little more than a month from now, Designworks will get a new boss, Laurenz Schaffer, who’d been working at a Munich subsidiary of the design consulting operation for the last nine years.

Designed to Keep You in the Know!

Designed to Keep You in the Know!

The 42-year-old stylist has worked not only in Munich, but also in Stuttgart and San Francisco, over the last two decades.  He’ll be taking over an operation with 135 design specialists and support teams, at an operation that has worked with clients as diverse as Siemens, Starbucks, Sony and Microsoft.  Designworks has helped sculpt yachts, designed interiors for business jets, and crafted mobile phones.  Reflecting the increasingly digital nature of the world, the BMW subsidiary has also developed graphic displays for Microsoft and Hewlett Packard, among others.