Car design needs to have a context. Whether that's market trends in the here-and-now, or projections and predictions as to how people are going to travel around in the future, designers cannot – and must not – work in a vacuum.
But we also realise there is so much information flying around it's difficult to keep track and pick out the relevant things from the noise. With this in mind, we've rounded up some thought-provoking, inspiring and otherwise interesting stories we've read this week...
The New Statesman takes a look this week at wearable tech and how this intersects with behaviourism, the longstanding psychological school of thought which holds that people can be 'conditioned' to behave differently. Writer Steven Poole sees the algorithms of Fitbits, Apple Watches and the like as a modern-day digital authoritarianism – but is digital tracking and quantification perhaps better-justified in terms of road safety benefits, or in conjunction with, for example, incentivising more energy-efficient driving or mobility behaviour? Worth a read if you have an interest in HMI, driver monitoring and the like.
And in terms of HMI and connectivity, FastCoDesign asks “what if the smart home was designed for seniors instead?” Given ageing populations in, for example, Japan, as well as in many Western countries, not to mention the fact that retirees make up a sizeable proportion of private new-car buyers, it's a question well worth asking for car design, too. Less focus on gadgetry for early-adopters, more on accessibility for personal and social benefit, can only be a good thing, surely.
The challenges of developing autonomous vehicles, and the benefits they could bring, are discussed in depth in a blog for the UK's Institute of Civil Engineers (which has further resources on that subject). Professor Graham Parkhurst (Centre for Transport and Society, University of the West of England, Bristol) raises a few points relevant for designers, including the idea that autonomous cars could bring greater social inclusion, giving access to people without driving skills or licences. UWE Bristol is a partner in the Venturer autonomous vehicle trials, now reporting back on feedback from participant drivers.
Career paths in car design are often interesting to study, and current GMC executive director, global GMC and Buick Design, Helen Emsley, has a particularly unusual CV – not least as one of very few female designers in such a senior position. In an interview with Autocar, Emsley, who originally trained as a textile designer, gives some insights into how she progressed through colour and trim to designing the interior of the Corvette, and then General Motors' flagship pick-ups and SUVs.
Winners of Daimler's 'smart urban pioneers' ideas contest were announced this week, with three start-up projects receiving seed capital in addition to investment raised in a crowdfunding camapign. Kudos to the winner, Munich's MyLike (a social networking platform encouraging people to make recommendations to explore the city), but the second-placed 'Cabin Spacey' from Berlin caught our eye: a low-cost, easily-transported, simple-assembly micro-apartment concept which could be installed on rooftops, in car parks or on urban wasteland spaces. It's designing for a new niche and social need in an ever-changing city – much as the original Smart Fortwo was conceived.
Visual inspiration (and fantasy furniture-shopping) came this week from the recent northmodern design show in Copenhagen. Representing the best of new Nordic talent alongside Scandinavian design heritage, the show's Instagram feed – elegant homewares, textiles and interiors – has been a thing of beauty… The next northmodern event takes place 9-11 May 2017. Prior to this, however, we're warming up for the London Design Festival (17-25 September 2016): over 400 events and exhibitions are promised, including special installations and projects, group shows, designated 'design districts' and walking trails, and a series of themed trade fairs.