Reading Week 2 September

02 September 2016 | by Farah Alkhalisi

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...

Since the first example in 1975, BMW’s specially-commissioned Art Cars have evolved from creatively-decorated and painted panelwork to become more profound explorations of the place of the vehicle in modern culture. The 18th BMW Art Car will be by multimedia practitioner Ceo Fei [top], the first Chinese artist to take one on, and will be revealed next year: no pictures as yet, but she says: “The car is key to understanding the changes occurring in contemporary Chinese society. The rapid speed of a car and the rapid changes taking place in society are my inspirations. But my BMW Art Car will adopt an expressive form completely different from previous ones. It will be an interpretation of the century’s theme, namely that we enter a ‘landscape of no man’s land’, e.g. autonomous cars and aircraft and virtual reality.” The 19th car, meanwhile, will be by American conceptual artist John Baldessari [pictured above], said to have a “fascination for the multidimensionality and typography of the car as an object.” More from both artists here.

Like car designers, architects and housing developers are increasing looking to wider contextual issues of mobility and transportation ­– to the extent that some are ‘designing-out’ the car altogether. The Cykelhuset Ohboy apartment block under construction in Malmo, Sweden, by Hauschild + Siegel, is purpose-designed with cyclists in mind, featuring plenty of bike storage options, but with further touches to better-enable life without a car, including large mailboxes for taking online deliveries, a fleet of cargo bikes to borrow, mobility subscriptions for public transport (transit) services, and extra-wide doors and lifts to accommodate cargo bikes. No car parking spaces or garages, of course.

Ericsson has come up with a detailed discussion, well worth a read, of five tech trends shaping innovation – all of which have automotive implications. First up is the cloud and 5G; no.2 is self-managing devices and the Internet of Things; no.4 is the reshaping of networks, i.e. via semiconductors and quantum computing; and no.5 is developing privacy and security. However, it’s Ericsson’s take on no.3 that’s caught our eye: communication beyond sight and sound, the ‘tactile internet’. “Using haptics, remote experiences can be a near real-time representation of reality,” it says, but warns that: “the loop connecting the disciplines of robotics, AI and communications needs to be closed… technical systems will need to support audiovisual interaction, and enable remote robotic systems to be controlled with a unnoticeable time lag.”  Check out also Ericsson's 10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2016: there's a handful of interesting pointers and stats from its ConsumerLab on smartphone and internet usage, lifestyle network effects and notes on the speed of technology adoption: "early adopters are less important", they say, due to the increasing speed of mass-market take-up.

Further developing things digital, Porsche has opened a new research facility in Friedrichshain, Berlin to look at IT solutions for ‘exclusive and dynamic mobility’- the use of innovations in big data, machine learning, cloud tech, IoT etc, for practical solutions. Teams at the Digital Lab will cover project phases from trend-spotting and ideation to building IT prototypes and platforms. Meanwhile, Volkswagen is working with the city of Hamburg on a three-year strategic mobility programme: this will look at new urban mobility concepts, intermodal transport, traffic management, autonomous driving and parking, vehicle concepts and pollution control, positioning Hamburg as a ‘model city’ and testbed for experimentation in both freight and passenger transport.

And following on from an earlier enquiry into the most important design jobs of the future, Fast Company has now come up with a list of design jobs that won’t exist… Top of the list are UX and visual designers, followed by design researchers, traditional industrial designers and more. It’s not so much about eradication of these disciplines or no ongoing need for their skills but a breaking-down of boundaries between ‘silos’ and greater understanding of the end-to-end design process, it seems.

Finally, our visual inspiration this week comes from the newly-released 2016 homewares collection from Zaha Hadid Design (launched at the Maison & Objet show in Paris, shown here at Designboom).  The fluid, organic or geometric lines and shapes of these items reflect the late Dame Hadid’s buildings, and remind us of her unique and ambitious approach to light, form – and, often overlooked in her work, functionality.

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