When you talk with some well-known product designers and furniture designers, it’s the opposite. They’re dreaming about autonomous-driving cars because they think, ‘Oh, finally we can make the furniture, or a small house on wheels, we can express ourselves’. But actually, car designers know what to do if a car has to be in autonomous driving mode and how the car should look, because our job is to create different shapes that go with the concept and its use.
I would say for most of us, ‘autonomous’ is not the dream, but it’s interesting to do. I studied industrial design and then vehicle design at the Royal College of Art but even at the RCA I was always inspired by furniture design. I’m very comfortable with it, but a car is a dynamic moving object. It’s not a house and it’s not an aircraft either. We are in between these walls. Car design is so specific, we need to keep our own idea of what we do.
The engineering requirements to make an aircraft fly are so high there’s no space for poetry or styling. Perhaps Concorde is the dream, it’s like magic, when form followed function perfectly: it might be beautiful but you couldn’t control its look.
Furniture in your home – and some products – have so little functionality or technology you can do so many different things, it becomes just decoration; the designer has too much freedom somehow. A car for me, is just in-between.
2016 for Renault was really good because at the Paris motor show we had the newest line-up. With the launch of the new Scénic all the products have now been renewed. They’re selling well and today our customers are buying Renault cars because of their design.
Since the beginning [design VP] Laurens van den Acker was really clear. We said: ‘This is the form language and the front identity’ and we have rebuilt the brand image. New designers are thinking that way. We are less and less just making drawings and sketches; we have to think about the brand and the communication aspects too.
We are happy with our production cars, and have quite a strong identity. That never really happened before, or not for a long time. So we are in a very comfortable situation where we have our own design and then can just play with it, like some brands have been doing for a long time. But we still need concept cars to have freedom to experiment with things, not to be scared to see if there’s something even better to try.
The 2016 Trezor was the first of our second life-cycle of concepts. We definitely want to have another collection.
We will be spending more time on interiors too, following innovations, trying all sorts of things and getting feedback from people. With the trend for increased connectivity I also see more and more people feeling like not being ‘connected’. On the Trezor concept we took that into account a little bit, because in its autonomous mode you can watch a movie, but there’s also a function to protect you from getting any phone calls or messages from outside.
I can see it both ways. We still need to think about this, because in two or three years’ time people may be fed up with receiving billions of SMS messages.
For many years at Renault we’ve organised trend missions where we send designers and modellers all around the world for design-related weeks, furniture fairs and car culture events. [Former design VP] Patrick le Quement created the tradition and Laurens has continued it. They allow us to get very close to what’s happening in the wider creative field.
The Trezor shows that Renault is still a very creative company. It’s our dream to create new things and this one represents where we are today, meaning we want to be really attractive and very innovative at the same time, which is really difficult. You need to have a story and innovation.
It would be difficult for us to only go for a pure shape, which is nice, but without any innovation stories. And on the other hand, having something that’s just innovation, or just doing something new for the sake of it, would also be stupid. So we try to think twice before we do something, and find the right balance.
Car Design Review 4 contains the best concept and production cars of the year, as chosen by the world's leading designers, trends, student work, and much more. Available now.