Fabio Filippini on Renault’s interior design

Renault wants to create more intuitive interiors. The French marque would like to progress the interface for easy navigation and control. To achieve this Renault is translating some of the ways we interface with electronic consumer devices, yet retaining some automotive codes for the areas relating to driving, control and safety.

We caught up with head of interior design Fabio Filippini at the Paris studio to discover how.

Design Talks There seems to be a visible move towards interior design that is closely linked to the modern home and the latest electronic devices that are technologically advanced yet reduced in design.

Fabio Filippini I agree that more and more the interior aspect of the car will become important, and so there is this need for it to be as well designed and as functional as possible so that it becomes almost a second home.

DT Are car companies leading this movement towards a more innovative interface or is it consumer driven?

FF Neither. It is more a synergy between the advanced studios and consumer choice.

This is a global evolution and something we see as a worldwide trend. As people spend more time in their cars they expect their cars to be secure and to cocoon them, and to have complete connectivity with the environment. As car designers we need to evolve the car to accommodate these needs.

DT Do you see the car evolving to become more human as opposed to man more machine?

FF For Renault it is essential to have the human part, and the client, the human is always at the centre of our research. People shouldn’t be forced to adapt to cars – although this doesn’t mean that there will be home furniture design in the car.

DT But how do you inject humanity, yet maintain the mechanical aspect of driving?

FF There are strong automotive codes related to driving in the interior of the car: gearshifts and control buttons. Therefore only part of the car’s interface will take from electronic devices like the iPad where there is no physical connection apart from the touch screen.

However, we cannot mix these two areas up. The driver controls associated with the mechanical part of the car have to maintain their car codes. Eventually we will find new codes but we will arrive at this gradually.

Like other inventions, new codes also will take time to be adopted by the consumer.

DT What defines the modern code?

FF In the 20th century this was the car and in the 21st century it is consumer electronics – and like cars the references for consumer electronics are global ones.

It is also important to note that these automotive codes are especially important to customers in developing countries who like the idea of the car that existed in the 60s. Although these customers – especially those in India – are ahead of us when it comes to consumer electronics, they still expect traditional codes when it comes to their cars.

DT How do you translate the reduced design we see in modern personal electronic devices to cars?

FF I think it is more than reduced design. If you look at smart phones like the iPhone, it may seem minimalist in design, but it has strong presence. When you hold it, the weight and the feel of the real metal rim makes it a strong simple shape with the highest expression of material use.

We would like to adapt this physical aspect of touch, but touch that is easily understood which means moving away from the sci-fi controls design to a more reduced one.

DT How can car designers integrate these codes to make the car as modern as the iPad but maintain those essential automotive codes?

FF One main aspect is to be intuitive: to create an interface that is easy to control and relates to the way we interface with consumer gadgets, then retaining the auto codes for the areas relating to driving, control and safety.

DT The recent electric DeZir prototype – as shown at the Paris Motor Show in September 2009 – seems to express this philosophy perfectly. The interior is extremely minimalist, to the point that the central touch screen user interface is essentially all there is, as almost every other control is located on the steering wheel.

FF The car represents our manifesto to have a soft finished, protective space – an enveloping area, and then clear identified controls that are limited but high quality.

Inside the DeZir you have a big, soft expanse covered in white leather. Then in the driver area you have a clear instrument cluster and a touch screen unit that is tactile, whilst the driving elements are separated by their chrome finishing so as to be physical. Finally the red glossy finishing separates the driver from the passenger.

DT Do you see this trend expanding with the clean autonomous car of the future?

FF The customer will want to have strong control like they do with his personal electronic gadgets and this is something that has to be maintained even with the autonomous car.

The connectivity shouldn’t interfere with security. Therefore there has to be some kind of division between the driving part and the non-driver part.

DT Renault and partner Nissan are very active in developing a family of electric cars. What is your interior approach here?

FF With electric vehicles it will be a question of how we can offer more wellbeing in the car. EVs have silent engines therefore we will have to find ways of calming down cabin noise. We will have air filers controlling humidity, and generally working harder to stimulate the basic senses – touch, smell and sound.

DT Any thoughts on the future of the automobile?

FF The period of speed and power related to the car belongs to the 20th century. In the 21st century, when you can push a button and connect with Australia in a matter of seconds, speed is no longer necessarily connected with the automobile.

The car, therefore, will change to be a slow moving device, for looking outside and choosing what you want the car to do for you. The car will be symbolic of freedom of choice. The car, home and office will all be connected via your smart phone.

For us designers the task is to make simplicity out of complexity, but add emotion – a personalisation of emotion is where the future is.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Read more on car interior design concepts: Frank Stephenson on interior trends, Jaguar’s quirky cabin designParis Motor Show: Car design trends.

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | www.d-talks.com | Bookshop www.d-talks.com/bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

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Jaguar’s quirky cabin design

Jaguar is undergoing a design renaissance – its latest concept the C-X75 a clear indication of the quintessentially British marque’s confident design language that nods to its rich design history – think the iconic E-Type – whilst discovering what defines ‘Britishness’ in this century.

The interior has been the focal point of current Jaguar design where there is a clever juxtaposition of high technology, taken from the world of electronic device, and old-fashioned craftsmanship.

Design Talks caught up with interior designer Alister Whelan and experience design manager Mark Humphreys at their studio in Coventry, UK to find out how the design team fuse these two very different worlds yet manage to maintain the Jaguar identity.

Design Talks. Interiors are increasingly the selling point with cars. When did you start being influenced by electronic gadgets and devices?

Al Whelan. When we started work on the XF, Motorola had just launched the original Razr mobile phone. With the Razr it was about the beautiful use of materials, used on the switch controls that would have normally been in black plastic. Motorola used a premium material and made a signature of the lighting – of how the lighting encapsulated the controls.

On the XF we created a halo light around the switches and continued this into the XJ and the concept car. On the first generation Razr phone you had an aluminium film running across the switches and we wanted to achieve this feeling of precision and the idea of night time illumination.

Mark Humphreys. The XF was definitely the car that really opened our eyes to the opportunities of using technology, and then executing it in a way that is intriguing and fun. Off course the lead-time with electronic gadgets is so different to cars so for us the idea is to understand the core values and to extract that.

DT. How do you make interior design more individual and quirky?

AW: We have a little bit more of a licence to do things that are more tongue-in-cheek. On the C-X75 we used wood in an honest and authentic way where we scorched the wood by a local sculptor to give it a silky finish. It’s about using traditional material in a contemporary way. (Design director) Ian Callum stresses we have to have fun with design – a bit like Paul Smith.

For this car we were inspired by aviation and aircraft cockpits where we tried to get the right balance between digital and analogue. For instance, we introduced a door design that is very organic and flowing but instead of crafting in the door handle in the door like conventional design, the ejector seat handle are placed between your legs on the seats. It’s beautifully polished aluminium sculpture with some illumination.

DT. How can you interpret something as high-tech as electronic devices for Jaguar?

MH. We visited BAE Systems and observed the work of some of the guys that worked on the design of the Eurofighter cockpit. They obviously come from a very different world but when you dig deeper the actual techniques are similar to us.

What’s interesting is that although in many ways their work is tougher; it is also easier in that they are designing for a specific person, who will be a certain age, height with perfect eyesight. The Eurofighter knows what is has to do so they reconfigure the instrumentation between each mode so they have a different set of displays according to the needed function.

From an automotive perspective, off course this is harder to do. In the CX75 we had the main display in front of the driver and then on the side we had a small touch screen we called the ‘co-pilot’ that is angled towards the driver. It is small and a very high definition screen like the iPhone 4. The co-pilot helps with information on where you need to be; it gives driving tips, and it appears only when you need it.

AW. This had a physical influence on the design of the cabin. Mark’s technology helped us clear away all the unnecessary switches – the ones the car can take care of through the co-pilot. With the primary driving stuff then we could apply real mechanical controls. The main elements of driving have to remain tactile and engaging – almost retaining their traditional feel.

DT. How do you get the perfect mix between the virtual and the physical?

AW. We have to mix authenticity with high-tech and this will set us apart from others in the industry. In your living room you may have a high tech TV but an old Barcelona chair.

On the CX-75 we tried to create this by getting the feel and the weight that is associated with craftsmanship. We tied up with British watchmaker Bremont who designed a beautiful analogue clock on the dashboard – a lovely physical stopwatch that comes out of the car and is powered by the momentum of the electric car, which contrasts, with the high-tech of the co-pilot section.

DT. How will all these ideas filter through to the upcoming production cars?

AW. The world is changing with people spending seven or so hours a day on their personal electronic devices. So let us give people more respect, design switches that are not so simple, are more engaging and give more feedback. Maybe in the future we can take some of these ideas and mix them with something that is beautifully handcrafted.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | www.d-talks.com | Bookshopwww.d-talks.com/bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

 All rights and labelled images are covered by ©