Car design trends from Geneva

The Geneva Motor Show is one of the main yearly international exhibitions that tend to focus primarily on design studies and future trends. This year, sadly, the displays were generally of ‘real’ cars – automobiles that are made for today’s world but tend to lack the visionary insight to make them relevant to the bigger picture of mobility.

This is a real shame as for the last few years we have been teased with a promise of a future urban setting free of the traditional automobile where clean hubs transport us autonomously in this wirelessly connected utopia. These are the sort of interesting concepts we witnessed at the Frankfurt and Tokyo shows last year.

Nevertheless there were some thought provoking ideas at Geneva as well as a few very attractive cars that may seem completely absurd given our economical and ecological situation, but remain simply pure objects of desire. We visited the show and spoke with a number of key car designers. Read the full review published in Wallpaper*.

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK | | Bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

All rights and labelled images are covered by ©

Shared transport: Two conflicting views

In our increasingly urbanised world, finding innovative and practical solutions for shared transport systems makes complete sense. Here emerging designers from the Royal College of Art present their very different propositions.

James Brooks and Richard Bone have looked at creating a car designed specifically for urban-shared car systems. Following much research into current car sharing schemes, their BOX project is a Smart size concept that is covered in glass, runs on an electric platform and is designed to be ideal for city mobility.

‘The shape is completely bound by functionality,’ explains Bone. ‘It is the same size of a Smart car but can also fit some of Ikea’s biggest flat packs and is adaptable for wheelchair users. This had to be cheap to be produced and spatially efficient.’

Concerned with how cars are all about status symbols, the visibility and neutrality means that the driver/passenger’s status remains the same inside or outside the car.

The duo worked together on this scheme under their own design consultancy Brooks & Bone set-up whilst completing their post graduate degree in vehicle design at the RCA. ‘The beauty of working together is we could cover so much research,’ admits Bone. And for this project they spent a great deal of time speaking with governmental bodies and users of existing shared car schemes to see what can be done to improve the current flawed systems.

They explain: ‘The problem with shared car systems now is that the cars are not right for this system – you need something that can house everyday people. The visibility and neutrality means that your status remains the same inside or outside the car.’

Both Bone and Brooks come from the automotive world. ‘But once you get involved in it you realise so many things need to be addressed. The concept is born out of us being completely disillusioned with the automotive industry and how inward looking it is,’ says Brooks, with Bone adding: ‘Like an internal bubble, making fast cars and concerned with status.’

Since they exhibited at Show RCA, the duo have been asked to show their project for a year at the London Transport Museum as well as show at the London Design Festival in September.

‘We plan to continue the development process of the BOX,’ says Bone, ‘looking into manufacturing and component options, and developing the design further with the aim to seek funding to build a prototype in late 2012.’

Fellow RCA vehicle design graduate Julliana Cho’s Porsche car-sharing proposition may also run on electric power, but it is unashamedly aimed at an elitist customer group.

The American designer is targeting the lucrative Asian – Chinese in particular – market of 2026. ‘I wanted something that focuses on the driving experience,’ she says candidly. ‘So I was thinking about brand Porsche and to design an exclusive car-sharing project for the Asian market in 2026.’

The electric car-sharing system works on the idea of a shared elitist club where not only are you exclusively part of a small network, but you can customise your borrowed car to be further exclusive using a simple smart key.

‘You can customise your own driving dynamics and also modify it to suite your needs,’ she explains. ‘The basic body is shared in a parking structure and as soon as you insert your smart key that has all your data on it, it will customise the car for you.’

Brooks & Bone and Julliana Cho exhibited as part of Show RCA 2011Read our report on Show RCA Vehicle Design published in Wallpaper*.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Read our other reviews from the show: Interior Solutions: Family Dynamics, Otto the anti global car and Monoform a new expression of movement.

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK | | Bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

All rights and labelled images are covered by ©

Book review: The Porsche Book

Love or loath cars, most of us would agree that Porsche builds beautiful automobiles that are thrilling to drive. From the timeless sculptural form of the 911 – so perfect in proportions that the designers find it hard to improve upon – to the Cayman, Boxter and the many derivatives, the Stuttgart marque simply creates emotionally charges vehicles that cause a visceral reaction in most of us.

The Porsche Book, edited by Frank Orel is published by teNeues

In recent years the company that was founded by Austrian engineer Ferdinand Porsche back in 1931, has had to expand on its model range to include the four-door Panamera, the Cayenne sports utility vehicle and the just announced Cajun small sports utility (still in concept stage) – in the process offending some Porsche purists – yet it has never lost its global emotional appeal.

The Porsche Book, edited by Frank Orel and published by teNeues, aims to capture this. And with 173 photographs and images, this is very much a visual adventure. Written clearly for lovers of the marque, the 24 chapters have been designed to somehow race the reader in a nostalgic, image-packed journey through Porsche’s rich engineering and design history.

Providing text in English, German, French, Chinese and Russian, this elegant hardback captures the essence of Porsche: timeless design, speed and the promise of freedom.

The Porsche Book, edited by Frank Orel is published by teNeues. You can purchase this book and a comprehensive selection of design books on our new on-line bookstore opening on Design Talks soon.

Purchase this book here on the DT Bookstore.

Read more on Porsche Porsche 911 TargaSecond generation Porsche Cayenne, the limited edition 911 Speedster as shown at the Paris Motor Show 2010, and design director Michael Mauer discussing the 918 Spyder clean car at the Geneva Motor Show 2010.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | | | Published by Banksthomas

 All rights and labelled images are covered by ©

Car design trends from Paris Motor Show 2010

The mood at the Mondial de l’Automobile in Paris could be summarised in the few words uttered by Peugeot’s design director Gilles Vidal. ‘We are going through big changes in the automotive world,’ the visionary French designer said as he guided me though 200 years of Peugeot’s research and development displayed on the stand.

‘Progress in this area won’t only be through engines and technological solutions, but about making our cars lighter, more efficient in terms of recycling,’ he said before concluding: ‘This is a global effort.’

We are in the second centenary of the motorcar and it is about time we reinvent the automobile to perform according to 21st century needs. This means taking a much more dramatic view of not just design, but as Vidal rightly noted, the entire package.

The good news is that at the final international show of the year, there appeared to be a genuine shift towards this way of thinking. This is still a new adventure, but judging by the array of innovative concept and production cars on display, perhaps we have reached a turning point in the life of the automobile. And the vast halls of Porte de Versailles showed that there are multiple solutions for clean, green driving – some clever, some bananas.

Renault and Nissan were one of the first to commit to electric driving. It was therefore good to see much progress in this area with the French marque showing three electric cars: the 2011 production Twizy city runabout, the Zoe and DeZir concepts. Sister company Nissan beat many of its competitors earlier in the year when it unveiled the four-seater production Leaf electric car. At Paris the Japanese firm unveiled a brand new electric concept, the flexible Townpod urban vehicle.

Audi and BMW presented more electric variants to join their respective eco sub-brands – Audi the e-tron Spyder and BMW announced plans to build a car based on its Vision Efficient Dynamic concept. This and the Megacity Vehicle (see our earlier report New Urban Mobility) will form part of the firm’s Project-I electric sub-brand.

Another clever proposition came via Porsche who announced its commitment to produce the exciting 918 Spyder hybrid supercar for 2013 first seen at the Geneva Motor Show in March. This is a beautiful piece of sculpture – the notes almost perfect. To marry this, speed and ecological is how the German carmaker sees its response to clean driving. ‘The 918 shows that you don’t have to compromise a sportscar by being ecological,’ noted design director Michael Mauer.

Away from the green theme, but worth noting is the Audi Quattro concept based on the fantastic original 1984 Sport Quattro with its iconic boxy and angular shape. Design director Wolfgang Egger explained to redesign such an car ‘you have to move away from the car and just keep the essence of its purity, the impression. This was a very angular car, but the modelling technology we have now allows for more dramatic surfacing,’ which he sees as the modern impression of the Quattro.

However, despite some excellent thoughts on clean mobility, it was down to the small sportscar maker Lotus to steel most headlines by unveiling six new cars – three sportcars, a coupé, a saloon and a city car concept. This is part of its young boss Dany Bahar’s multi-model ambitious plans to enter more segments.

Luckily design director Donato Coco promised that all the cars will remain in the tradition of Lotus design. ‘This is the most exciting British brand in the sense of originality and eccentricity,’ said the Italian ex-Ferrari designer. ‘To me this means the capacity to assembly unexpected elements, materials and shapes. This is what we have done in these cars – assemble a lot of innovation in a scheme that looks really classic.’

Read the full report and interviews with the designers at the show which appeared in Wallpaper*.


Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK | | Bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

All rights and labelled images are covered by ©