New visions in car design

Designing cars is tricky business. Not only do designers have to comply with strict safety regulations, they are also restricted by company guidelines be it in terms of budget or aesthetics. Which is why college years are the best, and possibly the last ones, for them to explore freely.

At this year’s Royal College of Art graduate vehicle design show students exhibited a number of inspiring ideas. This London post-graduate college provides the zenith in design education – its alumni reading like the who’s who of leading car designers the world over. This year students looked into innovative car sharing ideas and explored more sustainable manufacturing methods in their final year projects.

Korean student Kyungeun Ko’s sports car explores craft and craftsmanship with a modern twist in her final year concept. To achieve this she worked with the simple principle of origami – using something called the Robo-folding manufacturing method that does to metal sheets what origami achieves with paper. ‘This technology enables metal products with low energy and minimal facility,’ she explains. ‘Also, it creates beautiful surfaces with the quality of a flat sheet.’ As there is little or no waste, the system is highly sustainable and can allow for more personalised exterior sculpting for low volume, premium cars.

Jan Rosenthal worked on a similar theme for his project Lexus LF-Zero. ‘A free-range egg awakes positive associations with green meadows and happy chickens,’ he notes, ‘I want to carry over this free-range phenomenon to the automobile.’ The German-Japanese vehicle designer’s project explores not only the use of recyclable and reusable materials, but manufacturing processes that leave zero waste.

He explains: ‘Taking the Cradle2Cradle idea as a model, my concept abandons non-separable materials, using wood and aluminium, which are representative, of both technosphere recycling and biosphere decomposition.’

Working with London firm RoboFold, Rosenthal replaced the conventional stamping press that requires heavy tooling for one that involves folding and sculpting a single metal sheet. The method allowed him to implement the design directly into the system. He believes it works well for low volume luxury vehicles where individual design is the differentiating factor. He starts work at Rolls Royce after graduation.

Another notable graduate is Austrian Lena Knab. Her project Pure Light is a car for the Chinese market taking inspiration from ceramics and sunlight. She believes that demand for eco-luxury is on the rise in some urban areas of China where people are moving away from the culture of excessive consumption and returning to an appreciation of craftsmanship and artisan work to balance their digital daily life.

Read our previous reports on RCA vehicle designers. Also read our report in Wallpaper* here.

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 ©