DEARBORN - When a building or vehicle is in the process of being designed, a million things are taken into account before the final product is ultimately unveiled. Both products are expected to be stylish and unique creations, but also reflect the times, while offering practical access to features people require for daily use.
Recently, Ford joined the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) in a discussion on common design trends between cars and buildings.
Following up on the successful ‘Design with a Conscience’ webcast in April, this new design panel discussion focused in on how designers can maximize aesthetics and functionality in small spaces to produce innovative designs that are comfortable, efficient and beautiful.
The “Big Ideas in Small Spaces: Proportion in Design” panel discussion began with Lynn Osmond, president and CEO of CAF, cheerfully greeting the panel members.
“It’s wonderful to see the connection between architecture and the design of cars, and at CAF we say we inspire people to discover why design matters,” said Osmond. “And design matters in all sorts of ways in our built environments, whether it be our transportation choices or in the buildings we live in. I’m very glad to have this connection here today and CAF, as many of you know, is well-renown for our wonderful tours that really do show people how to be inspired by design.”
This intriguing panel brought together leading architects, innovators and automotive designers to push the boundaries of the global design world. Panelists included Diane Atwood of the Atwood Foundation, John Gately of Jahn, Gensler’s Carlos Martinez and legendary car designer and Ford’s Group Vice President of Design and Chief Creative Officer J Mays.
All leaders in their respective industries, these four designers shed light on how similarities in their creative processes have led to some of the country’s most famous buildings and the design of cutting-edge, eco-friendly Ford vehicles like the Ford Fiesta and the elegant Ford Fusion Energi. The discussion revolved around how the two industries are moving in parallel, interpreting similar trends and learning from each other.
“We have a distinguished group of panelists and I certainly want to share with all of you today all of the parallels that we’re going to explorer,” said Atwood. “The parallels between architecture and automotive design – obviously both disciples are based on similar creative processes and in both cases people are seeking a comfortable, welcoming and safe place in which to spend a significant part of their lives.”
Now with 50 percent of the earth’s population living in an urban environment, design means everything from efficient design in our transportation systems to our everyday choices, such as the cars and homes we purchase.
“It’s our job, collectively as designers, to meet not only all of those necessary functional requirements but also to speak to peoples aspirations and tap into their dreams,” said Atwood. “In other words, it’s the job to find the perfect balance between art and science, form and function, and to create something that stands out from the crowd.”
Trends in today’s design world show that consumers in dense urban areas pay close attention to product details. With crowded areas packed with eye-catching creations, consumers differentiate their options by focusing on small features that separate one product from the pack.”
Good building design is not about creating a structure that looks like it was made for the entire world, Atwood explained, but it is about creating something that has universal appeal.
“Architecture and automotive design are very similar because they’re both a human based creative endeavor so anytime an architectural firm sets out to design a building for a private family or a corporation, people are involved and it’s the same thing with automotive design,” said J Mays. “We have a very definitive customer we’re going after and the type of vehicle that we design, be it a truck for the workplace or a sports car, we try to meet the unmet needs of those customers in a way that might surprise and delight them if we’re lucky.”
Giving the customer what they want is a goal any company strives to aim for, however this simple fact doesn’t deter from the fact that a great deal goes into the process of designing and creating vehicles and buildings.
“I think there’s a lot of similarities in how we develop the shapes and also the technology on automotives that is a parallel now to architecture,” said Mays. “It’s a parallel process where we’re designing, but also taking into account structural envelopes. All of the weight, safety and technological considerations are going into the vehicle at exactly the same time that we’re designing the aspirational side of the business, which is when we try to reach out and pull someone’s heart strings and integrate them in our product.”
These vast creations are no longer built from a singular perspective but from a diverse set of expertise. Some employees working on these projects don’t even have any design background, however they may originate from a more scientific or economical background. At any rate, each area of expertise contributes to the finished product in the end. Collaboration has to happen from all sides for everything to come together.
“Consumers expect products that not only deliver functionality and quality, but also style and a sense of premium-ness that is actually attainable,” Mays said. “This applies to the automotive world as well, and vehicles like Fusion and the new Fiesta are a culmination of this principle.”
Experts in information technology, engine technology, interior and exterior design all bring a depth to both professions that the company may not have seen 15 years ago. Surprisingly enough, many breakthroughs have come through technological advances.
“Any technological breakthrough via architectural or automotive design, has always come through some technological breakthrough,” said Mays. “So better aerodynamics, lightweight material, some sort of safety belt that wraps the passenger in comfort – those are the type of things that I think are the price of entry for most customers.”
And it goes without saying that the technological advances of today are pertinent when it comes to sealing the deal on a purchase. Technology is the price of entry for any customer that’s interested in a car because they want to know that they can trust the vehicle and that they will be safe.
“I came to Ford 15 years ago and we‘re just now changing the perspective of Ford as a technological company,” said Mays. “With new hybrids we’re bringing out and extremely fuel-efficient vehicles but it’s a long road to get what you consider a nice company from the mid-west to an international technological leader which Ford is now rapidly positioning itself as.”
Architects and auto designers face similar challenges in creating something that stands out from the crowd.
“Everyone has seen everything, the Internet has allowed everyone to view architecture from the other side of the world in a heartbeat,” said Atwood. “Designers in all fields, then, are competing not just with what’s around them, but with the work of the international creative community.”
The world around us is constantly in motion and changing at all times and it’s the responsibility of industry-leading companies to step up their game in terms of innovation and creativity. Every day, things are changing and companies are finding new ways to take societal trends and apply them to both architectural and automotive industries.
“My favorite buildings are pristine, pure and simple, but they work because they are placed in a position that allows culture around them to shine,” said Mays. “Cars, like architecture, have to be appropriate for their culture. A well-designed building or car will give a viewer a guide into the time in which it is built.”