Author: Mr. Martin Uhlarik, Head of Global Design, Tata Motors
With the industry at large at the cusp of a new era of mobility driven by electrification, connectivity and sustainability, exciting opportunities await manufacturers and customers alike. The migration to this not-so-distant future, driven by advanced technology and alternate fuel, represents something larger for the automotive sector.
In tandem with all the innovation and groundbreaking thinking that will underscore the functioning and performance of the vehicles of tomorrow, one must also re-envision the ways in which they are crafted, and the experiences they offer. In other words, we must prepare ourselves to design for the future, adopting a progressive design ideology that is humane, simple and aspirational.
Placing people at the centre
The core axis along which the design of cars must revolve around today is the user. Customers view their cars as objects that represent a particular way of life, and everything within the car, right from its very design, must affirm this belief. Since the migration to electric is a momentous one, a sense of anxiety persists within customers, not only regarding performance features and range but also about how reliable it will be overall. They look for a sense of validation in the experience they have with the car. Thus, every aspect of their experience— how they open the door, how they sit, how they drive, should come with an undertone of serenity and comfort, diffusing any stress.
The interiors of a next-generation car should foster a similar ethos. Striving to build almost a sanctuary within the car, we must make use of the philosophy of the five senses to help take the experiences of drivers and passengers alike to the next level. Besides being spacious and class-leading, the interiors should also generate a visual feel of space that is larger-than-life and rich, without being too pompous or loud.
Adopting the less-is-more dictum
Embracing a minimalist, simple approach then, is critical to take consumer expectations to the next level. Sleek exteriors, that convey space without looking bulky, can go a long way in reflecting sophistication. This can also be done in a tactful manner to marry the benefits of practical comfort with cutting-edge design. In the Tata Avinya concept car, for instance, we have created a secondary silhouette, extending the front windscreen forward that gives the car an elongated appearance while having conventional proportions. This helps us to deliver on customer aspirations of a futuristic car while maintaining the purity of design and excitement of the silhouette.
Technology of course, is a critical aspect of the design rhetoric. Any design that concretizes itself as iconic, whether it be of a furniture or a consumer electronic, does so because it brings with it a certain advancement in technology. The onset of electric vehicles represents one of the most critical advancements within the automotive sector and their design must convey this. Its proportions and interior layout must effectively envelop its technological offerings. Here too, the ‘less is more’ philosophy can work in meaningful ways.
An example might help explicate this further. Currently, the industry tendency is focused on imbuing modern cars with excessively screened interiors, often end-to-end, to provide a host of tech tools. With Tata’s Avinya, we have attempted to moderate this tendency by altering this screen experience. We only have a small screen on the steering to help perform primary functions, and a long one at the base of the windscreen to provide secondary information such as temperature, range and infotainment. This minimal design intervention is complemented through the main interface in the car for human-machine interaction- which is not through a touchscreen but a sound bar. Herein lies the convergence of human-centric design and simplicity, that strives to bring to users the advanced technology in a mode that is harmonious and pleasant.
A simple recipe to tastefully design for the future
Good design is all about being simple. And it is this simple recipe that is repeated, on the exteriors of a car, on its interiors, its broad surfaces, and its little details. When designing a vehicle, it is imperative that we start with its overall functionality for people. Aesthetics and styling come after that. The purity of design should come from the way a user utilizes the product. Vehicles should have a long life, and their design must represent the ethos of timelessness while incorporating contemporary advancements. Minimalistic design, in this context, is the best way forward, because it imbues vehicles with a certain elegance while incorporating functionality in a tactical way.
Customers, after all, should know exactly what a product offers by looking at it. It should be memorable, it should be customer-first and it should imbibe a concrete sense of functional value; and with that simple recipe you should have a car that is inspiring, modern and a class apart, a befitting part of a unique future generation.