Automobile Design process

November 23, 2015
Chrysler Airflow design3

Across the world and in every product sector, companies have been increasingly focused on being market oriented or consumer-centric. Everybody is chasing the trend, trying to find out the next big thing and scrambling for every potential point of differentiation. And, who could argue against designing products that are inspired from people's needs and are responsive to their capabilities? Even better, if the product is perceived as being cool, iconic and desirable in a completely emotional way that transcends more rational factors. That is the power of design.

Design is the process by which the needs of the customer or the marketplace are transformed into a product satisfying these needs. Design essentially is an exercise in problem solving.

The process starts with a design brief, which is typically a statement of intent. i.e. "We will design and make a Formula One racing car". Although it states the objective, it does not give enough information with which to start designing.

This leads to the Design Specification stage. This is possibly the most important stage of the design process. It is important that before you produce a 'solution' there is a true understanding of the actual problem. The Product Design Specification is a document listing out all the problems in detail. It is important to work with customers, other stakeholder and analyze the technology, completion and marketplace when creating the list of requirements necessary for a successful product.

To arrive at design specifications, specific research is done into global trends. Trend boards are created from this research in order to keep track of design influences as they relate to the automobile industry. The designer then uses this information to develop themes and concepts.

When designing one needs to consider, not only the product design specifications but also consider the activities downstream of the design stage. Downstream activities typically are manufacture, sales, transportation etc.

Typically, designers capture their ideas by sketching them on paper. There are a number of techniques available to the designer to aid the development of new concepts. The concept generation phase depends on conventional methods of sketching rather than digital ones.

Hereafter a number of different viable concept designs which satisfy the requirements of the product outlined in the Design Specifications are generated and then evaluated to decide on the most suitable one to develop further. Each concept is evaluated from a number of angles or perspectives. The chosen concept is then developed into a detail design.

The working characteristics of the concept selection are:

  • the rapid generation of plenty of styling ideas,
  • the flexible combining of existing alternatives, and
  • the sensuous expression of rough shapes.

During detail design phase the chosen concept design is developed in detail with all the dimensions and specifications necessary. Prototypes are produced to test ideas at this stage. A real-size physical model of the design is made, the final appearance of a vehicle is fixed, and its CAD model is generated, all the operations are done in consideration of accurate dimensions.

Real-size operations are much important in automobile styling because there might be severe unwanted or unpleasant defects in actual size although they do not appear on desktop displays or in scale models.

The actual-dimension styling stage consists of two steps:

  • Making a real-size physical model of clay, wood, resin, form urethane, etc. to determine the final style of a car, and
  • Creating a computer model for manufacturing purposes

Making a physical model is a special artistic activity based on a real-size dimension sense, while creating a computer model from the physical model is a series of technological operations with high-precision measuring systems and engineering-based modeling software.

2014 Mercedes S-Class - The Design Process
2014 Mercedes S-Class - The Design Process
Programming the clay model - Automotive Clay Design Process
Programming the clay model - Automotive Clay Design Process
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