- ABOUT US _ Drive is an Automotive Design Consultancy building long term relationships with design-driven companies worldwide, designing products that enhance their brand's DNA and position in the market place.
SAIC have an advanced design studio on prime Maryleborne real estate in the middle of London. The open plan arrangement with designers’ zones, review areas, chill out space and groovy chairs provides a creative environment with which to attract design talent to ddefine the future SAIC Group products.
When I started Drive and was shown impressive facilities of OEMs like Volvo or engineering firms like Magna, it made me wonder how a design consultancy like Drive can compete with the major automotive manufacturers and their studios.
The answer of course is we don’t.
Major car companies carry out most of their design work themselves, with dedicated design departments capable of handling every aspect of the design process.
But few car companies do not use the services of external car design consultancies for some smaller projects or as a validation of their internal designs, whilst many smaller niche car companies use such consultancies to supplement their more limited in-house design facilities on larger design projects.
In most cases the reason we get shown around a company’s design facilities is because Drive is working with them or about to. They see that Drive has something to offer them and they want us to work with their teams to stimulate creativity and maximise the design output. Whether it be for market insights, a fresh design perspective or simply additional digital resource we are able to provide focussed and professional expertise.
As with the studio space, I question ‘how can we compete’ when recruiting creative talent, when automotive OEMs can offer so much in terms of employment, facilities and certainty of projects well into the future.
Again we don’t compete, what we have to offer is different.
We are an efficient studio that has a welcoming, creative and professional atmosphere. We work with numerous brands so it is unlikely that we will designing a similar face of a car or grill for long. The type of work is varied, and is more likely to be concept ideation than production detailing. The projects will cover a large spectrum with mobility solutions, aircraft interiors or maybe another supercar inspired Track-tor (see here) being as likely as the next production SUV.
A consultancy environment like Drive’s isn’t for everyone, but the constant change benefits our creative team keeping them fresh, interested and gaining a breadth of experiences that differentiates them from other designers. The very skill set that many design chiefs look for in their next hire, indeed two former Drive employees will be able relax at the new SAIC coffee bar.
It is the diverse experiences that attracts our clients and benefits their projects as they get new perspectives, fresh ideas and insight from our broad knowledge gained across different industries and clients.
So if you are looking for some creative input for your next project or if a consultancy environment is somewhere you would like to work, come round for a chat. We don’t have a coffee bar but we do have a fantastic café around the corner.
(SAIC Design Advanced London top image – photos source SAIC)
Drive has provided consultancy services to many low volume vehicle manufacturers and during that time has built up an understanding of the challenges that these businesses face in developing and establishing a successful vehicle in the market.
Niche vehicles have always provided opportunities for entrepreneurs to build successful businesses but now more than ever they are providing a solution to specific transportation problems. This is leading to opportunities for OEMs to use niche vehicles to expand their brand into new markets, become leaders by redefining a market or exploiting new technologies.
Low volume vehicles provide unique challenges in the product offering, manufacturing constraints and the commercial demands. Drive have been involved in numerous programmes and have built up experience of the various approaches to the business proposal, from designers wishing to produce their concept, technology led business opportunities and brand experience products. Spectre Cars, Delta Motorsport, Magna Styer, Zenos Cars, Caterham Cars and Lightning Car Company have benefitted from Drive’s expertise at various stages during their projects.
Whilst the funding for niche vehicle projects is provided from varying sources depending on the circumstances, the necessary underlying business case has to be rigorously tested and proved just the same, before investing of valuable time, resources and money. Drive’s in depth experience can help build the background to the project, give crucial investor confidence in the participating parties and provide experience and guidance throughout project timeline.
Through the development and refinement of the design our experienced team maintain the initial design intent whilst answering the engineering and economic challenges posed by these unique projects.
Drive’s understanding of the difficulties facing niche vehicle manufacturers (NVMs) trying to establish a company or product make them ideal partners to be involved in the development of a robust product concept and commercial strategy, whilst helping identify design and manufacturing efficiencies through collaboration with strategic partners.
Not every venture can be the success that everyone is looking for but minimising the risk by being fully aware of the undertaking at the start, with suitable gateways mapped out so that owners and investors can make informed decisions before embarking on the next phase, help to increase the chances of a sustainable business.
Virtual reality is something that is allowing design teams to develop concepts quicker and resolve issues earlier and here at the Drive Studio we now have a fantastic Virtual Reality design set up to which we are all becoming accustomed to using in our day to day work.
So how have we facilitated the use of the VR set up within the studio? We are always finding new ways to use it, but within the realms of being a beneficial tool rather than being a slave to it. A good example is this Bugatti concept , that enables us to show off the benefits of using VR to our automotive clients.
Projects like this are an important to everyone at Drive, with our passion for automotive design and especially for anything that goes fast is in our DNA. With the initial concept penned everyone was unable to resist getting involved with something as extreme as this. The team worked together to design, resolve and refine the concept simultaneously combining our work flows through Photoshop, Alias and VR.
The use of VR is a great tool to check the design through the modelling development process and helps both modeller and designer. An instant tool at our finger tips that allowed us to critique and rapidly develop the concept, producing a better result in a quicker time frame. As a tool VR makes you aware of the digital model issues you normally only realise when you are standing in front of a full scale clay. I am a firm believer in the development of a physical model, and VR is a benefit to allow any studio to start physical modelling stage from a more advanced point, speeding up the process and saving time.
We use various systems from Autodesk VRED, Unreal Engine and Unity to create the Virual Reality experiences. We will be very pleased to discuss your requirements and support your adoption of the technology into your work flow.
In the world of the design consultancy we are familiar with getting a wide variety of clients through our doors, along with a vast amount of projects from supercars to space craft … however … every so often there is always something you were least expecting.
So when a Top Gear producer entered Drive’s design studio; a world where dreams are created, made, smashed and cherished, he approached with a big grin on his face, beaming with his latest project for us to get involved with … and now it is a gaming sensation in Forza Horizon 4.
A brief was set out, to turn a common tractor into a ‘supercar-tractor’, to alleviate the common countryside issues of being stuck behind a tractor at speeds of 15mph for miles and miles … So this creation was to have a handsome V8 – it sounded like a good start. Other aspects for the new extreme farming solution was that it would have to be able to retain all the functionality of a current tractor; ploughing, towing, ground clearance etc.
So it couldn’t be compromised by its new super-car styling.
So with the desires of Matt Le Blanc outlined, the initial visual cues for the Track-tor were down-force, extreme styling, aggression and a McLaren F1 inspired seating arrangement. Large splitters and diffusers were a go head!
The designs were swept off to the Top Gear fabrication team, and our usual design process, common throughout the car design industry, of sketch, alias Cad, CNC mills, reviews, dynoc / highlight checks, was ……. side stepped. Let’s just say the result was a true one off, bespoke hand crafted in the true tradition of British engineering ingenuity and excellence.
A fun project to have completed and it was great to be able to get down to the Top Gear studio to watch the show filmed live as a bonus. The Track-tor appeared on Country File and Top Gear and excelled in every test thrown at it, on track, road and field! (25th March 2017)
Drive can sleep soundly at night knowing that we have helped Top Gear solve tractor traffic congestion.
images subject to copyright – image courtesy of TopGear www.topgear.com
New Design magazine editor, Alistair Welch, visited Drive to write a piece for their consultancy feature in the automotive design edition.
The article records his conversation with Drive directors Chris Longmore and Mark Pritchard and looks at some recent milestone projects in the company’s 20 year history and thoughts on both the challenges and opportunities that electrified power trains and autonomous systems are presenting automotive designers and companies.
Read the article here Drive – Automotive Design Company – New Design Magazine
Alistair Welch @alinewdesign