As we get ready to cheer England on in the world cup over the next few weeks, it is interesting how important the details have become for every sports team or individual.
As the levels of all sporting athletes have reached incredible standards, it is the details, the adding together of 0.1 percent, that make the difference between winning and losing, and clothing is one of those areas.
Ayrton Senna started to turn his driving gloves inside out so the seams and stitches didn’t give any discomfort, and then the manufacturers started to make them that way. Sir Clive Woodward looked at every aspect of the England Rugby team, and realised the traditional rugby shirt by its very design and fabric made it heavy especially as it absorbed moisture and rain, and also was easy for the opposition to grab. They got the manufacturer to redesign to be more like a sprinters, lighter and skin tight. They also noticed that England teams were better in the first ten minutes of a game than the first 10 minutes of the second half, so they tried to replicate the conditions, so everyone had a new clean strip for the second half. They certainly looked superior to the opposition at that point, and that psychological edge is so important.
So with England players about to pull on the famous strip with Three lions on their chest it is interesting to see its specification –
Ultra soft DRI-FIT fabric designed to pull moisture away from the skin to the outside of the shirt where it evaporates more quickly.
Laser cut holes and engineered mesh zones under the arms and mid-back to provide increased breathability and airflow to help keep cool.
An engineered burnout mesh to help regulate body temperature over 90 minutes.
Whatever you think, if it makes 0.1% difference to every player (even in his mind) for every minute of every match, that could be the difference between lifting ‘the’ Cup and using one to drown ones sorrows.
Good Luck to the England Team
The interesting thing about industry night at Coventry Automotive Degree Show 2014, is the difficulty one has to get a chance to look at and then discuss projects with the designers, with so many other people using the event as a meeting point. All the designers on show, are trying to stand out with some new approach, material, shape, or simply doing a very accomplished design proposal, but without promoting oneself you can be missed.
From a graduate’s perspective the degree show is an opportunity, and pushing forward and instigating conversation to industry people is a must. When they make that opportunity, although their description of the project is interesting, more often than not it is their own story that is intriguing and gives a true representation of the person, so important when it comes to making employment or recommendation decisions.
As a case study of doing this well, here is a good example.
I was just getting into see the last room as everyone seemed to be heading out to the old ‘Browns’ for a drink. I was tapped on the shoulder, ‘Hi, its Chris isn’t it? We’ve met before when you did a presentation at Northumbria University two years ago.’ Hayley Chalmers introduced herself, and I did remember her, because after my presentation she waited to say Hello, and followed up two days later with a LinkedIn connect request. Now graduating, she explained why she decided a change to the Coventry Automotive Design Course would give, what she felt, were the best opportunities in her chosen field. Leaving the relative comfort zone of 3 years at Northumbria, and dropping into the highly competitive and acknowledged leading automotive undergraduate degree course in Britain, takes a clear understanding of where you want to go, how you are going to get there, determination and dedication. It clearly accelerated her skills, knowledge and access to industry people to learn from. A quick résumé of her work experience and an overview of her project; and the final question ‘are there currently any design positions at Drive?’ showed a very consistent and professional approach over 21/2 years.
Hayley was not the only one to engage and stand out, Luke Robus ‘that person who draws weird things’, Mohammed Hassen ‘hey not so fast!’ and Jack Watson, among others, were happy to approach people and have a conversation.
Discussions about which designer, got what help with their model or animation, always stir up a debate. There is no definitive answer as to whether someone who does it all themselves, merits a higher grade or is a better equipped designer for a design studio, than one who has managed to plan/persuade someone else to do certain aspects of their project. But how people deal with the situation says a lot.
Take Aleck Jones, clearly mad about motorcycles, having seen the mad rush and limited rapid prototype machine time available in previous years, and the expense to use a bureau, decided to buy a kit and build his own rapid prototype machine, improve it and then use it to manufacture his final model with it. That’s initiative.
So when you think the hard part of your course is over and you managed to get the model done just in time for the show, even if it didn’t go smoothly and the paint is still wet, don’t relax just yet, make the most of your degree show, and promote yourself.
Reading the headlines on Friday evening I was dismayed to hear about the fire at the Glasgow School of Art, one of the most important and historic Art Nouveau buildings in the UK. It has been admired and critically studied by architecture historians the world over, becoming Charles Rennie MacKintosh’s most famous piece of work despite it being designed early in his relatively short career. It was considered a very bold building when constructed, but many now consider that it marked the beginning of modern architecture with its asymmetrical frontage and complete lack of adornment.
Despite its age though, there is one distinct aspect of its design that still remains highly relevant today : it was the overall coherent approach and the completeness of the design that made this design truly special.
If you were to label Mackintosh or the School of Art a brand, everything about the building was completely on message. From the relatively austere brickwork façade on the outside, to the individual details and fittings that appeared inside, every part of the building was designed to complement other parts. For example, there were no standard door handles, or gutters, or light fittings. At least not the ones on show. All these items were individually designed and manufactured for their sole use in the School of Art. Everything looks like it belongs and has been considered from the outset with the design being seen as a complete whole, not just a building made from a collection of parts. Even more special when you realise the budget was a fairly modest one.
I see cars as being very similar. They have a huge part count, but every part must contribute to the overall story which consistently reinforces the brand message. The form, the materials, the execution of every little part must live up to the customer’s expectations. Even down to how a switch feels when pressed. Whilst this isn’t surprising or revolutionary, it’s all too often overlooked, especially in an age where project costs need to be tightly controlled.
I truly hope that the fire hasn’t completely destroyed the school, and that damaged areas can sympathetically restored, so those that haven’t been able to visit can see for themselves the true depth and coherence that is apparent in this masterpiece.
For more information on the GSA, and the restoration work they are now faced with you can visit : www.gsa.ac.uk
If you have read my rundown of the Geneva motor show you’ll know that I’m quite fond of the Citroen C4 Cactus but, much like when I professed my love for the profoundly brilliant BMW i3, it seems that, to some, these bold design moves are a little more abstruse and scary than they ought to be. So, here’s why I think that cars like these define a huge portion of mainstream automotive design and will become the icons of the future.
So, what makes a desirable car? For most people the dream usually consists of owning a characterful classic car or status enhancing super car and, for most people, they’re unobtainable for various reasons. On the most part then, obtainable cars become little parodies of the cars we really desire, a compromised version of the real thing and as a result they leave you only half filling that aspirational void. An Audi A1 might have some of the visual thrills to look at as an RS5 but it will leave you disappointed if you ever want to race one off the lights. A Mini might have character, as ubiquitous as it is, but it doesn’t quite have the character of the original, as any original Mini owner will tell you.
So what if a car didn’t try to give you a slice of your current aspiration but instead it tried to change your aspirations all together, to give you something you didn’t know you wanted? In steps the BMW i3, which for me is every bit as exciting as a Porsche 911 but in a completely different way. Nothing about the design of an i3 suggests anything other than the true qualities it possesses. A Prius, for some reason, tried to be a heinously boring, normal car which to me almost implied that your expectations of a hybrid were so low that just being normal was some sort of incredible achievement. A Tesla, whilst making huge steps in the right direction, still seems to hide behind the conventional car facade and remains too compromised for the price bracket. But the i3 is all new and arguably within most people’s reach and when you’re driving along there’s nothing that could drive past that you wish you could afford. Before you say the i8, well… yes there is the i8 but it’s still an evolution of the ostentatious super cars we already love and, for me, isn’t the pure and intelligent solution that the i3 is. So, finally you can look as smug with your car as the inordinately smug people in the adverts with the added benefit of having the environmental moral high ground which should make you really popular at dinner parties.
The Cactus then? Technologically it won’t stand up against the i3 and neither will it be the revolution that I’m sure the i3 will be but it does offer something that I don’t think many cars offer. For a start it’s very unique, Citroen seem to be keeping well clear of the copy, paste and re scale effect that the VW group seem to be making popular on the other end of the scale. The Cactus’ individuality doesn’t just run skin deep though, it feels like care has been taken to make sure the message runs through every part of the car. For example, 2011 bought us the Nissan Juke which was, by all accounts, immensely popular. This showed that people like alternative design but drive one and it becomes apparent that the design doesn’t encourage you to see it as anything other than an ordinary hatchback with a slightly higher driving position. This is where I think the Cactus differs slightly, it celebrates its functions and isn’t ashamed to be what it is. One of its defining features is the ‘Airbump’ patches on the exterior which will not only protect your car but will also attract herds of people endlessly examining their tactility, an exciting prospect to say the least. It wears its roof bars with pride as well, they say ‘I’m adventurous’ not ‘I’ve lost all enthusiasm for life and I need some way of getting the kid’s bikes to Centre Parcs’. It doesn’t stop there either because i think that a car’s true qualities are often reflected in its interior. I think that the Cactus’ interior, from a design perspective, is quite a clever one. Notice how all the parts you touch or are in the drivers eye line are beautifully detailed but all the areas you may kick or scuff with muddy boots seem far less precious. The comfy bench seats upholstered in rugged fabrics akin to that which you might find on a Danish sofa give it a homely feel, this is no hose down Land Rover defender either. Time (and driving one) may prove me wrong but it has the feel of a ‘demi’ icon but hopefully not in the same way as the Avantime.
A dream car, then, is a car that doesn’t compromise in giving you exactly what you want, no matter what that is. The Cactus wouldn‘t be mine then because I’d have to go out and buy an inactive surf board to put on the roof or have a litter of children just to justify the purchase. Doing that would go against everything this car is meant to be… practical.
I’m not saying these examples are necessarily anyone’s dream car just that they offer something to the mass market that doesn’t feel compromised, doesn’t necessarily leave you longing for something better and is designed from the ground up to fit its purpose. At the end of the day, I like to think that a car should be exciting and inspiring and if that means spending time with family or saving the planet then so be it. I still love fast cars, it’s innate, but it’s good to see that great cars can be more inclusive and exciting but we need more bold and clever designs before we’re all happy.
Driving down to Goodwood on Sunday morning, following Ferraris and keeping a watch on the Lamborghini behind, I was reminded of a comment by Peter Stevens, “there are a lot of super cars, but not many super drivers!”.
We arrived at 7.30 and the line up of exotic machines on the start finish straight was already extensive and the paddock was full. With so many cars it was a good opportunity to walk round and discuss the various cars with friends and colleagues, decide what my next car should be (I wish) and also listen in on the comments of the crowd, on the differing front ends of the McLaren MP4-12C and 650s and is a Porsche 996 really a super car. I am looking forward to hearing the views of our newest designer Greg Seed who for the last 3 years has been designing Super Bikes with leading consultancy Xenophya. His take on the cars will be interesting, and hopefully raise some a few discussions back at the studio.
As far as our work discussions were concerned they seem to centre around details on cars that we are currently in negiotation with engineers about, under/over flush conditions, door release positions and legal light heights! The Jaguar F Types looked great, and we all agreed that we would loved to have been flies on the wall when Julian Thomson and Ian Callum had to accept the solution below – I feel it is like how in every Persian carpet the maker includes a deliberate mistake to ensure it isn’t perfect.
A very good day and the 3 Rolls-Royce Models on the Grid to celebrate 110 years to the day that Charles Rolls met Henry Royce and agreed to start a company together, shows how the Goodwood Breakfast Club has become quite an event.
Drive look forward to catching up with more of you at the next designer’s breakfast club and we hope to see the cars in our motor show video at next year’s Super Car Sunday!