SAIC have just launched a new advanced design studio. The open plan arrangement with designers’ zones, review areas, chill out space and groovy chairs providing a creative environment on prime Maryleborne real estate in the middle of London. A confident statement of intent, attracting design talent along with high expectations to define the future SAIC 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)
This year’s degree show is the last of the MA Vehicle Design course before it changes to MA Intelligent Mobility. Over the decades many of the Vehicle Design students have been taken on by leading manufacturers and consultancies, progressing to the top of their chosen speciality and going on to become leading figures in the industry.
The private view is an opportunity for former students, their colleagues and friends to view the latest graduates’ projects and catch up in a relaxed environment, with this year seeing a large number in attendance. The exhibition location in the Stevens Building with it’s large rooms and high ceilings allowed viewers space to stand back and appreciate the work, with the view of Queensgate a perfect backdrop.
The project quality is extremely high across all students, a second visit required to truely appreciate the depth of thought and the design details in all the projects.
23 June 2018 to 1 July 2018 – Stevens Building RCA Kensington Gore London SW7 2EU
As a footnote to this piece, it is 20 years since I attended my first RCA automotive degree show as the director of Drive. One of the students exhibiting his work that evening was Andrew Jones MA RCA (below), we later employed him and I am proud to say he is still a valued member of Drive.
The Coventry University Automotive Degree Show once again showcased the talented designers who are benefiting from the UK’s leading position of developing highly creative design professionals.
This year the diversity across the projects was a clear strategy from the course, with well resolved concepts for motorcycles, superyachts, commercial vehicles as well as cars. The Contechs’ awards clearly reflected this in their choices too.
Individuals were highlighting their personal experiences / specialisms to differentiate themselves, from gaming inspired solutions, motorsport placement aerodynamics led functionality and one of the hot topics interior psychology, with shared and personal space in the one environment requiring a lot of thought.
However two of my personal favourites were about creating drama by creating voids. Electrical motorcycles have a tendency to look unexciting as the technical interest of a traditional engine is replaced with a plain panel, but Alex Brown managed to open up this space and inject interest with his quick release battery canisters.
Christofer Saetrang achieved the same level of intrigue with his Alfa Milano proposal, the space between the front wheels bringing theatre with glowing brake discs. Other clever details across his car, along with a well-proportioned design, made the Contechs’ judging panel’s job easier in choosing their winner.
The degree show was once again worth visiting, with the students’ willingness to discuss their projects making it a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
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 …
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
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. We 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.