I have a design question for you my dearest reader,
I have been looking at various designs recently and suddenly had a remarkable moment of clarity.
IF cars are designed by computer to gain the greatest fuel efficiency, with ergonomic and safe features to enhance the passenger experience, why are they all so different?
An answer I found online at http://www.toyota.co.jp/en/kids/faq/q/01/01/ is: “One reason is that people have different uses for cars, and another is that people have different preferences. So, in order to meet all of these different uses and preferences, we make a variety of different models! It’s like how there are so many different varieties of pens, pencils, erasers, and note paper that you can buy. You choose the ones you want to use, right?”
But pencils all have the same basic design. Pens too. (They need to fit in the hand)…
So I looked at other vehicles.
A plane has achieved pretty much the optimum shape in its short history. If it carries people or cargo, it has the same shape, but the interior is different.
An obsolete fighter Jet at Tangmere Museum
A train too has achieved this as seen across the world and so too have ships – seen for thousands of years, floating in every bay. Small differences give them character or purpose, but they all look remarkably similar.
Boats at Teignmouth
Yet a car; that now most expensive of toys that depreciates the moment it is bought and wastes 60% of fuel just heating the air around it, seems to have a design life of its own. Square ones, round ones, ugly ones, pretty ones. Actually that last statement is wrong. If you look at modern car design, there is very rarely a pretty one. They are all masculine, brutish, powerful, committed. Plastic. There is no delicacy or finesse. The serpentine curve of the TR4 has long gone. The hand-carved walnut dash, long since replaced by polypropylene.
A racing car of a bygone age at Brooklands Museum, Surrey.
If one is honest, by driving such an inefficient mode of transport, you are actually saying to the universe, “I am so rich I can afford to waste insane amounts of money going to a shop 600 yards away.”
Perhaps I am being disingenuine.
But I’d like to make a point. If one look at flowers for example. They have a very real purpose. The first flowers were the Magnolias, which are very basic sexual organs, designed primarily to attract insects to do the dirty and haphazard work of fertilization. Over the course of millions of years, we now see a multitude of flower shapes, sizes and designs. To me the most intriguing is the compound flower, such as the daisy – a design that actually involves hundreds, perhaps thousand of miniature flowers. Or the Umbilliferous plants, quite stunning in their own particular right. But then again, the most populous of flower designs on the planet is the orchid with over 26,000 accepted variations. Beautiful, delicate, simple and devastatingly successful.
An umbilliferous flower
But this is my point, natural evolution has led to various designs. The car on the other hand has been designed by as single species – man and his understanding of engineering and physics and thus, up to a point in history, there should be quite rightly a multitude of designs. That is UNTIL a computer gets involved. Computers are logical. Computers are simple. They are hopefully programmed to look for the most simple and efficient process to make your car work better. Yet we still have a vast array of ugly, inefficient vehicles. It just doesn’t make sense.
A modern car should by now look like this:
Bluebird electric car. Designed to reduce wind resistance, thus gaining fuel efficiency which in the modern age is the priority.
A square car like a Landrover Discovery should not exist. It is quite plainly not designed to reduce drag. Ergo, neither should many, many others because they are are not saving you and I money and they are not environmentally efficient. They are extravagances of the designer. All those curves, all those extras, the growling radiator grill, the shaped wing mirror are not designed for least wind resistance. They are designed for effect.
At university my dissertation asked the question: What is design classic?
Apart from the fact the actual writing was self indulgent tripe (nothing changes), I came to the conclusion longevity is the greatest asset to a design.
Thus, ladies and gentlemen, the greatest design classic is: A BALL OF STRING.
ball of string
A design that has not changed in millenia. It cannot be improved upon. There is no need. It is quite simply perfect.
That is what a car should be. A perfect piece of engineering that offers us maximum comfort with a minimum of expense. But it isn’t is it?
Form should follow function.
Then I thought, perhaps we are being led by the designers minds. I extended this to what a car represents and the most obvious answer that came to mind was: A sexual organ. A penis extension.
We all know of the idea that a car to a teenager represents mobility, status and sex appeal?
An 18 year old is more sold on the idea of driving a Ferrari than a Ford for obvious reasons. We have often heard it said within psychology that certain cars supposedly represent virility. The powerful, brute force of car engines dictate to others on the road: Our power, our strength our success. Thus the designs around the engine supposedly also project this.
So to take that point a little further. We, or rather those of us who can afford to waste money driving a car, are driving in giant a phallus. The ultimate in dick swinging. (I must point out here, for the sake of gender equality, we could be driving big powerful vaginas, but it somehow doesn’t feel quite right. Unless you transpose the soft interior to that of a womb, the engine as your mothers heart, the pedals as the umbilical chord the petrol as your fathers’ semen…)
So when we look at say for examples’ sake a Bentley Continental as below – A car that costs a ridiculous amount of money without actually doing anything much different from a Peugot – we are supposed to say wow. But are we really?
Perhaps when we look at a Bentley or a Bugatti or a Lamborghini we are actually appreciating this:
the genitals of Michaelangelo’s David
Of course there is nothing wrong with appreciating art. Is there?
Perhaps for continuity we should all just go and drive one of these…
purple passion car
After-all if we are prepared to put our noses in that most beautiful of Mother Natures’ sexual organs – the flower – why not accept we are driving around in a designers wet dream.
Happy rethinking your design in the garden.
Nb… A word to the wise. Do not go to Mercedes Benz World at Weybridge and ask if how Maybach in the S class differs from the power plant in the King Tiger. You may not like the answer.
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