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Drew Smith: ethnographer, strategist and host of Rising Minds

Quick Thoughts: A small car in a big car’s pants: the new Ford Focus

Ford’s new Focus has been unleashed a full year ahead of it’s European on-sale date and it’s already generating substantial comment in the sphere of the blogs. Ed Stubbs and Dustin Shedlarski have both written interesting critiques of a design that I, personally, find a little schizophrenic. But let’s face it: when you’re trying to design one C-Segment product for two markets – one that’s been downsized for decades and another that’s only just coming to terms with the concept – things are bound to get a little hectic. Read the rest of this entry »

Post-Frankfurt Daze

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I must appologise for things being a little quiet on the DownsideUpDesign front.

At relatively late notice I was fortuitous enough to gain press accreditation (yes, I’m now a fully accredited journalist with the IFJ) for the Frankfurt Motor Show, known in German as the IAA, or Eeeee Ahhh Ahhh (which always sounds vaguely pornographic).

So while you, dear reader, have been wondering weather I’d left the mortal coil to pilot that great big Espada in the sky, I was wandering hither and thither around what is possibly the worlds largest motor show. Sitting on a site 1.2Km long by .5Km wide, if it weren’t for the press cars and their beautiful drivers, I’d have legs like Arnie.

Three 7 am starts and 2 am finishes later I can safely say I conquered it. What have I got to show for it? Well apart from some fabulous discussions with designers, PR types and general good guys that I hope to elaborate on here and elsewhere, I managed to amass around 4,000 photos and my first ever videos. Rather than bore you with all of them (I do get a little carried away at times…) I’ve put together a small selection of 384 piccies on my Flickr page. It’s a bit of a random bunch and the analysts amongst you will be able to tell far to much about me than I care to know. Nevertheless, take a look and let me know how you found the show through my eyes.

#IAATweetup: Frankfurt Motor Show TweetUp/Designer’s Night After Party

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In what may a possible first on the international motor show scene, a group of us (@daveimai, @joesimpson, @charmermark and @carnorama primarily) will be (loosely) hosting a combined Designer’s Night after party and new media type tweetup.

Find us from 22:00 on September 15 at Eurodeli, located at Neue Mainzer Str. 60-66 in Frankfurt (nearest S-Bahn is Taunusanlage, nearest U-Bahn is Alte Oper).

If you’re going to be in town for the show and are looking to kick on after Designer’s Night (or didn’t get an invite in the first place) feel free to join us!

We can’t wait to meet you all there!

P.S Make sure you use the #IAATweetup hashtag in all your Frankfurt Show tweets so we can follow the event!


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[image: Eschipul]

Honda’s missing the Frankfurt Show. Is that all it’s missing?

Odyssey

2009 will be remembered as the year that car manufacturers started to really reconsider their involvement in international motor shows. Although the effects of mass pull-out won’t become truly evident until Tokyo, where Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes, Renault, Volkswagen and Volvo will be conspicuous only in their absence, in a case of what may seem to be a little bit of East/West tit-for-tat, Mitsubishi, Nissan/Infiniti and Honda have all decided to skip Frankfurt.

Read the rest of this entry »

Quick musings: BMW’s Open and Shutlines

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Volkswagen-Golf_2004_1600x1200_wallpaper_17As any automotive designer will tell you, drawing shutlines on a car is black art unto itself. Get them right and you can hinge an marketing campaign on them or, indeed, an entire iconic design, like the VW Golf and it’s C Pillar. Get them wrong and you’ll have pedants like me gibbering like a junky as we try to right the wrongs in our head (I almost had an accident the other day while pondering a VZ Holden Commodore’s rear door…).

Graphic composition of panel gaps aside, it’s been generally accepted that the tighter the gap, the higher quality the vehicle (thus Lexus’ famed Ball Bearing campaign) and the better the aerodynamic performance (Series 1 Range Rovers, which have gaps so voluminous as to be able to accommodate whole fingers, have always provided an amusing counterpoint to this fact…)

BMW’s new concept, the Vision Efficient Dynamics, therefore, has me in a bit of a quandary. Read the rest of this entry »

Do I detect a movement? Car design gets more social by the week.

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I’ve just spent two fantastic days volunteering, presenting and learning at the sensational UXAustralia user experience conference in Canberra, Australia.

It seems appropriate, therefore, that this morning I learnt of another socially-led automotive design project.

Following in the vein of GM’s The Lab, Local Motors and Peugeot, Fiat Brasil has now launched the Mio project. Read the rest of this entry »

Monday Morning Madness: Ferrari Modulo

As a kid the Paolo-Martin penned Modulo, though only ever seen in books, scared the living daylights out of me. It still does.

I simply couldn’t understand how it could look so otherworldly and still be a car. There is a latent, alien malevolence to it that continues to send chills up my spine. It’s hard to believe, slightly dated details aside, that this Ferrari 512 S-based monster slithered into the world at the 1970 Geneva show.

The question is, seeing as I don’t think there’s been a concept as outrageous since, who’s going to top it?

[Found via Jalopnik]

Coupe + SUV still = Fail

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Did nobody tell Acura of the collective slack-jaw expression that met the BMW 5 GT in Geneva? Or of the decidedly muted market reception to the proportionally challenged, stupendously impractical X6?

I guess not: Acura wants to have this monstrosity in dealers before the year is out.

Somehow one of the automotive design sites managed to find something to recommend in the ZDX’s lazy BMW pastiche but I’m not buying it.

From mind-blowingly awful “power plenum” grille (plenums this ugly should stay put under the hood) to the hideous confluence of surfaces at the rear via the comically small rear door (look at the opening in the interior shot below), this car makes the vulgar X6 look like the stylistic patron saint of pointless cross-overs.

As one designer friend put it, this car confirms Acura as the world’s premier publisher of 1st-year design student projects.

The lack of subtlety and detailing in the age of the new Volkswagen Polo, with it’s delightfully co-ordinated grille mesh and headlamp bulb caps, speaks volumes about how seriously Acura takes producing a premium product.

Best in show: VW Polo

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Yes, you read that correctly. My personal star of the Geneva Show is a thoroughly vanilla B Segment competitor from Europe’s most conservative mainstream manufacturer. It may sound perverse but the Polo won my heart on a couple of fronts and it manages to comprehensively nail the zeitgeist in the process. Read the rest of this entry »

Citroen launches DS Inside… inside.

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The image you see above is the most revealing that I, a fully accredited member of the press, could manage to take of the CItroen DS Inside concept.

Is Citroen ashamed of the DS Inside? Or more specifically, are they ashamed of using the DS name on such an underwhelming product?

As I traipsed the show floor on Monday searching for inspiration, I kept passing the Citroen stand. I was keeping my eye out for the the inheritor of one of motoring history’s great names. After about the 5th fly-by, I realised that something was up.

I noticed an opening at the back of the stand, guarded by a velvet rope and a heavy-set Frenchman. There was a small gathering of people and the bloke was letting them in one by one.

I strutted over, flashed my pass and was admitted to the tiniest night club I’ve ever experienced. Electronica, mirrors and strobe lights saw me immediately dazed and confused. Then, for a split second, a single source of illumination hit the hitherto dark object in the centre of the room: It was the DS Inside.

Camera at the ready, I started snapping away, only for the lights to go spasmodic again, rendering any meaningful observation impossible. I skulked out, feeling somewhat queasy and totally cheated.

I’ve recently questioned whether it’s wise for Citroen to use such an evocative, powerful piece of their history as the namesake for their new mainpremium products. I lived in hope that their marketing chutzpah and the initial product, the DS Inside, would be ballsy enough to give some hope for the future of the DS brand.

That the car, from what I could see, is cute but totally average was a forgone conclusion. The press images released two weeks ago showed that and it gains and loses nothing in the flesh.

What was really mortifying was just how ashamed Citroen seemed to be in showing the car. It did not come across as cool, hip or nonchalant to show the DS Inside in a black box. It came across as weak, as if they regretted bringing the car here at all, much less slapping a DS badge on the nose.

I realise that I’ve been going on about this DS thing for a while now, and this will probably be the last post on the topic until the next travesty is launched (if I can summon up the passion at that time). Sadly, the damage has now been done and I’ll be surprised if Citroen can turn the DS brand around from its anti-launch without a complete re-think of their product.

A word of advice to Citroen and any other brand considering a challenging product concept launch (Lagonda, I’m looking at you), give a design strategist a call. We live and breath your brands, marketing and design. We’ll be more than happy set you right.

About DownSideUp Design

I'm Drew Smith and I'm an ethnographer and strategist. By day I shape culture and strategy at Seren. By night I sleep (mostly). And once a month, I host an event called Rising Minds, at Shoreditch House.

DownsideUpDesign is a place for me to collect stuff that I like, often love and sometimes hate for safe keeping. All views represented here are mine and mine alone and do not represent those of anyone else.

Get in touch at drewpasmith (at) gmail (dot) com or tweet me (@drewpasmith) to rant, contribute or collaborate!

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© Andrew Philip Artois Smith and DownsideUpDesign, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrew/Drew Smith and DownsideUpDesign with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.