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Drew Smith: ethnographer, strategist and host of Rising Minds

A beer in the sun and the future of the industry. A perfect combo, no?

Ah, the perils of a pub on the Thames, a pint and a video camera!

Last Friday I had the good fortune to, finally meet with the other half of the Movement Design Bureau, Mark Charmer.

With Joe Simpson and I in tow, he lead us to the most magical London pub I’d ever encountered, the Angel at Rotherhithe (somewhere near Bermondsey if you’re keen).

Ostensibly a social gathering, the ever scheming Mark had the sense to bring along a video camera to catch unsuspecting design strategists mid-pint, mid-cigarette and mid-flight setting the problems of the automotive world to rights.

Head over to the Movement Design Bureau to see Joe and I talking about the long term prospects for automotive industry and how I feel that, despite the massive strides made in HMI and connectivity in the last few years, I still don’t think that we’ve successfully grasped the aesthetic and social potential of the digital age.

[Photo: Mark Charmer]

No, no, no! A V10 does not an Esprit make!

Lotus-Esprit-S1-Orange

Although it’s only a rumour promulgated by Evo magazine at this point, the very thought of Toyota lending it’s new Lexus V10 to a future Esprit is enough to make me seethe with vitriolic outrage.

Lest we forget, the original Esprit was the ultimate road-going expression of Colin “to add speed, add lightness” Chapman’s fanatical obsession with elegant efficiency. He was obsessed to a fault perhaps, as demonstrated by the time, when upon returning from a GP race and having demanded more weight be removed from the prototype Esprit’s rear transaxle, he sort of fell on his own sword . He took off for home in the amended mule making it a short distance before the new “added lightness” tore itself free from the car, leaving him stranded on the airport exit road.

If this little anecdote goes to show anything, it’s that Colin would be turning in his fibreglass grave at the thought of a stonking great ten-pot in the back of his little supercar that could, no matter how much Lexus green-washing it may have had or the fact that Lotus may also produce an “eco Esprit”. Why not make all Esprits eco?

I have long thought that the future of maximum driving enjoyment lies in super-lightweight, compact and fuel efficient cars that are unencumbered by concessions to overt luxury or pretensions to practicality, in essence the Lotus approach. The new Evora, by all accounts, stays as true to Colin’s edicts as much as a 2+2 Cayman competitor can, but the Esprit should be the very essence of the company’s fabled light-weight history, not an offensive repudiation.

P.S The sketch in the Evo article makes it look like Lotus has decided to throw the baby out with the bath water, do an Audi and put the V10 in front of the front axle line. Whatever will they think of next?

Quote of the Day

In down economies, the only thing that’s going to change things is changing things. This is hard for a lot of marketers automotive designers/design managers/product planners who are used to defending the status quo, but it’s truly the best option.

If you’re not happy with what you’ve got, what radical changes are you willing to make to change what you’re getting?

Quote adapted from Seth Godin

It wasn’t so long ago that I was talking about the need for designers and their employers to be making the most of the crummy situation in which we find ourselves and I think Seth’s recent posting on change really adds weight to my argument.

If this downturn is showing us anything it’s that the traditional ways of engaging with clients and customers are no longer effective. Many industries have recognised this already but the automotive planet revolves at a slower pace and with far greater inertia.

If we’re to continue to do what we love doing, we’re going to have to respond rapidly and in far more imaginative ways than we have been so far. Cutting brands and slashing jobs alone won’t do it. Halting development, as many are, is not the solution either. You may need to reassess exactly what you are developing, but when the money starts flowing, you’re going to need remarkable products to bounce back. Don’t let this mess get you down, use it to drive your creativity and sow the seeds of lasting, positive change.

[Source: Seth Godin]


Quote of the Day

 

“Car designers need to create a story. Every car provides an opportunity to create an adventure.” 

Freeman Thomas

I couldn’t agree more. There are so many concept and production cars these days that fail to stir the emotions simply because there is no story to help us or, indeed, their designers fall in love with them. For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Freeman is the mind behind some of the most iconic cars of the late 20th century, namely the VW New Beetle, which he co-penned with J Mays, and the original Audi TT. The article from which the quote was pulled provides a wonderful insight into the mind of a fellow car nut and his take on car design past, present and future. This is a man I would love to meet.

 

Design – Freeman Thomas | Fast Company found via VisualCulture

Social Media: The Followup

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The other day I wrote a post about my discomfort with the combination of the pervasiveness of social media and the lack of nuance and subtlety provided by text -based communication. I put it that our willingness to be part of a, and share with a, community can overrule our desire to retain control over our personal information and that text can be an inflexible foe when trying to communicate with a deft touch. Bring these two together and you can have  miscommunication with horrifying outcomes. Read the rest of this entry »

Objectified: Industrial Design Receiving the Honour it Deserves

I’m amused at the number of times I have to explain to people what industrial design is. Those same people are amazed in return when they realise that most of the “stuff” they interact with on a daily basis that isn’t a building or nature (and sometimes even the buildings too) is the result of some kind of industrial design process.

In recognition of the profound changes that industrial design has effected on our lives, Gary Hustwit has created Objectified. The movie takes a look at  the remarkable minds and processes behind the creation of some of the most iconic products of the the 20th and 21st century. With a participant list that reads like a coffee table design book: Chris Bangle (BMW), Tim Brown (IDEO), Naoto Fukasawa, Jonathan Ive (Apple), Dieter Rams, Karim Rashid…the list goes on, it will present, I hope, a wonderfully diverse collection of views about design. Even our own Marc Newson gets a look in!

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this movie! Check out the site.

P.S Who knew Jonny Ive was so handsome!?

Objectified: A Documentary Film by Gary Hustwit.

An appropriate approach

My bread and butter comes from working in the automotive industry which, if you hadn’t noticed, is going through a bit of a rough patch at the moment. Although I’m in a pretty good predicament right now, many manufacturers and their support networks (the suppliers and consultancies come easily to mind) are not doing well at all. It’s interesting to hear the various negative sentiments being expressed around the place as development budgets are cut, design staff are made redundant and management battens down the hatches, turns the lights off and waits for the storm to pass.

Call me the eternal optimist but shouldn’t this adversity be helping us, as designers, to strive higher and be more creative than ever before? At some point this crisis will end and our clients/employers are going to need something to sell that will help them to bounce back stronger before.

Swiss Miss happened upon this fabulous quote from Einstein that sums up my approach pretty succinctly:

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(Source: Unplggd via Swiss Miss)

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.