My mission at NAIAS 2019? To explore what was unique and possibly original in design among the OEMs. The glory days of automakers debuting concept cars and new models with all the pomp and circumstance of a Hollywood-movie release have ended. But the show continues to spark innovation and design thinking. I primarily focused on production vehicles versus concept cars. Concept cars, while cool and creative, do not have to meet all the requirements of a production car and can be wildly unfeasible.
The glory days of NAIAS are gone but there is always great design to glean from.
As an Industrial Designer, I took particular notice of surface, form, line, and what I have not seen before or in a very long time. Here is what stood out to me.
Protruding Lens Surfaces
Several OEMs are taking the surface of the taillights beyond the global surface of the body. Many of these designs resemble what a sketch line does on paper. It does add additional interest in the surface language. These are not quite as extreme as some of the taillights from the 50s.
Body Panel Shingling
Body panels and components have also left the global surface. From my experience in the auto industry, considerations for the user in terms of cleaning the product is very low on priority.
Some OEMs are incorporating body panels into the lighting. Some break the surround of the lens and even disconnect from the body and jump directly into the center of the light.
Wheel Lip Integration
I saw a few original and unique wheel lip applications. One wheel lip was interrupted by the body while another was integrated into the lower taillight.
Lighting has entered the grill surround and is integrated into the grill bars. I was told that this has a sequential feature. It also acts as a turn indicator.
The tailgate-to-end-all-other-tailgates debuted at NAIAS. The main tailgate was extremely heavy to shut regardless of where the mini insert was positioned. The gap it produced when fully closed wasn’t appealing in my eyes.
Many automakers have neglected the headlights and taillights over the years; they were an afterthought to the body design. Today, lighting is treated as jewelry for the front and back of the vehicle. Complex surfaces and multiple materials are coming to the forefront.
Radiused Rectangular Shapes
A design trend prevalent in most interiors was a rectangular shape with a few angles and radiused corners. Whether it is vertical or horizontal, the shape takes on variations but is essentially the same. It would be helpful for the design community to define this shape in design language that would easily be understood when described.
The 2019 NAIAS was a no show from the German automakers. BMW, Mercedes, and Audi were not present. There was a huge section of open floor space filled with vehicles that looked like an exotic car rental lot from California. Despite NAIAS not being what it used to be, a designer’s eye can’t help but catch the sparks of creativity sprinkled throughout the world of automotive design.
If you need to add a creative spark to your innovation process, whether you are in the service industry or manufacture tangible products, consider registering for an upcoming Innovation Engineering workshop or attending a more robust 2-3 day Innovation Workshop with Creative Leads, Subject Matter Experts, and Certified Facilitators.
Written By: Todd Kauranen, Industrial Designer
Todd’s sweet spot is working on the conceptual, fuzzy, front-end of world-class products. With over 33 years of product development experience, Todd’s a wonderful resource. Todd studied clay modeling & drafting at Walpro Technical and has a BFA in Industrial Design from The College for Creative Studies. Camping with family in his vintage Airstream trailer is Todd’s favorite pastime along with building custom furniture, sculpture, and cooking.