Posted By admin on March 22, 2010
For those of us who have our black belt in shopping we know every season there are changes in fashion design and what the stores are showing; there is the Fall Fashion Collection and the Spring Fashion Collection. The change is meant to resurge our wardrobes, and increase the bottom line of designers and stores. The automobile industry has the same concept; change the design of the car and people will buy the new model. Due to the American automobile market reaching a saturation point a decision in 1924 to create annual model-year design changes came about. This meant a new styling development or change in a vehicle’s appearance and to some extent the ergonomics. Yes, it was primarily changing the looks of a car in a strategy planned to create “classic” cars and create the obsolescence factor in those vehicles with “ho-hum” value in the looks department. The idea originated with General Motors head, Alfred P. Sloan Jr. He wanted to convince car owners they needed to buy a new replacement car each year. Although Sloan gets credit for this revolutionary idea this concept was first introduced in the American bicycle industry. In the 1920’s they were introducing new colors and design changes, which was keeping the cycling business vital. For the auto industry this was an industry altering plan or a revolution. Because it could only be maintained with a newly created Design Department finding the talent, management and creative leadership was spanning into the almost unknown. Many of the newly hired designers were experienced only in bicycle design. Smaller players in the car industry could not maintain the pace and expense of yearly re-styling and eventually had to close their doors. Henry Ford did not like the concept at first, but had to acquiesce to the competition. He had an engineer’s mind set of simplicity, and a businessman’s sense of economics of style, and a “if it’s not broken you don’t need to fix it” design integrity philosophy.
Car designers have brought some of the most famous and unique concept to market creating a visual history and collectability component. The most famous American auto stylist is arguably, Haley Earl. He created the tailfin, wrap around window shields, factory two-tone paint and other aeronautical designs in the 1950’s. Also legendary is Gordon Buehrig responsible for the Hupmoible Skylark and the Graham Hollywood. Another notable designer who had a markedly different style impact was Chrysler groups’ designer, Virgil Exner. He was an early pioneer of Cab forward or the Forward Look of the mid 1950’s. He is credited with introducing the pointed tail fins in the 1956 Plymouth Belvedere which was adapted by all the other car companies following its’ introduction. Americans loved this styling technique and it sold volumes of cars.
Most automotive design departments are created into teams. Within the team effort each designer has an area of expertise: exterior design, interior design, and color and trim design. The aesthetic value everyone creates needs to correspond to ergonomic function and utility features as well.
Today’s designer’s have new challenges related to the latest electronic components like GPS navigation, satellite radio, mobile TV’s and Smartphone interfaces. All of these items the American public cannot live without now need to fit well into a car while looking great. Even in our time of high class 3d soft ware and virtual models on powerwalls the life size actual clay model method of designing a car, originating from the 1920’s in Harley Earl’s GM studio, is still the most important tool to evaluate the design of a car.
Margery Krevsky is the author of:” Sirens of Chrome: The enduring allure of auto show models, www.sirensofchrome.com, published by Momentum Publishing, available at amazon.com