Iconic - 2012 Volkswagen Beetle Long-Term Road Test
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2012 Volkswagen Beetle Long Term Road Test

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2012 Volkswagen Beetle: Iconic

March 25, 2013

2012 Volkswagen Beetle:

Maybe the typeface would've been too small, or maybe VW designers decided icons were a better call for functions like load, eject and equalizer. It's kinda cool that the stereo's tone controls are indicated by eighth notes, even if it's not obvious at first. I read something about how music producer Daniel Lanois often draws icons on the mixing console to represent the instruments he's recording, instead of simply writing "guitar 1", "guitar 2," etc.

He believes the pictograms jog creative thinking and ideas, and even make the individual track into a sort of color, as opposed to a group of letters. All very new-agey yes, but the guy has made some devastating albums with Peter Gabriel, U2, Willie Nelson, and on his own. There's something to it.

Modern cars synthesize both ideas, the visual and the written (and now with growing ubiquity of voice command, the verbal). I'm curious about the criteria, though. Which functions deserve letters and which icons? This, according to in-house man of all things under the metal and behind the dash, Dan Edmunds, is fairly arbitrary.

Home market preferences tend to decide whether a button says "Cruise" or has the near-universal little gauge-with-an-arrow icon. Profitable export markets obviously demand consideration. Or sometimes someone high enough on the engineering team read a psychology study that said pictures are better than words, or four buttons were better than two.

I'll keep this in mind next time I'm wishing CUE to the soft-heap with Netscape Navigator and CRT monitors.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor @ 15,734 miles

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