2009 Audi A4 Avant: Design Exercise
July 21, 2009
Maybe you're not supposed to drive a station wagon to places where designers hang out, but over the last few days, the 2009 Audi A4 Avant has been to the Art Center College of Design's Car Classic (Burt Rutan was the celebrity guest this year), a tour of Ford's California design studio by Freeman Thomas, Director, Strategic Design (it's huge; seven surface plates!), and dinner with the jury for Michelin Challenge Design.
The Audi A4 Avant proved to be a hit everywhere. And the reason lies in its utility, not just its stylistic grace.
Stewart Reed, Chair of the Transportation Design Department at Art Center, reminded me that great design comes from expressing utility with style. Pure style is no more than a bubble on a mechanical device. It's only when there's a connection between an object's appearance and its potential use that a design really strikes us. Maybe it's no surprise that Reed drives an Audi S6 Avant himself.
Meanwhile Geza Loczi, Director of Design, Volvo Monitoring Concept Center, points out that the Audi A4 Avant incorporates some of the concave surfacing that designer Chris Bangle developed for BMW. Though this surfacing technique caused much controversy at the time, it's interesting to see elements incorporated into so many car designs from other companies these days. And it's even more interesting that we've come to accept them, not only for their aesthetic value but also for the way in which they can reduce weight and improve aerodynamics. For me, the final irony is Bangle's decision to leave BMW in the wake of the company's return to its former strategy of making one kind of stylistic sausage for the whole company, only cutting it into different lengths.
Who would have thought that a station wagon could teach us about great design?
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 15,691 miles