Automotive Design

Automotive design is a set of professional vocations or occupations involved in the development of the appearance, and to some extent the ergonomics, of motor vehicles or more specifically road vehicles. See glossary of automotive design.

This most commonly refers to automobiles but also refers to motorcycles, trucks, buses, coaches, and vans. The functional design and development of a modern motor vehicle is typically done by a large team from many different disciplines included within automotive engineering, however, design roles are not associated with requirements for Professional or Chartered-Engineer qualifications. Automotive design in this context is primarily concerned with developing the visual appearance or aesthetics of the vehicle, though it is also involved in the creation of the product concept. Automotive design is practiced by designers who may have an art background and a degree in industrial design or transportation design.

Design elements:

The task of the design team is usually split into three main aspects: exterior design, interior design, and color and trim design. Graphic design is also an aspect of automotive design; this is generally shared amongst the design team as the lead designer sees fit. Design focuses not only on the isolated outer shape of automobile parts, but concentrates on the combination of form and function, starting from the vehicle package.

The aesthetic value will need to correspond to ergonomic functionality and utility features as well. In particular, vehicular electronic components and parts will give more challenges to automotive designers who are required to update on the latest information and knowledge associated with emerging vehicular gadgetry, particularly dashtop mobile devices, like GPS navigation, satellite radio, HD radio, mobile TV, MP3 players, video playback, and smartphone interfaces. Though not all the new vehicular gadgets are to be designated as factory standard items, some of them may be integral to determining the future course of any specific vehicular models.

  • Exterior design
  • Interior design
  • Colour & Trim design
  • Graphic design

Computer-aided styling and Class-A development:

The sketches and rendering are transformed into 3D Digital surface modelling and rendering for real-time evaluation with Math data in initial stages. During the development process succeeding phases will require the 3D model fully developed to meet the aesthetic requirements of a designer and well as all engineering and manufacturing requirements. The fully developed CAS digital model will be re-developed for manufacturing meeting the Class-A surface standards that involves both technical as well as aesthetics. This data will be further developed by Product Engineering team. These modelers usually have a background in Industrial design or sometimes tooling engineering in case of some Class-A modelers. Autodesk Alias and ICEM Surf are the two most widely used software tools for Class-A development.

Development process:

A 1986 Ford Taurus clay model on display in Ford Detroit Styling Studio

Styling development cycle:

Several manufacturers have slightly varied development cycles for designing an Automobile, but in practice these are the following.

  • Design and User Research
  • Concept Development sketching
  • Class A surfaces
  • Clay modeling
  • Interior Buck Model
  • Vehicle ergonomics
  • Class A surfaces
  • Colour and Trim
  • Vehicle Graphics

The design process occurs concurrently with other product Engineers who will be engineering the styling data for meeting performance, manufacturing and safety regulations. From mid-phase, back and forth interactions between the designers and product engineers culminates into a finished product be manufacturing ready.

Apart from this the Engineering team parallelly works in the following areas. Product Engineering (Body In White Sheetmetal Design and Plastic engineering), NVH Development team, Prototype development, Powertrain engineering, Physical Vehicle validation, Tool and Die development and Manufacturing process design.

Development team:

The styling team for a specific model consists of a chief designer and an Exterior as well as interior designer. In some cases all three roles are done by one designer. Several junior designers are involved in the development process as well who make specific contributions all overseen by the chief designer. Apart from this the Color and trim designer works closely with other designers. The Clay model team and Digital model team works closely with the styling team all located within the studio. Apart from this there would be studio head, studio managers and prototype engineers who would work across all teams in the studio. The total team size for developing a full sedan usually ranges from 25 to 40 members and the development time lasts for more than 24 months till signed-off for tooling and production. Thereafter a smaller team would be working until vehicle launch.

Components:

Integration of an automobile involves fitting together separate parts to form a monocoque body or units and mounting these onto a frame, the chassis.

An automobile chassis basically comprises the following:

  1. The body shell, which forms the skeleton of the vehicle.
  2. The engine, is the power unit of the vehicle; which in the past has been in large part, the internal combustion engine.
  3. Transmission system, which aids in transferring the drive from the engine to the wheels. Its main components are the clutch, gearbox, final drive, and differential.
  4. Suspension system, which is used to connect the wheels to the body or chassis frame.
  5. Steering
  6. Brakes
  7. Electrical equipment

The chassis is complete in itself as a road vehicle. It can drive and control itself just as in case of a complete car and therefore, in many motor works, the chassis is usually tested on the road before the complete body of the vehicle is attached as the chassis alone can behave as the propulsion means.

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