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Interior Motives Design Conference 2005

Mon, 04 Jul 2005

Patrick le Quement, Senior Vice President, Corporate Design, Renault made the opening address in which he remarked that "the most profound change I and my team have made is the investment in interior design". He took the audience through a succinct overview of the recent history of Renault design and how far it has evolved from being 'the art of dressing up the hunchback' as a senior Renault manager remarked several decades ago. One of the interesting Renault Design processes he talked about was its 'Trends Missions' where groups of four or five designers make trips into creative areas adjacent to car design for a few days to explore, research and bring back to the studio valuable insight that enriches the design group as a whole and informs the many issues and tasks being grappled with, one of the most important at the moment being defining 'what is Renault'.

Bill Fluharty, Vice President Industrial Design North America, Johnson Controls spoke on the subject of the growing responsibility of design and how his group is working towards better shouldering this for their clients. Specifically he described how designers today are often divorced from responsibility for the fiscal implications of their decisions and how much scope there is for design innovation to reduce the portfolio of processes, components and thus cost, which then can result in higher profit margins.

Tony Hunter, Assistant Chief Designer, Interior Design, Land Rover presented his take on creating character within interior design making extensive reference to the Mini interior he designed. One particularly unforgettable fact Tony told us of was the sad deletion of the Mk1 Mini inspired stalk indicator repeater because it would cost an additional 13p, and how the typeface for the dials were inspired by his love for the Thunderbirds!

Richard Seymour, Creative Partner, Seymour Powell gave exceptional value with an invigorating plea to automotive designers to "please start to take on the major challenges we face", which he saw as engendering car design with some magic; a genuinely inclusively humanistic approach; an emotional relevance to the car user. With some powerful statements such as "emotional connection beats physical compliance" and "we don't think beauty, we feel beauty" Richard finished poignantly with: "Designers don't just think the future. They do it. So be careful what you do. There is a responsibility for what you do".

Ginger Ostle, Creative Partner, Carmen was another highlight with some new insight into "Premium Design" and how this still relatively new area between luxury and mainstream is evolving and fragmenting, and growing at the expense of mainstream. He introduced a new tool called the 'Sensual Index' that Carmen uses to research the value of some of the core premium design signifiers and finished with the statement: "The main challenge for interior designers is to create the right cocktail of sensual experiences for the product, the brand and the customer".

Several other speakers valuably contributed to a fairly intense two days that covered a disparate range of issues affecting automotive interior design, although a few presented little that was new, relevant or significant on the subject. The strongest theme of the conference centred on the importance of delivering beyond prosaic function and style: 'emotional relevance', 'sensual experiences' and 'Touch Design' all pointing to the emergence of interior design that becomes centric to fostering more empathetic relationships between car and user. As speaker Bruce Fenn remarked, "I have never heard the word love spoken as often over the last two days within the context of car design". But perhaps Nick Xiromeritis from Johnson Controls summed up best this new perspective on interior design when he said to CDN in the taxi back to the airport: "We spend a lot of time talking about design issues but not much about Design. And yet Design in its own right is so important because it is absolutely unique in offering emotional value".