Design language in the auto industry


Porsche 911 Turbo Generations

The definition of a design language plays an important feature in the design process. In the automotive industry, supercars such as Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini, that have their design language well-defined in a long time: it is an intrinsic part of their DNA. These cars are recognisable immediately, and the new generations follow the transformation process of some identifiable features.

In standard production cars, the definition of a design language has been the common approach from a few years ago. To analyse a design language in a standard production car, we can distinguish two categories. The horizontal one comprised the differences within the car model. The second category is vertical, encompassing the different car models designed within the generation.

This process can be exemplified by analysing the Ford Kinetic Design, envisaged in 2004 by the Executive Design Director of Ford Europe Mr. Martin Smith. The Iosis concept car, launched in 2005, featured bold lines, shoulders and a double trapezoidal shape for the grid and the air intake in the front bumper. These features were the core of the design language for the entire generation and were present across the different models developed under that generation. This category is the vertical integration of the design language.

The horizontal category focuses on a specific car model. Under this category we can analyse how the design language is defined synchronic and diachronic. Synchronic analysis relates with the modularity of components and the minor modifications which enable manufacturers to differentiate the variants of a model within a particular generation. An example of this predicament can be difference between the 3- or the 5- door version of a model, and the differences in components, colours or motors. These features enable the customisation by the end user.

However, it is the diachronic analysis that is more interesting, since the transformation of design elements is harder to accomplish. It is under this perspective that supercars have long-time tradition and continuity whereas standard production cars don’t.

Nevertheless, nowadays even supercars need to appeal to a broader public. The once exclusive approach is becoming more and more blurred with the standard production approach. The video explains the transformation of design elements to achieve the design language within a generation of Porsche cars (vertical integration). Some of the indicated features are observable in the horizontal analysis of the 911 Turbo.

The header image was edited by Mário Barros based on the source: