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Automotive design is often the product of the combination of innovation and inspiration, developed by referencing and observing surroundings. A successful design strategy stays true to the brand while changing the social economy, population, environment, and technology development. Therefore, in which aspects of the vehicle can we develop breakthroughs in terms of current design innovation? In the future, what characteristics should a preeminent designer have?

During the session entitled Auto Design and Styling: Innovation & Inspiration, held on the morning of June 10th, four experts in the design field had an engaging discussion on this topic from a variety of perspectives. The experts were Chen Zheng, Vice President of Changan Automotive Engineering Research Institute in China; James Hope, Corporate Design Director of Chery Motors; Pierre Leclercq, Vice President and Design Director of Great Wall Motor Co., Ltd. and Richard Chung, Vice President of Industrial Design & Craftsmanship, Global Interiors, Johnson Controls Automotive Interiors.

Design innovation needs to break boundaries

Chen Zheng, VP of Changan Automotive Engineering Research Institute believed that the design of autos is becoming more homogeneous across the industry. At the same time, the automotive industry is oriented by products’ user experience, as intelligent vehicles render an entirely new experience to users, meaning that the designers should pay attention to the products and services of the user experience.

Over the past ten years, car sales in China were mainly based on entity sales channels. Today, the Internet has changed the rules of the game, as it has created new links between the supply side and the demand side. This major change has required the auto industry to break the boundaries of traditional vehicle development and sales processes.

Currently, China is in the Golden Age of car design. The Golden Age is differentiated from past eras that had a shortage of design understanding because Chinese society has realized the value of auto design. Auto design is a value add for brands and enterprises, making it extremely important for companies to understand design. More importantly, the demand for auto design has grown impressively in China, further demonstrating the Golden Age of auto design in China.

Pierre Leclercq from Great Wall Motor agreed that design needs breakthroughs and innovation. "Innovation can bring inspiration and opportunity to everyone. The mission of innovation is to try new things. For the automotive industry, the attitude to the market is essential. We do believe that there are still enormous potentials for Chinese enterprises in the field of creation.”


Great design needs to have design thinking

How can one be an excellent designer for current market demands?

Pierre Leclercg mentioned that today’s auto designer is working on a global scale as three fundamental characteristics are crucial to being an excellent designer: first, a sketch to distinguish brands; second is the use of 3D, and third is to consider all the processes of production and the production of many links via the entire engineering design. However, many young designers nowadays merely focus on the sketch. This is a problem that they must avoid.

Richard Chung from Johnsons Control also expressed a similar point of view. As he mentioned, design is also a kind of experience, saying, "many people think that good design is based on painting sketches, or a well-painted sketch, however it is the concept of expression coming from your core philosophy, but not from the sketch; for the future designers, I would suggest them to study politics, to understand the consumer markets and to be scientific, to know what is happening in the world etc. All these will bring inspiration and will stimulate them to create new ideas. Thus, designers must know how to obtain inspiration from society.”

“For designers, good design needs to have design thinking.” said by Mr. Chen, "Now, regardless if they are located in China, Europe or America, all schools of design have a common problem: everyone emphasized too much on sketches and 3D, and they are lacking; however, without design thinking, all these techniques are useless. Design is not what you draw, it should lie in the entire process of design. Design must overcome a series of problems including those in  production, technology, business and so on. To clearly express your design thinking after conquering all issues, this is the most complete picture of design."

James Hope, Corporate Design Director of Chery Motors stated that design will affect the quality of consumers' perception of vehicles, so the designer's job is to predict and shape the future.


Design to create a blue ocean market

Richard Chung pointed out that today's auto industry is developing rapidly, which will generate more interesting models for personalized consumption. This development requires new design methods to design the new styling, especially in China. Design is the front line of product development; designers should lead this trend and must use their creativity to create a blue ocean market while complying with the Chinese government that introduced the new plan of "Made in China 2025.”

Documentary of GAF2016