Vehicle design students are typically car enthusiasts who yearn to sculpt dynamic contours on the surface of some precious automobile. Envisaging the car of the future, though, requires lateral thinking and a broader understanding of design – something that perhaps hasn't been so urgent in the past.
The car has come to be so much more than a vehicle for transport. This compact moving object is increasingly required to be a mobile home and office, to seamlessly connect our worlds and to do it all in an ecologically intelligent way. Thus, the pressure is high for students of vehicle design to create concepts that arouse discussion, offer novel solutions and raise the bar.
With this in mind, the 2015 Royal College of Art Vehicle Design graduation show was a mixed affair. This could partly be down to the sheer number of students on the course; 24 to be precise, as opposed to the handful who enrolled when the postgraduate course first began. (Though it soon grew its global reputation for nurturing some of the world's most creative car designers.)
Having said that, this year saw some inspired projects that abstracted the conventional form of the car – in one case to the sound of a violin – and some students looked at how new manufacturing materials, methodologies and sustainable power solutions could help re-shape the vehicle of the future.
One created a flat-pack IKEA-style relief vehicle; a former eye-surgeon-turned-vehicle-designer focussed on the process of creation, the design directly reflecting the element of motion therein; and our final journey on Earth was the theme for an unusual project that sought to make the burial ritual more of a community experience.
What follows are some of the designs that particularly inspired us this year…
'Simplicity Meets Passion: Stradivarius' by Tony Lien
Tony Lien explored how the sound and vibration of the violin can help visualise a more harmonised vehicle shape whilst simultaneously capturing the spirit of the music. 'During the composition it was important for me to focus on the passion of the piece,' he says of the solo performance that directed the project. The wire and plastic sculpture is about 'visualising the bow of a violin and documenting each movement as the music progresses'
'Orion's Belt: 68m Environmentally Conscious Luxury Exploration Yacht' by Cal Craven
Cal Craven turned to nautical design for his final year project. 'Orion's Belt: 68m Environmentally Conscious Luxury Exploration Yacht' is exactly that – a super-luxe water vessel that has been designed for rough climates so the super rich can explore forbidden territories in high luxury and comfort
'Nano Futures' by David Harding
How we maintain craft quality within mass manufacturing is the theme of this project. David Harding asks us to question current production techniques, 'to utilise them differently, adding value to a product' in the way of traditional crafts
'Kinesis: The Future of Design Methodology' by Dr Farhana Safa
'Kinesis' is a concept tool helping designers sculpt and feel design in a non-virtual 3D process. Former eye surgeon Dr Farhana Safa works with liquid metal that shifts shape when a current is applied. 'Electro-sculpting,' she explains, promotes 'exploration of forms, producing unified structures and surfaces.' Design, therefore, directly reflects motion, and the interior and exterior are seamlessly united
'Limbo: Final Journey' by Florian Kainz
This project, as its maker suggests, is 'a poetic re-interpretation of the ancient rituals associated with death', envisaged for the 21st century. Florian Kainz believes dying is the greatest sin of our times. 'In Western cultures we somehow tend to forget what is actually a natural part of life itself.' His exposed, skeleton-like vessel, therefore, parades the deceased through the streets to their final destination – highlighting their life story through projections on the vehicle and on the road
Winner of the Pilkington Best Design Interpretation Award, Sepehr Amirseyedi's concept is a proposition for an autonomous Bugatti that maintains the value of such a precious product once the traditional car qualities – power and driving dynamics – have given way to driverless mobility. 'Innovation is a process that changes the value systems of both producers and adopters,' he explains
'No Infrastructure Needed' by Simon Haynes
This is a flat-pack vehicle that can be assembled anywhere. Simon Haynes has visualised his concept as a relief vehicle for places where there is no viable infrastructure for manufacturing. 'It is also a study into reforming the manufacturing process of vehicles,' he explains, 'looking into new manufacturing processes like 4D printing and examining how this will affect the design'
'Scar' by Tianqin Bao
Winner of the Pilkington Design Award for the Best Use of Glazing, 'Scar' is a self-healing vehicle that questions our emotional relationship with our cars
'Scar' by Tianqin Bao
Tianqin Bao's concept has an in-built digital healing process, whereby any damage to the car is digitally mapped with new 3D printed repair parts. These 'scars' then become design features, 'nurturing a long-lasting bond between man and car', he notes
'Happie: The Google Self-driving Car' by Yibo Wu
Yibo Wu has set about challenging the autonomous vehicle through passenger behaviour. Instead of occupants using the journey for work – the car as a mobile office – his future driverless vehicle is a colourful playground, a place designed for fun and games