Car makers must embrace a global trend towards minimalism, exploring opportunities to use fewer, less complex and lighter materials to create more striking vehicles.
That’s the view of Renault design chief Gilles Vidal, who highlighted a shift towards designing for essential use while unveiling the Rafale SUV recently.
“It’s time for an era of less bling, I believe,” he said. “The challenge for designers will be shaping a brand that is strong and impressive but so much simpler than today. We still want to be making striking cars, but with a more minimalistic, essential design.”
Vidal noted how the role of advancing technology is opening up new opportunities for designers, particularly around lighting. This includes headlight shapes – the Rafale’s front headlights ape a split version of the Renault logo – and the option of a panoramic sunroof with four opacity modes that allow it to be shaded at the touch of a button.
“I am not saying I have the answers just yet, but I have been setting the challenge of what we can do to be striking but minimalistic,” said Vidal.
“I am not sure that today anyone can say they are doing truly minimal design. The contrast is that some brands are being very adventurous, not even sticking to one design philosophy across the range. That’s fine if it works, but a cohesive minimalism is the hardest thing to make exciting.”
Vidal also highlighted the benefits that minimalist design could have for the efficiency and dynamics of vehicles, notably around interiors.
He said: “It’s no secret cars have grown, for safety, because buyers want more content, more equipment and so on. That has led to heavier cars, so we have had to run bigger brakes and so on… It’s a vicious circle. The idea now, in this modern environment, must be to try and create some kind of virtuous circle.”
Vidal suggested seat design is one key area being investigated, saying lighter and thinner seat structures used by the airline industry are being analysed: “They have to be safe, of course, but if you can make a seatback half the depth, then you can gain leg and boot room, make the car shorter and lighter but just as practical and start an efficiency drive.
“It’s not easy, but we need to attack every angle for efficiency. Striking minimalism is a concept that we can look at with some excitement.”