Currently reading: Renault design boss hails end of bling
Gilles Vidal cites less complex and lighter materials to create more striking vehicles

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. 


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“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.”

John Neville

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Rick Maverick 27 July 2023

Gilles Vidal - hunted after blockbuster models at Peugeot - unfortunately has changed ('killed') the sculpted, athletic Laurens vd Acker design. 

streaky 29 July 2023

Gilles Vidal did great things for Peugeot, whose styling had bombed after ditching Pininfarina.  Unfortunately, Vidal seems to now be shown up as a one-trick pony.  His designs suited Peugeots but now he is turning Renaults into Peugeots when Renault had a great design language of its own.

tman247 27 July 2023

So Renault's answer is to bring out yet ANOTHER SUV, full of 'bling'. Does the world really need another SUV because they're absolutely the worst platform for an EV - bricks aren't that aerodynamic!

Rick Maverick 27 July 2023

Yes, the world needs more SUV's. Because your neighbor has one, your colleague as well. Oh, and its a practical shape to get in & out. Reminiscent of the Stagecoach format back in the day. 

Running Dog of ... 27 July 2023

Well and good if Renault really mean it - but do they or is this just more corporate BS being uncritically reported? Renault's partner is Nissan and I owned a couple of their Mk 1 Qashqais which (at least in 2 litre petrol form) had good performance and handling and rock-solid reliability.  They were also reasoably compact and had clean, understated design with good, driving-centred ergonomics.  Sadly, the Mk 2 was bigger, fatter, blingier, more ponderous and with growing amounts of all the usual added complexity.   So I moved to a Mazda CX-3 (again 2 litre petrol ICE) which has most of the Mk 1 Qashqai's virtues.  But now Mazda, like virtually every car maker, seems to be heading in the same mistaken direction - x and that's before EV-isation adds the usual 40/50% to weight and cost.   Remember Lotus-founder Colin Chapman's "Simplify, then add lightness"?  Manufacturers don't.