Electric aesthetics

Was reminded of this image yesterday. Trying to figure out a bit why I think of electric products when something is using highly repetetiv patterns from negative space, like the grill or the fuseproject motorcycle. Just like Yo says, the lincoln does give a razor vibe.

What immediately comes to my mind when thinking of electric shaving and products is the rotary head. However, I’m having trouble identifying other products that have made this kind of impact and why. Could tight patterns also be traced to circuitboards and their arrays of components? Large surfaces of solarpanels?

I guess im thinking out loud.

Maybe heat sinks are the orgin of the distinctive feeling, the need to cool transistors? As well the perforated metal cases to let the heat off the heat sinks themselves, all part of the energy dissipation theme. In electric bike the heat all occurs in the motor, in the actual designs of the next generation of electric bikes, I miss the feeling of air and perforation, they all seem quite heavy in the middle.

Yeah, i think you are right. I was also thinking a bit about the perforations on the backside of computer towers when i saw the lincoln. But is that far fetched, does a regular consumer reference to those components?

Another was truss structure , both in milled and welded form, to create lighter structures. But as suitable as it would be for electric products, it tends to fall in to more of a sport category. (if we exclude architechture)

Could be a great opportunity to put air intakes into electric cars or bikes… maybe it’s the North Carolina in me, but I always thought they could give vehicles a more exotic look


Now for the quintessential electrical power image. The mighty amplifier. Popularized case aesthetic from car audio systems and high end audio gear. Not so common today, but I think is the design ancestor to indication of electrical strength. Here is a better set of images that use the heat sink as a design element that consumers see.

Counter example -

Analog cameras vs. digital.

The trend now seems to be making digital camera more like their predecessors.

This is very insightful… does anyone have a hypothesis as to why this trend is occuring?

We just had a long discussion about this at work. Keep in mind the analog aesthetic is primarily at the top end still, but it could trickle down.

There was a time when cameras had to look “digital” to aesthetically show there was a difference of media, now that digital is the accepted media choice, the camera is no longer a digital camera, but now just a camera, and manufacturers can go back to creating a finely crafted instrument. Less to do with retro and more to do with authenticity, quality, and craftsmanship even though those analog inputs connect to a digital device.

IDEO did a nice digital camera (concept only maybe) for Logitech that was an anodized rectangle, that slid open or ‘cracked’ to expose a lens. This was several years ago but really summed up the look for digital cameras.

I think the Olympus EP-1 micro 4/3 cameras are doing a nice job with high-end analog looks.

‘Electric aesthetic’ suggests to me wiring, circuits, or a smooth geometric flow of structural elements, which might be the reason for recalling the frame structures seen above. Maybe a 3-D representation of a boring old wiring diagram. Or the smooth runs of conduit coming out of a hydroelectric power station.

Re: Mission Motors - I have it on good authority that Fuse ‘did’ the project for ‘free’ or minimal compensation, in order to be associated with the motorcycle and cool new company.

I would like to revive this discussion a bit and gear it more towards electric cars specifically.

So globally the amount of electric cars on the road is only at less than 0.1%, but in Norway it’s already at 14%.
If we leave out Norway as an anomaly simply because they are an exception in their drivenness for a healthy life, the Netherlands comes in second at about 5% followed by the US, Sweden and Denmark.
Currently the Dutch government is for the first time discussing a ban on selling petrol-driven cars in about 10 years from now, basically enforcing all citizens to drive electric cars. I don’t believe this kind of legislation will pass anytime soon, but still there is a scenario where in the quite near future, everyone will be driving electric cars.

So my question is, will the new technological developments together with newfound human needs open up opportunities to truly rethink the car as it is? I wonder if we can come up with a new archetype for the electric car that will still meet the needs fulfilled by current cars but still be a true step in the evolution of the car. I wonder, will the electric car, like the Tesla Model S remain basically the same as current cars, or is there room for a new model T as the true new standard for EVs? I feel the latter and that now there is room to truly re-envision the car without losing the benefits and presence of current-day vehicles.

The Fuseproject Mission motorbike is a nice example in that it shows how the shape of the bike can somewhat radically change with a different configuration of components. Most electric cars don’t go much further than a new or more radical styling to show that the car is different, as with the BMW i8.
So how far can this go with further miniaturization of components? Will a whole new class of cars emerge out of this?

So far I have rough ideas on a transformable (low and flat on highways, higher and more spacious for in the city), highly maneuverable vehicle, somewhat overlapping the Twizy (that nobody wants to drive) and BMW carver.
It would support more of a nomadic lifestyle. The car ideally could also be capable of expanding or connecting to other vehicles for family transportation, or link up into chains of self-driven cars to provide some of the benefits of public transportation.

Then there is solar power. There have been some four-seater vehicles created for the Australia World Solar Challenge, and the Eindhoven team won with a large roof full of solar panels. This made the car look ugly according to most people, but still I wonder, can we not create a new type of car that incorporates more radically the benefits that electric vehicles may afford in the future. And with the development of the technologies such as transparent solar cell windows, in-wheel motors and the batteries, can it still be affordable enough for the major share of the population to buy one?

I am for now just wondering if anybody knows about any serious concept work done in this direction.

I think Tesla has flipped the script here and made a successful electric car company selling cars that don’t particularly look electric. It seems like Porsche has them in their sites with the Mission E concept, which just looks like a great Porsche.

I don’t know if this is the right direction, but I think things like the i8 might look dated faster because they are going for a flashier, more provocative expression of electric power.

I think autonomous transport will do more to change the shape of vehicles because seating position will change. The most defining part of the vehicle packaging is become the people.

The i8 is a breathtaking car in person, much more than the Prius looking i3. I think Tesla is the Model T of electric cars. They’re certainly the most successful and I can’t wait to see what the Model 3 looks like.

Chris, I think what works well about the i8, to my eye, is the proportions. The proportions are phenomenal. The details see to be too many in number and not related enough to each other. Individually they are all very unique, but I think they could have made it a little classier.

I think the major design and aesthetics directions in auto-industry are most dependent and shaped by the nature of the transportation rather than the power source or tech inside it.

By the nature of it I mean that for the past 100 years an automobile has been a personal independent form of transportation. An expression of freedom and individuality, status and style. This has a great effect on design. I would say even more than the new tech.

Just look at the recent decade in car design trends: big front grills, aggressively styled elements, air scoops, wings and faux-aero stuff (on daily-driver cars), large and high bonnets on trucks and SUVs, bigger wheels than ever, etc. At the same time the engines have gotten smaller and more efficient, taking up less space under the hood, requiring less air vents and most definitely not needing the big-ass front grills. As long as cars are privately owned personal type of transport consumers will want all sorts of irrational bling that the tech could do without.

I think the aesthetics will only truly change when the self-driving vehicles, new type of vehicle ownership models and driverless roads become the norm.

Meanwhile I think Tesla is doing great by making their electric cars attractive unlike a Prius or Leaf.
Even when you dont technically need a long nose with a bonnet anymore (or a front end at all) it might still be wise to have one because people dont want to drive in a $80 000 “bubble” just yet.

Interesting thread.
We were asked to work on electric lawn mowers a few years back (6-10). Our client had decades in the industry and new it inside out. 2 biggest comments I remember were: 1) Needs to look powerful next to the gas mowers at Home Depot and b) Don’t make it look toy-ish and plasticky like all the other electric lawn mowers. Electric lawn mowers were looked down upon because every “self respecting man” doing the yard wanted a gas mower.
I remember this one, it did the job but felt and looked like a toy:

So at the end it was a mix between keeping the traditional steel deck and a 2 part streamlined cover with the “expected” vent details to imply the technology inside it. We created corded and battery models. I would say these were more “transitional” aesthetics so that people could accept the technology more easily in comparison to those other funky futuristic plastic electric models.

The electric aesthetic will depend on the product. Do people accept and want the electric model or is it perceived inferior/superior? I think the Prius looks horrible but people embrace it because it was “the” hybrid vehicle to get so in that case performance & statement was more important over looks. I think now people are more accepting and comfortable with electric vehicles so making it look electric is not a requirement.

Cameras went through a similar cycle in a different way. In the early days of digital the cameras had to look digital to differentiate them from film cameras. Once the format war concluded on digital as the solution, the “digital” look went away. The bulk of point and shoots were eaten by mobile phone functionality and the cameras left on the market took on a “prosumer” positioning, making them look more and more like traditional high end cameras even if they don’t have interchangeable lenses…