Design education and research intertwined
Editor: Kovacevic, Ahmed, Ion, William, McMahon, Chris, Buck, Lyndon and Hogarth, Peter
Author: van Grondelle, Elmer; Jacobs, Jan; de Bont, Cees; van Egmond, Rene
The specialization Advanced Automotive Design, at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering of Delft University of Technology, was launched In 2006. The educational structure of the specialization is such, that students may qualify within each of the faculty’s three industrial design programs; Strategic Product Design, Design for Interaction and Integrated Product Design. The specialization provides the automotive context, specific understanding and skills while the programs shape student’s in three respective profiles. The reason of existence lies in the automotive stylist’s diminishing means to express a unique brand proposition through automotive form. Platforms and technologies, formerly brand owned and specific to its identity and styling, have to be shared among the many. As do car segments and geographical domains, that are invaded by all in order to maximize return on investment. A decrease of true form drivers increases the responsibility of, and the pressure on, styling. In order to substantially contribute to strategy formulation and the implementation thereof in automotive form, styling must reposition itself in the value chain.
To build on this momentum, an elective course ‘Strategic Automotive’ has been designed to educate the application of management models that embed, aid and facilitate the, by tacit knowledge driven, styling process in corporate business structures. The foundation lies in a research program in which, next to automotive form research, business models are being developed for strategic analysis and design. These models frame and explain automotive styling, i.e. the meaning of form, in terms of brand identity, image and brand portfolio management. The educational challenge lies in the wideness of the topic for an equally diverse range of student profiles. The topic links business thinking, technology understanding, contexts and the meaning of form to one another. It spreads across disciplines as well as across cultures. Student profiles cover the whole product planning and development process as do their respective programs. Furthermore, management models are not merely educated. Course results are expected to inspire redesign and fine-tuning of the models in return. The education result, in the course’s fifth edition, is consolidated in a course structure that combines lectures, drawing exercises and student contributions. The lectures comprise the aforementioned topics by placing them in appropriate historical contexts. It is therein that the relationships between mission statements, technology, design processes, politics, economics, tools and form become visible and meaningful. The drawing exercises help to identify and understand a leitmotiv as an expression of product character, its meaning and coherent application. Students present their findings on turn and throughout the course, rather than concurrently at the end. Each presentation is than representative for both the course progress as the student’s progress. The research result, with around 60 papers written so far, is a vast collection of case studies in which the models have been applied and tested. The models have been redesigned and applied in the course’s next edition each time. A review of the papers suggests both the value of the models as well as the potential of learning environments as a development arena.