Most car designers communicate via visual images. Sketches, renderings, photos and videos have a prime slot in the designer’s mind. It’s how they think and how they work. Which is what makes car designer and friend Jordan Meadows’ book all the more extraordinary. Entitled Vehicle Design: Aesthetic Principles in Transportation Design, it’s one of a handful of books written by an automotive designer.
Meadows says he embarked on the project to stimulate “a collective discussion about creativity” and highlight some of the processes in the often secretive auto design industry. His goal was to broaden the scope of thinking for students as well as professionals.
“There’s a lot of information for designers to consume from a visual perspective right now,” says Meadows. “You go on the Internet and ingest endless amounts of visual stimulation but there’s very little out there to discuss and analyze why something is compelling and what makes an idea valuable. I wanted to document why the process is important.”
Though still full of visual stimulation, the book is a massive body of work that covers everything from initial ideation to product launch and looks ahead to replacement model considerations. It delves into detail, uncovering the untold story of vehicle design from a strategy and UX perspective while taking a look at emergent mobility paradigms and the tools that enable the design process — both digitally and physically.
All of the chapters contain a bounty of information Meadows has gleaned over the course of a fruitful design career working for Chrysler, Mazda, Volkswagen and Ford. He also teaches Transportation Design at the acclaimed Art Center College of Design in California. His insights are punctuated by case studies and individual interviews with automaker Vice Presidents, cognitive psychologist Angela Weltman, and design directors from many global car companies, each providing their perspectives and unique insight into a vast array of issues affecting design.
“It’s a combination of people I admire, who have been very influential to me personally, but who also deeply believed in the project,” Meadows says of the interviewees he chose to feature. “It’s a collection of what people who are very influential in this field have come to believe is very important to the success of a vehicle. Each one of the chapters had a person I thought would be a really poetic champion of those ideals [presented in the book].”
As a wonderful metaphor, the book also looks at why narrative is important in the creative process, taking into account of all of the current major topics in transportation design. Meadows and his interviewees offer insight into how designers will navigate emerging technologies, electrification, car-sharing and population growth, amongst others.
“We as an industry, or as a group of creatives, are experiencing enormous change right now,” Meadows says. “We’re going through this incredible metamorphosis as a creative body. Our role in society is shifting. As a person who has an ideal of not only of how things should be, but how designers should think about the world, I wanted to contribute something to that discussion.”
Meadows began working on the book roughly two years ago, generating the ideas, compiling the words and the images, conducting interviews and getting permission to show all of the bespoke images from various concept and production car programs – some of which he worked on himself. While it was all done in evenings and weekends, in a process Meadows calls “a self-sponsored labor of love”, the book has been in the works for as long as he has been a designer.
In writing Vehicle Design: Aesthetic Principles in Transportation Design, Meadows has diluted his more than 20 years of experience into a body of work that is easy to consume, digest and be inspired by. It’s a brilliant insight into the world of automotive design and a must-have for any designer or inquisitive mind.