Lighting the Way

In a not too distant past, in a galaxy right about – well, here – automotive lighting was merely functional, at least from an actual lighting standpoint. There was some styling related to the overall appearance and functions (I’m talking about you, ‘pop-up’ headlamps and ‘fin’ tail lamps), but for the most part the lit appearance did not contribute much to the overall brand identity of a vehicle.

Fast forward to present day, and in this galaxy, where signature headlamps are the first identifying characteristic in the night time appearance of a vehicle. For me, this illuminated brand identity started with BMW’s ‘angel eyes’ daytime running lamps. The thin outline circling the main headlamp quickly let you know that it was a BMW bearing down on the road behind you.

Today, signature lighting is an integral part of the overall vehicle design. We’ve made massive leaps and bounds in technology from the first acetylene lamps to the present day LEDs and lasers, and the legislation that decides its usage, but it’s the brand identity that has really come into its own from a styling perspective.

I’ve created my own driving game (which was rather entertaining on my last road trip) to determine a vehicle brand while driving. A quick glance in my rear view mirror and I can guess the brand and often the model by the time it gets to me. I’m actually getting pretty good at this.

And these lighting advancements are not solely reserved for exterior lighting. Long gone are the days of a simple incandescent dome lamp and a few lights on the dash. LED light pipes and center stack display screens not only fulfil informational needs, but create customizable atmospheres, highlighting design lines and features in door panels and innovative materials. I, for one, am excited to see what comes next in the lighting arena as technology advances and designers continue to implement this tech into our vehicles.


Founded in 2012, Form Trends tirelessly covers the automotive design industry in all corners of the globe to bring you exclusive content about cars, design, and the people behind the products.