Collaborations between automakers’ design studios and academic institutions are an important element of the car design and education process. On the one side, schools benefit financially from having their students work on a project for a carmaker, and on the other automakers get fresh ideas from a new generation of aspiring car designers. And so, during the autumn of 2018, Volvo Car China Design Center and CDS Transportation Design Academy collaborated on the ‘V.01’ cooperation course.
The collaboration project, which was carried out in the CDS Transportation Design Lab in Choyang, Beijing, called for students to envision a vehicle for the Volvo brand, but left students free to interpret what that could be. Volvo and CDS selected 15 students to participate, each of which was required to complete the designated design tasks and work through the design process. Numerous rounds of selections implementing a knock-out system would be held during the design process.
Jonathan Disley, Volvo’s VP of Design at Volvo Cars China; Zhang Ziran, Chief Exterior Designer of Volvo Cars’ China Design Center; and other members of the Volvo Cars China design team worked together with CDS design instructors Xu Yixiong and Ma Ke throughout the course to guide the students’ projects.
On the day of the project launch, CDS founder Guo Hongzhou and Disley launched the project while CDS instructor Yixiong introduced the project flow. In the following months, the students experienced a complete design process including brand research, exploration of new value and imagery, development of basic form and sculpture, transformation of the design on paper into 3D model. Disley and Zhang Ziran visited CDS every two weeks while the instructors connected with students to support their projects.
Volvo encouraged the students to express their ideas with large amounts of quick sketches, which Disley insisted to take a look at in their entirety. Disley insisted that sketches should never be thrown away, even if they seem rough at first, they might contain good ideas that may have been overseen by an unsatisfied designer. When these are shared with others or one’s superior, they may recognize the potential of the sketch and come up with some helpful advice that makes the design interesting and unique.
The quick sketching review differs from most Chinese design practices, which place a great deal of emphasis on polished renderings. Volvo and other European design studios place more focus on the designers’ ability to express ideas with sketches, and are good at extracting ideas from those quick sketches.
The sketch phase lasted for about two months and the students presented their work to the Volvo design team on a weekly basis. While most of the proposals were well thought-out and becoming increasingly mature, the works of three students stood out and were selected by Disley and Ziran to progress into the next phase.
The following month, Volvo arranged for their digital modelers to take time out of their busy schedules to help the students create CAD models of their proposals. Volvo and CDS reviewed the students’ CAD models through weekly teleconferences. This is the first time that the students collaborated with professional digital modelers and they all found making the design through teamwork harder than they had imagined. They also realized that it wasn’t easy to transform the 2D design into 3D. But as they communicated over and over to alter the design sketches and models, the models got closer and closer to the sketches and their quality became increasingly better. The students were all greatly inspired.
Finally, the three students’ designs were made into physical models by Volvo’s team and unveiled alongside the Volvo XC40 at the car’s Chinese market launch at the Bellagio Hotel in Shanghai.
At the press conference, Disley explained the design of XC40 in detail, and mentioned how a team of young designers had worked on the car. Volvo is good at using and adopting young designers’ ideas because they think that young designers tend to think in a fresh way. A unique, novel way of thinking leads to creative design.
Disley also introduced the cooperation course organized by Volvo and CDS and cited the importance in cooperating with academic institutions, which enables Volvo to keep its design young and innovative. He also mentioned that Volvo would continue to cooperate with academies like CDS and use sponsored projects as one of its sources of inspiration for innovation.
CDS, meanwhile, will also continue to participate in cooperation projects with Volvo and other companies to benefit car design students and car companies. The institution hopes to construct a bridge to the future for students and enterprises with better car design education resources.