At the technology meetings organized by Audi under the name of TechTalks events, the point that the brand has reached in design was conveyed by the top managers of the subject.
Saying that the period is the best time to rethink and restructure automobile design, Audi chief designer Marc Lichte said, “There has never been a more exciting time as a designer than today. To put it briefly: it's the right time to take car design into the future,” he says, describing one of the biggest revolutions in the history of the automobile, signed by Audi.
The transition to e-mobility, autonomous driving of the near future, digitalization involving almost everything, including the automobile, new technologies are changing people and the way they move. All these factors have a significant impact on the technical structure. Considering these factors, Audi is revolutionizing the design and design processes for its future models.
Audi sees design as one of the core parts of the brand, an important expression and symbol of the “Vorsprung durch Technik” slogan. It always adopts it as a basic sales force, as it also enables an emotional identification with the brand.
Permanent change: what should an Audi design be?
In the past, the basic proportions of the vehicle body were determined by the large displacement internal combustion engine, which was usually located at the front of the vehicle. For decades, customers' aesthetic expectations were defined accordingly. The cabin was as straight as possible and shaped like a wind tunnel. The interior was functional and high quality. Lateral acceleration versus seat comfort suitable for long-distance journeys, sufficient space for passengers and sufficient luggage compartment, a bright home comfort feeling in every corner and multifunctionality were the details encountered in the designs of this period.
But in the car of tomorrow, cabin sizes are getting bigger as more compact electric motors are used. Cars that will become fully or partially autonomous in the future signal that the steering wheel and pedals may disappear in the interior.
User comfort and connectivity, inspired by smartphones, are becoming increasingly important as a long-standing factor in purchasing decisions, especially for young customers. Therefore, car design becomes more user-friendly.
Users' wishes determine Audi design
Saying that it is extremely important to know what users are demanding, Audi Design Department Head Marc Lichte said: “Do they want to be able to work, read or sleep in their vehicle? For what purpose do we design the vehicle? Long distances? Cities? Free time? What does the appropriate interior for this need to look like? Here are the answers to these questions that are critical in design.”
Saying that in the future, the interior of an Audi should no longer be merely a functional control station for the driver, but rather respond to individual needs and accommodate numerous functions as seamlessly as possible, Lichte said: will replace the rotary knobs. As a result, the interior design of the future will set new standards for the integration of technology, spaciousness and feel-good ambiance. In the future, Audi literally wants to offer more free space that passengers can use while driving, and especially when they no longer need it as drivers in their cars.”
From idea to final design: how does the creative process work at Audi?
Determining the basis of every design project as an upward concept phase, Audi always focuses on its users around the world. Seeing this as the foundation for design development and a continuous portfolio of people innovation, the brand also prioritizes recognizing individual needs and extracting requirements from them to enable a seamless overall mobility experience. Introducing new smart and holistic products and services in this way, Audi produces the first, multi-purpose design sketches of the project with this prior knowledge.
Sketches are usually in the form of a simple sketch drawn digitally on a tablet or sometimes even traditionally with pen and paper. The designers then share their work and ideas with each other.
From clay model to virtual reality
As a result, where previously clay was the intersection of model, design and aerodynamics teams, now digital technologies like virtual reality are fundamentally changing the way they collaborate. Teams, all members equipped with VR glasses and a controller, can meet in the virtual world, whether they work in the technical development department in Ingolstadt or elsewhere in the world. Various concepts and versions of exterior and interior design can be changed on demand and in real time. In the analog age, this process, which usually takes a few weeks, now saves a lot of time and gives more freedom to further perfect the model. Thus, the use of 3D visualizations enables highly polished designs to emerge, while improving the justification and credibility of decisions. Especially, interior architects can realistically experience and safely evaluate proportions and spatial concepts while they are still at the concept stage with this technology. Dedicated computer clusters provide high-resolution image content and can even compute dynamic driving scenes and simulations from model designs.
24h Audi Design: How Design Studios around the world work together
Collaboration at Audi Design is carried out on an intercontinental basis. In this process, the customer-centric approach to developing a fascinating, durable and fun product always comes first, and this is the Audi Design team's biggest challenge.
Tasked with developing creative ideas, 25 designers from 450 countries are creating the base cells for tomorrow's models at the company's studios in Ingolstadt, Beijing and Malibu. The Design Center in Ingolstadt, where visions, designs and prototypes of different fields are developed, supports fast and integrative work and design processes between design, model making and technology. Modeling areas with large-scale LED walls and milling machines stand side by side, making it possible to directly compare 3D models with reference models.
All centers compete in this process. Ideas also have to keep up with international competition within the company before they become a series. Exchanges of employees between centers also enable them to better communicate and learn from each other with their colleagues at Audi. It also allows customers to find out what special needs they have, especially in the major Chinese and American markets.
Digitization meets craftsmanship: How does an idea become reality?
Digital datasets completed from the Beijing and Malibu locations are transferred directly to the Design Center in Ingolstadt, where they evolve into clay models of any scale with milling machines. Despite the digital design evolution, a physical exhibition still remains an essential part of the decision-making process at Audi. Designers check proportions from various distances to better understand their consistency. Saying that nothing can replace the feeling of standing in front of a real model, Audi chief engineer Weber said, "That's when the perspective becomes realistic for the human eye." He summarizes this process in his words.
“Brave outside, captivating inside” – Exterior and interior at eye level
For Audi's leading creators, design is always a process that takes place at eye level between two disciplines, even if it will evolve from the inside out in the future. “The fourth level of autonomous driving and the resulting technical possibilities open up future possibilities for creating a prestigious silhouette with perfect proportions and special aesthetics from it,” says Philipp Römers, Head of Audi Exterior Design, who said they wanted to create the best on both sides.