Giorgetto Giugiaro and the three basic principles of modern car design

The myths are told with few words and many numbers. Giorgetto Giugiaros is impressive just to mention them without comment: over 300 cars from 1968 to today (some with his son Fabrizio, with whom he founded the independent company GFG Style in 2015), 7 degrees honored, 5 Compasso d’Oro, “Car Designer of the Century” in Las Vegas, “Palme d’Honneur” in Paris, Cavaliere del Lavoro by the President of the Italian Republic, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. At the age of 84, he has the dynamism and freedom of thought of those who created the history of the car, but he has no intention of talking only in the past. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t turn anyone away when it comes to modern design. “In design, we now have tools that help us in every aspect and in every direction, but we cannot afford to attract attention, to pursue originality at any cost, to “overload” the car, to make it a baroque object. The time I spent designing a rear light, for example, was an hour. Now it takes weeks for the same purpose. There is definitely an increase in attention to all elements, such as handles, knobs, seats, seams, an attention , which is also enjoyable from a research point of view, but is it perhaps not an exaggeration?’

The debate is the same in all areas of design: form versus function. The line between luxury as pure decoration and quality as precision of style and performance is difficult to draw. «Excess seems to be exclusively oriented to characterize, to amaze, ultimately to sell. If all this was due to homologation issues, we would be more relaxed, certain shapes and certain curves of the design, as well as the design standards of the accessories, would have a practical reason, they would be designed to improve safety, but currently they only add to the optical pollution as I call it. You look around, you observe the landscape, a beautiful house, and then you come across a car that you don’t understand where it comes from, with what proportions it is supported’.

Giorgetto Giugiaro perfects the design of a Golf. It was he who designed the VOLKSWAGEN car in 1974, a model that revolutionized the automotive landscape. Photo Tim Hoppe / Volkswagen AG

It is a theme of ergonomics, but also of balance in the definition of exterior and interior. Giorgetto has very clear ideas about this and gets straight to the point. «Let’s take a practical example: the dashboard graphics. For an older person who has trouble reading, graphics are paramount. The choice of colors, especially colors of an excessive delicacy, with light tones from green to beige, as if they were illustrations from children’s books, is a problem. Why does it happen? For the person who designs dashboards, a young person who sees well is aware of aesthetics, but forgets everything about functionality’. First obvious principle: designing cars means taking into account the needs of everyone and of all ages.

One of the first examples of golf in circulation.

Second principle that can no longer be deviated from: sustainability and the way electricity affects design. «Technological developments are always a positive stimulus, a surprise that affects the overall dimensions. Electric traction provides more usable space, also because we have now overcome the idea that a vehicle is ugly if it is tall. It makes it possible to store everything that requires space, such as batteries, in the lower part of the vehicle,” he explains. Today, the design of the car is strongly influenced by the decisions of the legislators, which influence planning both in terms of speed limits and safety standards. “Respect for man and society is welcome, but let him draw a line! A designer’s task is to follow and adapt to the logic that governs safety. Of course he must try to propose something intelligent, but always in the direction of simplification. Does it make sense , that a tram, for example, has the aesthetics of a space rocket, when logic would also impose discretion in the design? It would make sense with a high-speed train that must penetrate the air, but certainly not in an urban context”.

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