We review the latest hard work of the Transportation Design students at Detroit’s famous College for Creative Studies
The buzz leading into this year’s CCS Student Exhibition has been building for several weeks. It began with an Infiniti studio presentation that pushed the boundaries of luxury aesthetics. Then, a very well-received presentation to FCA which saw Transportation Design students collaborating with both Accessory Design and Interior Design students. The Student Exhibition itself features design work from these studios and others – not to mention world-class illustration, fine art and graphic design. Several May graduates have already secured OEM positions, and you can bet that several more will in the weeks ahead. With that in mind, let’s have a look at the highlights from this year’s expansive show.
Rayan Zaher – Dodge Hyper Bee
Dodge is a brand in desperate need of a fresh direction, and Rayan Zaher provides a compelling answer: an electric-age revival of Dodge’s performance roots called the Hyper Bee. But don’t let retro-inspired name fool you. What makes this design interesting is how little it depends on muscle car clichés. In fact, Zaher is intent on cultivating a future luxury identity for Dodge that is defined by user-product connectivity. “Technology brings this aspect of connectivity to a higher level where the technology surrounding us can develop patterns to adapt to our needs,” Zaher says. “Surely, connectivity and autonomy will give transportation a whole new image of the automobile, but Dodge luxury vehicles will need to be differentiated from future autonomous everyday commuters.” That’s where Dodge’s performance roots come in; the privilege of the drive setting this offering apart from the self-driving pack.
The bee as aesthetic inspiration may seem a little obvious, but Zaher finds ways to abstractly apply the insect’s proportions. The result is a sculptural theme that looks both quick and agile. The metallic blue finish evokes feelings of both performance and electrification, and Zaher’s storyboards depict a exhilarating experience that could revitalize the Dodge brand.
Hongwei Jiang – Chrysler Imperial
Chrysler’s Imperial name has been like a submarine over the years; occasionally surfacing, but more often than not, left submerged. Hongwei Jiang saw the FCA-sponsored studio as a chance to reintroduce Imperial as a high-end offering for Shanghai in 2031. “In order to facilitate rapid travel, the future Shanghai will have many high-speed railroads, and people will be able to move quickly from point to point,” Jiang says. He sees his Imperial as a competitor for this new market, aimed specifically at middle-to-high income customers who are attracted to speed and fresh technology.
Aesthetically, Jiang’s theme conjures up feelings of a 1970s Imperial; the long, monolithic bodyside creating an imposing profile. But the overall feel of the car is far more rooted in science fiction. Indeed, Jiang even references the Star Wars Imperial Guard on his board – and has an action figure by the model! While this may be a bit too literal for some, one can’t deny the reference helped lend a dark, almost sinister edge to the design. At the final presentation to FCA, Ralph Gilles was impressed by the intimidating nature of the car. With all the great brands at FCA’s disposal, its easy to forget that Imperial has been out of circulation for quite a while. Jiang’s concept provides a tantalizing vision of how the name could surface, once again.
Katelyn Kleinhenz – Lacks Interior Project
Interior-focused projects are becoming more commonplace each year, and with good reason. The advent of autonomy is making passenger experience the paramount concern of studios the world over. For her Lacks-sponsored project, Katelyn Kleinhenz created an interior inspired by the shape of sound. She envisions a particle mesh suspended between interior surfaces that would react to sound waves, with light cast beneath these surfaces at night.
But the experience goes beyond the aesthetic depiction of sound. “The daily rental model would allow for a unique incorporation of natural experiences into the interior,” Kleinhenz says. “Passengers can smell freshly picked flowers, drink freshly brewed teas, and clean their hands with freshly placed warm hand towels.”
Song Yixuan – Infiniti Studio
One of the challenges of taking a luxury brand in a fresh direction is that people have been conditioned over a long period of time to see specific traits as luxurious. To that point, Song Yixuan’s Infiniti concept is an interesting mix of old luxury proportions and a new, daring form language. A short front overhang with a long rear overhang is a classic proportional cue for high-end luxury, and its use here helps provide a credible foundation for Yixuan’s aesthetic experimentation. Yixuan’s board features form studies made from folded metallic film. In its rough state, the resulting aesthetic language is a bit on the busy side. But once refined, the forms yield a thick-to-thin profile with the suggestion of an exclusive, precision instrument.
Conner Stormer – OLLIE
One of the challenges of integrating artificial intelligence into our lives is overcoming the fear of said intelligence going rogue on us, à la Hollywood science fiction. Conner Stormer’s OLLIE concept meets this challenge head on by casting AI as a helpful, personal assistant.
The elliptical OLLIE interface is the centerpiece of a relaxing interior space. “OLLIE can flip into vertical or horizontal mode depending on the format of content,” Stormer says. “Users can interface and navigate with OLLIE using simple gestures and natural voice commands.”
Jason White is an Assistant Professor at CCS in Detroit, Michigan and a Contributor to Car Design News.