Design Services: Car Menu launched
18 May 2005
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Within almost every automotive design department throughout the world, their comes a time when a junior designer is dispatched to find a picture of some new model's tail lamp, the side view of a particular class leading competitor or examples of several new cars' colour and trim packages. Whilst looking at the competition is not necessarily a healthy way of finding ideas, it is often essential to demonstrate what is feasible, check in-house proposals are not too derivative, or show how advanced a design theme is relative to the same type of cars on the market.

But even if the particular aspect of a car can be found, press packs and magazines typically show cars in the flattering light of an exotic location or being drifted around a corner on opposite lock; rarely are these images particularly useful.
This is the situation that Ginger Ostle and his team at the automotive design strategy consultancy Car Men are more than familiar with and one that their new product, Car Menu, has been specifically developed to address.

Essentially, Car Menu is a huge library of high quality car photographs taken from consistent angles of exclusively silver cars with a seamless white background, so that the images are literally only of the cars, and always comparable. All of the major new production cars are photographed at a rate of 35 a year (the just launched Volkswagen Passat is the latest addition) and clients are encouraged to make requests for particular cars to be added to the system.

Each of the 240-plus exterior and interior photographs per car have been considered from a designer's perspective to ensure that there is an image of every design detail that might be of interest to a design studio. And although each image has two lower resolution options to make downloading multiple images quick, the finest resolution of 11 megapixels means that even mosquito stings in calf leather can be seen!

Car Menu is accessed online via a secure electronic key that each subscriber is given, enabling them to see and download as many images as they need. Designers navigate the library using an intuitive interface that enables cars to be selected in several different ways or for different elements (such as rear tail lamps, side view or colour and trim package) to be directly accessed. Another useful option is to open up the same image type for several different cars, so that for example a Golf, Astra and Focus indicator stalk could all be viewed at the same time.

But in many ways Car Menu is more than just a brilliant image bank. Beyond the exterior and interior photographs, Car Menu also provides colour and trim and core technical and sales information about each car on the system, as well as automotive design trend information and an extensive library of concept car images from all of the major auto shows.

Car Menu has only just been launched, but already several companies have followed Mercedes-Benz's lead to sign up to the service. As well as helping management to see proposals relative to the competition, and designers to know exactly what other companies are doing, Car Menu also helps the junior designer get away from having to thumb old car magazines and press packs!

Car Menu website: