The beauty of simplicity
Creating the new generation of Volvo cars required a redefinition of luxury and what it means to be Swedish, say Volvo Cars designers Thomas Ingenlath and Maximilian Missoni.
It was important that the new family of Volvo cars visually reflect their Scandinavian surroundings, says Thomas. “We wanted to communicate what is so special about living here. About the natural beauty of simple details put together. It’s an incredible privilege to have the quality and the materials to allow us to achieve it.”
At Volvo Cars’ Gothenburg headquarters the design team works within walking distance of everyone else that creates and develops the cars, unlike many other manufacturers. Close collaboration lies at the heart of an exciting new generation of Volvos.
“Car design today isn’t just about delivering beautiful shapes,” says Thomas. “You need to have a holistic view. You have to work with colleagues in the electronics department, communications, everywhere. Otherwise the product experience will be a very limited one.”
“We wanted to communicate what is so special about living here. About the natural beauty of simple details put together”
Senior Vice President, Design
Maximilian Missoni, Vice President, Exterior Design, is from Austria, so can appraise Swedish luxury objectively. “I grew up with luxury in a traditional grand sense – the Vienna Philharmonic and the State Opera. But the modesty embedded in Swedish design is extremely modern. The time is right for this expression.”
Good Scandinavian design keeps things simple, which means having the right proportions, Maximilian says. “You can have beautiful styling on bad proportions and not get the same emotional response,” he explains. “For us, everything starts with the Volvo Iron Mark, then we build the grille around it. This proud, high, floating grille is a strong signature for us. It’s inspired by Volvo’s iconic P1800 coupé [1961-1973] and we also showed it in the concept cars that we revealed in 2013 and 2014, before its debut in the new XC90.”
Once the proportions are established, then the “form language” – its shape – defines the car’s character. In the S90 and V90’s case, it communicates solidity and confidence. Maximilian indicates a subtle contour line on the bonnet. “Of course we all know that this is sheet metal, but this line implies that the material has been scooped out of a solid block.”
This solidity is reflected in the V90’s rear hatch. “You see a lot of straight shut lines on competitor cars as they are easier to build, but we interlock the graphics of the lamps and panels with each other. It’s a challenge because it requires three different points to be perfectly aligned in assembly, but it gives you a much more solid feeling.”
Good design has lasting appeal, says Thomas Ingenlath. “It’s one thing to see a Volvo in a showroom, quite another to live with it and experience it,” he says. “It’s about long-term success; about having a car that you are not just excited about when you buy it, but gives you the same feeling after six months, a year, two years and into the future.”
“The modesty embedded in Swedish design is extremely modern. The time is right for this expression”
Vice President, Exterior Design