Design

The Scandinavian sanctuary

The environment and culture of Sweden are important influences on how Volvo designs the interiors of its cars, say the designers behind the S90 and V90.

Ian Dickson, January 2017

       

“People are captivated by the idea of a Scandinavian sanctuary,” says Tisha Johnson, Senior Director, Design, at Volvo Cars. She is talking about a fundamental element of Swedish life – enjoying the time you spend outside, while creating a place to come home to that will shelter you from landscape and weather that can sometimes be unforgiving.
 

“Swedes desire wide, open spaces,” says Tisha. “We bring this to our cars by using panoramic roofs and materials that are light and natural.” Tisha likens it to the open space you get inside a Swedish home, with the roof allowing light to flood in like a skylight over a staircase.
 

Maximising natural light and using warm, tactile materials is a link to the land that Volvo cars come from, Tisha says. “The country is unspoiled,” she explains. “Forest, lakes and ocean are available to all. Swedish life is, by nature, a kind of luxury. Our aim is to bring this experience to our customers.”
 

“Swedish life is, by nature, a kind of luxury. Our aim is to bring this experience to our customers”

Tisha Johnson

Interior Design Manager

       

Modern Scandinavian design is another aspect of Swedish culture that has influenced the latest Volvo cars. It is a style that combines Modernist sensibilities with traditional techniques for a look that is free from excess and which uses natural materials in a bold, simple way. With a minimum of elements, its success relies on the quality of materials used and the craftsmanship employed in refining them and putting them together.
 

“These are really well-crafted cars,” says Ebba Maria Thunberg, Design Director, Colour and Materials, of the 90s series Volvo cars. “It’s about the materials, the experience of touching things, and rotating things.” The diamond pattern on the switches have an exquisite tactile feel and the air vents look beautifully intricate, yet crafted to last forever.
 

 

       

About 58 per cent of the land in Sweden is covered by forest, so it’s no surprise that wood is one of the most important materials in modern Scandinavian design. Tony Baho, Senior Colour and Material Designer, is particularly proud of the wood used in the 90 series cars. “One is Linear Walnut. A modern, light wood,” he explains. “The other is Flame Birch, a rare type of wood found only in Nordic countries,” he says. “Before its use in the XC90 it hadn’t been used in a car.”
 

The carbon fibre interior deco is unusual, too. “Many manufacturers add a glossy clear coat to create a ‘bling’ factor,” Tony says. “We decided it should be matt because we wanted to bring out the 3D effect of the woven carbon filaments.”
 

Another example of the innovative treatment of materials is the way that leather has been used, explains Tony. “We produced unique tooling to create the leather panels for the cars. It gives the freedom to have seams and stitching wherever we want, allowing us to design the interiors to suit that. And we strove to get the leather-clad remote control key, which gets the same leather trim as you do for the seats and interior. That is new in the automotive industry.”
 

“Our heritage in Sweden is linked to materials,” says Tony. “A big part of the Zen-like feeling lies in the materials, which radiate an inviting calm. It’s not just the product, it’s the feeling it gives you.”
 

“A big part of the Zen-like feeling lies in the materials, which radiate an inviting calm. It’s not just the product, it’s the feeling it gives you.”

Tony Baho

Senior Design Manager, Colour and Materials