news Audi allroad quattro concept unveiled at Detroit Audi unveiled a study by the name of the allroad quattro concept at the North American International Automobile Show 2005 in Detroit. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of quattro drive, the study combines the sportiness of an Avant with the all-terrain capabilities of an off-roader. As a concept car, the allroad quattro features an array of technical innovations that will find their way into production models in a few years’ time. The second generation of the Audi A6 allroad quattro will again be built in Neckarsulm, and will be appearing on the market in mid-2006.
Ten cylinders for the S8 “Unquestionably the new benchmark for sports saloons,” wrote the editor-in-chief of a German car magazine after test-driving the new S8* for just a few kilometres. 240 journalists from some 20 countries were able to try out the new 450 bhp (331 kW) Audi in Düsseldorf at the start of December 2005. And, judging by the test reports, the sports version of the A8 left none of them cold: this is the first luxury saloon in the world to feature a ten-cylinder engine with petrol direct injection. The S8 accomplishes the sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5.1 seconds. Like all S models, it boasts the superior traction of quattro drive. It will appear on the market from mid-2006.
Fitness and prevention Audi launched a programme of health check-ups for all 45,000 employees at Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm in October 2005. The aim of the “Audi Check-Up” is to detect and control any risk factors as early as possible. The check-up includes health screening, advice on keep-fit programmes and healthy living and, if necessary, further medical support. Up to the age of 45, employees are invited for health screening every five years, and above that age every three years. Audi’s medical officers expect to conduct up to 8,000 health checks a year at Ingolstadt and 3,500 a year at Neckarsulm.
* fuel consumption figures at the end of the Annual Report
A forum with four rings The brand is able to present itself to maximum advantage at Audi Forums – now also at Audi’s second German plant, Neckarsulm. The new facility there was opened on June 1, 2006. Glass and aluminium dominate the building’s architecture, a homage to the expertise of the Aluminium and Lightweight Design Centre at Neckarsulm. Customers and visitors are able to experience the brand with the four rings on a floor area totalling around 11,000 square metres. As well as
the new car collection area, there is a shop for lifestyle articles and accessories, plus high-calibre catering establishments with a restaurant and bar, and a conference centre. Those wishing to give their Audi a special flavour can inspect the various options for customising their car. There is something for technology enthusiasts, too: the company is exhibiting show cars and other technically impressive exhibits in the “Audi History” area.
Yellow Angel award for Winterkorn In 2005 it was the A6, in 2006 the Chairman: Audi is becoming a regular feature at the awards ceremony of the “Yellow Angel”. The ADAC, Germany’s largest automobile association, chose Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn as the recipient of its award in the category “Personality” in January 2006, in recognition of his “outstanding contribution”. The eulogy was delivered by the previous year’s winner, Porsche boss Dr. Wendelin Wiedeking. In his speech, he declared: “This tribute to Martin Winterkorn recognises the achievements of one of the best managers in our industry. Because he has primed Audi for success.” Winterkorn’s spontaneous response: “I am delighted to receive this honour – but it has actually been earned by everyone at Audi!” 59
“If it captivates people, we have got it right.”
What is the essence of good automotive design? The editors arranged a meeting between two eminent authorities in their field: Richard Sapper, who has been shaping the design of IBM products for the past 25 years, and Walter de’Silva, chief designer of the Audi brand group since 2002. Both men have established landmarks in industrial design – and have known each other for many years. A German-Italian summit on hidden messages, the car as a surrogate form of accommodation and fatherly insights.
Mr. Sapper, at the start of your career you worked at Mercedes for two years, then at Fiat for a time. Can we persuade you to do us an ad hoc sketch of something connected with cars? Sapper: (laughing) No, I’d rather not. I’m not someone who can put creative ideas to paper simply to order. Let’s just talk about design. OK. Your profession is product design. What does design do for a product? Sapper: Good design above all makes a product instantly recognisable. With most cars, you really need to see what name they have on the back to establish what brand they are. Yet I believe it is extremely important that people should be able to recognise products immediately. You know straight away when you’re looking at a laptop made by IBM or Apple. Design has to ensure that a good product is put on the market, which is precisely what customers want. But then the next most important thing is that it’s immediately recognisable. My impression is that Audi has done pretty well in both respects. And if it boosts sales, then all the better. de’Silva: Thank you for the compliment! One more word on the role of design today: Apple invented the iPod, and after only a short time the iPod brand has become bigger than Apple itself. That shows how important brand recognition is. Brands such as Bang & Olufsen have likewise experienced something similar. What do you make of the theory that design plays another role, too: that it provides us with a sense of direction? Every day, we encounter thousands of objects that mean nothing to us, so it’s reassuring to have a few familiar objects that appeal to us … Sapper: That’s true. But it only works because those very objects convey something – a theme or an idea. Or maybe the owner’s outlook on life. I suspect that’s very much the case with cars. Whenever I choose a special product such as a watch or suit, I am always making a statement about myself. Giving a hidden message. 61
Walter de’Silva So how strong is the designer’s position, then, if we are considering the quality or function of a new product as well as its form? Sapper: I believe that the technical people at car companies largely acknowledge the position of the designer (Walter de’Silva smiles). When I designed my first typewriter for IBM, the situation wasn’t quite as clear. I discovered that whether their typewriters were ugly or attractive made a difference of just two percent to net profits. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that I opted for the more aesthetically appealing design. Then, once my first IBM Thinkpad (the brand’s notebook range) was ready, we conducted some market research. I might add that technically speaking, the machine was nothing exceptional. But surveys revealed that over 30 percent of customers bought a Thinkpad because it looked good and was clearly distinct from competitor products. de’Silva: In past decades, engineers have had more say than designers in almost every instance. Although we haven’t exactly turned the tables on them, I would say that it’s now honours even. Giorgetto Giugiaro once told me that he was often close to tears when the engineers repeatedly kept changing seemingly unimportant details. Incidentally, design is one of the most important reasons why our customers choose Audi. Or so we’re told by our market researchers. Sapper: Retrospective market research may or may not provide confirmation of such matters. I always have problems with resorting to such methods in order to find out how people will respond to future products. It took us time to get used to so many of the things that we now consider to be attractive or aesthetically appealing. Do you really think the Beetle would have looked the way it did if it had first been checked out by market research? Or the Renault R4. When the first pictures of it came out, many people declared it too ugly for words! Yet it proved to be a fantastic, successful car. And how do designers know what designs will be successful in the future? de’Silva: I take the very sober view that designers are actually very technically-minded people, but they have a strong sense of aesthetics and art. I am convinced that good design has much to do with everyday graft. I don’t believe in flashes of inspiration that hit you like a bolt from the blue. It’s more about the intuition that you develop from spending your whole day drawing. Sapper: Yes. Sometimes you simply come up with a good idea. It’s not something you can learn or teach. The Fiat 500 and Citroën DS were created in the absence of any market studies, which would have prevented them from becoming the icons that they are today. 62
He was supposed to become an architect, just like his father. But Walter de’Silva, born in 1951 in Lecco, Italy, was not so keen on the idea. Even as a child, he loved drawing cars. As a logical consequence, de’Silva gave up studying architecture at the age of 21 to join Fiat as a junior designer. There followed a steep climb up the career ladder, including periods at the famous Milan design studios, at Trussardi Design and Alfa Romeo. In 1999, he was put in charge of the SEAT Design Centre; since March 2002 he has been responsible for the entire Audi brand group’s design requirements. De’Silva has won numerous awards for his models. If he had not opted for a career in automotive design, he would have chosen to design ladies’ shoes: “They are symbols of dynamism and elegance – just like beautiful cars.”
Richard Sapper Tizio, which can be roughly translated as “guy”, is the name of what is probably his most famous product, the table lamp he designed for Artemide in 1970. Just like Sapper’s “Bollitore” kettle with its melodic whistle, his lamp has become a design classic over the years. Born in Munich in 1932, Richard Sapper embarked on his career in the automotive industry in 1956 when he joined the Styling Department at Daimler-Benz, designing the exterior mirrors of the legendary Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster. After moving to Milan, he worked for La Rinascente, Alessi and Fiat, among others – and translated the diaries of the artist Paul Klee into Italian in his spare time. Since 1980, Richard Sapper has been working as a consultant to the IBM Corporation where he is responsible for the company’s international product design and corporate image. More than 15 of his design objects are exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Richard Sapper, “Tizio”
Ambassadors of style: Richard Sapper and Walter de’Silva met for a chat at the Audi Design Center.
Or take Alec Issigonis and the Mini – at its time, it was something completely new. And despite all this, the technical substance of a car has not changed fundamentally for decades. That’s why I wouldn’t find it particularly difficult to draw you a car that might not appear on the market for another three or eight years. How much is design about art? Earlier on, Mr. de’Silva was stressing the technical role of the designer … Sapper: The Mexican architect Luis Baragán supplied a useful definition: if there is one solution to a technical question that is capable of conveying an emotion, then it’s architecture. The same applies to design. And the famous American graphic designer Paul Rand once said that designers transform prose into poetry. de’Silva: I believe you can recognise good design by the fact that it is self-explanatory. If it captivates people, then the designer has got it right. The moment someone says: “Explain that design to me,” something isn’t right. The question I then ask is: “Would you buy it?” Sapper: It’s like food: if you spontaneously like the taste of something, you don’t ask why. It speaks for itself. Bearing in mind the volume of traffic on today’s roads, a car also needs to perform some of the functions of a living room. What consequences does that have for design? de’Silva: A car is both cause and effect: we have a vital urge to be mobile. But that also means we have to be able to cope with the daily traffic jam. And we have grown accustomed to being permanently mobile in a figurative sense, too: by phone and the internet. These are developments that we have been adjusting to for some time. Sapper: The car has never been a mere object for getting you from A to B. It has always been a status symbol, but also always a micro-environment. Or in the extreme, a form of substitute accom-
modation if you can’t find a hotel. Safety requirements are becoming ever more exacting, and this is at loggerheads for example with the idea of the car as a living room. I’d love drivers to be able to rotate their seat while stuck in traffic congestion, so that they could play cards with their fellow passengers. de’Silva: Though that would completely overturn our current concept of space inside a vehicle. Sapper: Maybe that’s the shape of things to come, though? I staged a project with students on the subject of cars. My question was: “What do you expect from the car of the future?” And they replied unanimously: “Maximum variability!” de’Silva: It could well be that we’re adopting too traditional a view of things. Let me give you a simple example. My 20-year-old daughter says to me: “When I get in my car to go dancing, I always need a second pair of shoes. I can’t work the pedals properly in my dancing shoes. But where’s the compartment for my spare shoes? Or why can’t I just scribble down a phone number on the dashboard and wipe it off when I’ve finished with it?” To hear that from the mouth of my own daughter makes me realise I’m getting old. But as designers, we have to respond to what today’s youth wants. Sapper: We were talking earlier about the various tasks of design. Design of course expresses the values of a brand. There’s no doubt about that. But there’s something else, too: it can actually enhance quality of life. Not just for the person who buys a car. For example, I believe a Ferrari benefits the people who see and hear it far more than the person who is driving it. With all the products Audi has brought onto the market in recent years, it has made a valuable contribution to our “streetscape”. I always enjoy seeing a car that’s well made. And I can get really worked up at the sight of a (he names a brand of small car)! | The interview was conducted by Walter Raml.
The IBM range of notebooks. Their design has barely changed since 1992 and is regarded as the hallmark of a corporate philosophy that focuses on value retention.
Giorgetto Giugiaro: Italian car designer who has produced several hundred draft car designs for a wide variety of brands. His most famous designs include the original models of the Volkswagen Passat, Golf and Scirocco. Alec Issigonis:
British car designer (1906–1988) who came to fame as the “father” of the Morris Minor and above all that style icon, the Austin Mini.
Mexican architect. From the 1930s, designed principally villas and apartment blocks in his home country.
Pioneer of American graphic design. Decisively shaped the visual appearance of such companies as IBM and UPS through his corporate identity programmes. 63
The woman with the magic fingers As a child, Pia von Braun wasn’t a big fan of Audi. Today, she is the person responsible for the look of Audi lifestyle articles. Here is the portrait of a woman who cannot stop designing, even when out in a restaurant.
Her hands are probably Pia von Braun’s most valuable asset. Attractive, slender and elegant. Her finely-boned fingers could be those of a concert pianist. Although Pia von Braun does indeed play the piano, she prefers to use her hands to communicate. She knows how to gesticulate in a way that reinforces her body language. And she can draw. Nothing unusual in that, because von Braun, aged 32 and mother to a nine-year-old son, is a designer by profession. She has been working at Audi’s Munich-based Concept Design Studio since 1999, and since 2002 in the Audi lifestyle articles department there. Pia von Braun represents Audi’s new formal idiom, which Chief Designer Walter de’Silva has been developing since 2002. “Nobody can adhere unflinchingly to the same impersonal basic shapes,” she explains, describing it as a “logical progression” to shift from the semi-circle to the arc, for example. An eloquent testimony of this principle is von Braun’s “Square Chronograph” watch which, despite having four corners, is neither square nor rectangular. The edges are actually taut arcs and the surfaces are gently convex. “A curved line always creates more tension than a straight one,” declares the
Landshut-born designer, “and tension infuses an everyday object with feeling.” A principle that applies both to the watch casing itself and to its strap. The strap is stitched from thick brown leather, creating a rather masculine appearance when attached to the wrist by the chunky buckle. Audi’s lifestyle articles advocate classic forms that exude clarity and logic. They never come across as fanciful, let alone mannerist. Audi’s style is nevertheless not rigidly dogmatic and purist, as preached by the advocates of the Bauhaus. All the same, their principle that form should follow function lies at the very heart of Audi design. On the Cross Pro RS mountain bike, for example, the power flow upon which riding a bike depends determines the rather unusual shape of the frame. The fact that an exceptional product need not be dependent on making a huge impact is demonstrated by Pia von Braun by the rigidly geometrical shape of the Audi bag collection. “Every seam is justified,” explains the designer, “it’s important to me that we don’t get sick of the sight of all those things that accompany us through
everyday life.” She therefore sets great store by maintaining a degree of tension between innovation and tradition. L’art pour l’art – art for art’s sake – would be out of place at Audi. For the intrinsic beauty of shapes to be manifested, they must never look superfluous, must be perfectly proportioned and must reveal logical styling. There are few branches of industry that are as expert at handling the interplay of taut surfaces with such virtuosity as car manufacturers. Pia von Braun believes that precisely these shapes appeal directly to people’s aesthetic sensitivities: “What we perceive as beautiful depends less on intellect than on gut feeling, coupled with how an object feels to the touch.” So did she ever dream of one day working for a car company when she was a child? “Certainly not,” replies Pia von Braun with a smile, “I wasn’t a big fan of Audi when I was a girl.” This antipathy probably stemmed from the fact that a teacher whom she was not particularly fond of drove an Audi. “Cars are actually highly charged with emotions, but I of course didn’t realise it at that time.” Her affinity for design started to emerge at an early age: after taking her
advanced school-leaving certificate at a Munich grammar school, she went on to study at the renowned Art Center College of Design (ACCD) in Switzerland in 1994. She has particularly fond memories of the three terms she spent at the design studio in Pasadena, California, before taking her finals in 1998: “It was there that I practiced drawing reliably and competently under considerable time pressure,” she explains. “We are not artists who can afford to wait for the right idea to come along.” Industrial design is ultimately intended to make everyday objects attractive and appealing – so attractive that you don’t want to relinquish hold of them, and simply can’t get a shape out of your head. When she first joined the Munich studio in April 1999, Enzo Rothfuss, her team leader, involved her straight away in the “Steppenwolf”, a compact off-road showcar for the 2000 Paris Motor Show. “Enzo included me from the word go,” says Pia von Braun, who is clearly still grateful to him for that. “I had the privilege of outfitting the entire car with him.” The instrument cluster, the centre console, the steering column stalks and, of course, the floor mats,
Individual and exclusive
Anyone wanting to customise an Audi precisely to their personal requirements – or looking for an ultra-sporty version of a car with the four-ring badge – will need to get in touch with the Neckarsulm-based quattro GmbH. This company, with 420 employees, takes its name from the car manufacturer’s longest-serving innovation: permanent four-wheel drive. Since 1983, quattro GmbH has been supplying custom solutions for vehicles: for example, in-car internet or fax, a free choice of interior and exterior colours provided they can be obtained using environmentally compatible waterbased paints, or a wide variety of leather grades and colours. Then there are the “S line” equipment packages. quattro also offers a range of exclusive lifestyle articles, their quality and design matched precisely to Audi. The third cornerstone of its activities is sporty cars: the vehicle documents of the current Audi RS 4* state its manufacturer as “quattro GmbH”. The engineers at quattro were already responsible for developing the first-generation RS 4. And the most powerful Audi production model built to date, the RS 6 plus, was likewise created by Audi’s Swabian subsidiary. Its latest project is the first Audi mid-engined sports car, the R8, which will go into production in 2006.
made from thick shoe-sole leather. Every detail, however unimportant it seemed, had to be consciously designed, always with the goal of avoiding any hint of banality. Focusing on the essentials – that is Pia von Braun’s creed. To reinforce this statement, she opens her hands again as if inviting you to give her a lump of plasticine for her to mould into the right shape. First of all, however, one needs to understand a task and identify any problems. “You then need to put three good ideas to paper as rapidly as possible.” They all need to be workable, but one of them must always stand out. That reduces the time spent discussing them and subsequently facilitates the decision. Pia von Braun draws inspiration from everyday objects. As well as cars, she studiously examines such items as the cutlery, crockery and glasses in a restaurant – and finds herself almost automatically analysing how they could be improved. Her latest project is a bag collection that is intended to combine the emotional idiom of Audi design with the functional requirements of the traveller. “I find it particularly interesting trying to create attractive objects that are not exorbitantly priced.” A venture in which Pia von Braun, with her magic hands, repeatedly succeeds. | Gerd Gregor Feth
* fuel consumption figures at the end of the Annual Report
Published on Nov 10, 2010
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