From the sketchbook to the Powerwall.
The design process at Mercedes-Benz.
The work of a designer is characterised by a desire to innovate, a spirit of adventure and attention to detail. In the Advanced Design Studios of Mercedes-Benz, the luxury factor of time is also added into the mix. It takes around three years
from the initial drawing through to model approval. Three years during which the designers work incrementally towards the final vehicle, slowly transforming initially competing design studies into the next generation of a Mercedes-Benz vehicle.
"To us, automobile design means artistic, aesthetically and sensuously oriented creation", explains Head of Design Prof. Dr. h.c. Gorden Wagener. "Mercedes-Benz designers translate their artistic inspiration into the modern idiom of Mercedes-Benz automobile design, which combines dramatic details with harmony, style and passion. Mercedes-Benz design is clear, calm and consistent, but yet emotional and highly sensuous.
Ten steps to the finished car.
Design work is teamwork. Mercedes designers work with their colleagues in the Development and Production departments, jointly planning the necessary processes. The design process is therefore a fixed part of the Mercedes Development System, which divides the concept, design and production of new models into individual phases. The car of tomorrow is thus created as part of a ten-step process.
The design process always begins with a drawing – produced either by hand or on a computer. This is the "emotional phase", and is an important stage during which the design potentials of a new vehicle project are explored to direct the different design ideas into the right channels. Ideas which previously only existed in the designer's head become visible.
Sketchpads and colour pencils remain a popular working aid during the emotional phase of the design process, in order to put visions on paper and sketch new shapes. But designers are often increasingly resorting to an electronic pen and a computer drawing board. Computers have revolutionised the scope of automotive design: this becomes clear when the virtual image of the new car is created via a digital package on the computer. Proportions, dimensions and lines can be simulated and checked for overall coherence and harmony.
Into the virtual world.
With a high degree of precision and much more rapidly than before, this produces variants which to a large extent comply with the requirements of the design and dimensional concepts. In order to fine-tune the design and technology, the specialists then take to the so-called Powerwall – a seven-metre-wide projection wall onto which high-performance computers project the designs in such a way that the designers can view and assess them from every conceivable angle. But not everything can be simulated on a computer, and additional 1:4-scale clay models of every variant of a new car are therefore produced. Only then are the designers able to judge whether their designs also produce the desired effect in three dimensions.
The final form of the new automobile is chosen from numerous variants. The exterior form of the future Mercedes-Benz model is decided at this point. Then it is on to the cut model: the 1:4 clay model is scaled up to the vehicle's final dimensions. The first full-size "prototype" is produced.
As large as life under "real conditions".
All the details of the new 1:1-scale model are produced manually. A strikingly authentic model is created showing all the characteristic features of the new car. The interior is also sketched out.
The first step in the interior design process involves producing drawings and renderings. The guiding principle here is "perfect aesthetics" – a design approach committed to realising an attractive interior.
In the next stage, the materials and colours for the interior are chosen. The designers define the trim lines for the future car from hundreds of fabric and leather samples and an almost endless spectrum of colours. As part of this they check the initial effect of all materials and colours under "real conditions" on elaborately produced 1:1-scale interior models. Each material and colour is allocated a code and specified. Each design process concludes with approval of the model by the Board of Management. If approval is granted, there is nothing more to stop the new Mercedes-Benz from being released for production.