Tesla unveiled its latest vehicle: cybertruck. At first impressions the vehicle looks so simple and unrefined that it appeared to be some kind of movie prop, but upon further inspection it is actually a bold move destined to influence the future of car design and our relationship with modernity.
the presentation of the cars launch was an stylised step into 80's retro wave futurism with an apocalyptic bladerunner flavour of clothing and style. The font used in the presentation dripped with nostalgia, and being an 80's kid this red was the ultimate thing I wanted in my parents car, on my wrist and even my alarm clock – The Docs DeLorean, Knight Riders dashboard or Lukes guidance system - all spoke of the red shining digital future. The stainless-steel exoskeleton of the truck evoked the angular cues of the Back to the Future DeLorean
There is an image of all major cars in profile which shows that the current state of car design is pretty generic – this is obviously a result of restrictions from crumples zones, aerodynamics and pedestrian impact safety ratings. The success of Tesla as an electric car company could be a result of them not producing the wacky designs that seemed to plague other electric cars. The instead offered a conservative, tasteful approach to people beginning to accept the benefits of going electric. After the success of their cars, this design is a large jump into a design so futuristic that it works.
Car design and marketability dictates they have a ‘face’ so consumer can relate to the vehicle and project themselves into it. This face seems to have evolved over time to a much more aggressive almost robot look to match current society. The interesting lack of a human face on the cybertruck disconnects our anthropomorphisation of a car, and instead highlights that the car is a functional object.
Once you begin to inspect the features the absolute goal of functional minimalism for the vehicle becomes apparent. The folding ramp at the rear with the hidden cargo plane fixing points show the integration of many functional solutions across industries. The shape may be blunt but its a ramp - What other shape should it be?
From my extensive peer-reviewed weekend survey with the other parents at the kid’s park it is evident most people don’t like the cybertruck and think it’s ridiculous. They latch onto the broken glass in the presentation and say this is so bad that its the end for Tesla. The consensus is that the design is too modern and while they can see the inevitability of this kind of pragmatism in the future, people need to be moved forward in smaller, more familiar increments or it becomes alienating.
Design is an effort to bring society new, improved ideas to move us forward into a greater understanding of our place in the zeitgeist of the world – this is not always an enlightened vision and is a slave to current technology and societal influences. When presenting Architecture to a client it is the is the same – there is a resistance when presenting a new ideas in the sketch design of the home. I have found that the best way to present an idea is with a physical model- something real and tangible. The idea is then given real space and form that no amount of 3d visualisations and or house plans can convey, therefore allowing for the clients subconscious contemplation.
It is fascinating to see human behavior when design brings a new idea to the table. Clients often strongly reject any unconventional material usage, program or architectural form at the first presentation. It is then amusing to have months later have them bring the very same idea to the plans as their own. This is some form of design inception: the idea needs to gestate and become their own, which they then see as a desirable solution. In this vein the initial disgust at the cybertruck will turn, and has already begun to, especially when this new direction begins to become a reality on our roads.
Cars have long been designed to have human faces and familiar forms, which has only ramped up in the last few years with the retro style of many new vehicles. This next iteration in vehicle design is a bold but necessary move – electric cars don't have the components of a combustion engine, so why just remove the radiator grill? Why not step boldly into the future?
The issue with electric cars it that they do not address the modern dependence to the automobile and its impact on society. They just make an existing technology faster, smarter and more efficient band-aid that that still consumes resources and space. The ground-breaking introduction of Teslas production cars are now rippling into all major car manufacturers with electric vehicles becoming an affordable, responsible option every car company is rushing to add to their lineup.
The exciting thing about the cybertruck is that Tesla is still trying to push further into changing the streetscape and public’s interaction and perception of cars. The deliberate detachment from the normal look of their successful cars makes a strong point and commentary on the current state of the world: with the upcoming challenges we need to be moving faster toward a solution - not bury our head in the sand of success.
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