VIRTUAL CAR SCULPTURES
f°am presents AUVOTs, a new genre of hybrid object somewhere between a virtual car body and an invitation to reconsider the future of automotive surface design
Beyond fulfilling a tangible client need, how can virtual surface simulation contribute to the future of automotive design? An exploration of possible answers to this question with BASF led f°am to create a set of virtual car sculptures serving as canvases for the interplay of paint, light and body geometry – functional and abstract in equal measure.
Setting the Tone
As one of the global market leaders in car paints, BASF’s Coatings Division releases new palette colors on a yearly basis – the selection of which is informed by global design team’s research on emerging social, technological and design currents.
Since 2017, f°am has contributed its research and design approach to this process, working closely with BASF to create trend forecasts and publications that set the tonal agenda for the months and years ahead.
A New Frontier
The partnership’s latest evolution accelerates into uncharted territory – the first commercially-commissioned virtual design object for evaluating automotive surface coatings. Given the impossibility of providing real-life car paint samples to manufacturers around the world, the industry convention until now has been for designers to share color samples in the form of domed swatches to demonstrate how tones appear and reflections break on surfaces.
Yet this convention has its limits, given that the aesthetic qualities of new car paints cannot be accurately understood without experiencing them to scale, from multiple angles, and in real time. In response to this challenge, f°am was invited to conceptualize a new genre of virtual object that showcases the true qualities of paint types on different car bodies in the customizable environment of a real-time demonstration tool.
Between Function and Speculation
Unprecedented in both their purpose and form, the AUVOTs transcend the boundary between the virtual and the real, fulfilling both functions while creating an altogether original object. Revealing a different character from all angles at a 1:1 scale, each AUVOT caters to concrete client needs and future design speculations in one shape with two prominent sides. One side resembles a traditional car model, allowing designers and clients to experience how the surface qualities of different colors change according to the light – how reflection wanders across the curves and edges of the car’s body geometry, or how the paint’s metal flakes shimmer underneath its transient glow.
The other side of each AUVOT takes on a more experimental shape; a form left purposely unfinished. In this way the sculptures offer a starting point for future design possibilities within the emerging field of commercial virtual object design – suggesting an object in a state of becoming, leaving room for potential elaboration. Freed from the conventional automotive functions of driving and transportation, the hybrid objects take on a more abstract task: to be inspected, considered, and judged by their covers – or rather, by their colors.
So as to cater for a diversity of car styles, paint qualities and client requirements, f°am’s iterative design process resulted in four different AUVOT models, each evoking a car type with its own distinct features. In its condensed form, Compact is agile and independent. In contrast, SUV is bold and blocky in its commanding presence. Sedan is settled, unpretentious, and steadfast, while Sport is expressive, with a dynamic tendency, and ever sleek.
Endlessly customisable, AUVOTs offer an open invitation to explore the possibilities of surface and simulation design, within and beyond the automotive industry.
Concept and Design: f°am Studio
Client: BASF’s Coatings Division