Join Scott Clear for an in-depth discussion in this video Interview with an automotive designer, part of Design Foundations: Physical Materials.
- [Instructor] We're at Nissan Design America here in San Diego and with me is Brenda Parkin. Brenda is a color specialist and she's a color specialist in the automotive field and today we're going to talk to her about how the automotive field looks at materials and how they transition into the vehicles we all know and love today. So please welcome Brenda with me and so, Brenda, what is a color specialist? - An automotive color specialist works in every material.
I think the think that comes to people most often is body color, which we do select but we also select everything, all the way down to the smallest of grain in a knob in the interior so, everything you see, touch and experience on a car interior and exterior a color designer had to specify. - [Instructor] Inside and out? - In and out. - Okay. So, where do we get started? I mean, how do we get this thing started? I see you brought us some examples here. - Typically, well, you must start with collaborating with product planning, understand who you're designing for.
You're not designing for yourself and just picking things that you like. You're trying to get into the head of the consumer, of what are they wanting, what are they needing? And this is all projected about four years down then road. So you're looking at the target market, talking to the target market doing the best you can to project. So that would be the start and then gathering your thoughts on color and materials and how you might translate that into a car.
- So, I'm dying to talk about this stuff. I love what you brought here. What is this? Is this... - The things on the table here represent a lot of different industries, a lot of different types of materials and that is brought on by purpose. We don't just work with automotive suppliers but we look outside the industry for inspiration. So, this actually is a industrial material for flooding purposes, I believe. And really the metaphor here is when we're selecting a material we're constantly thinking about what's the best use of material.
Does it need to be light? Does it need to compress? What is the best use? - And this is probably my favorite piece now. We used to say, "look in the trash," was a saying. So, it's kind of like looking at other industries and what they don't see beauty in? - This is a piece of trash and this is exactly what we do. As a color material designer, we're constantly using what we say is our antenna. Looking for things to inspire us and this was actually in our shop and we did metal work and this was basically on the floor after some welding and it's just something beautiful and inspiring.
So, I guess our point is for young people to look for things outside of just high fashion or high design. There are things that are in the trash, as you say. - Yeah, I notice that even if you couldn't find them it looks like you made them. You actually made ideas and this one, is this aluminum? - That, actually, is 3D printed and we were exploring different, sort of, cellular structures and its just sprayed with a rattle can to try and see what does that shape look like if it were silver.
- And these textiles and these leather samples. Just exploring? - Yeah, I guess the thing here is it isn't just one textile. It's things coming together. It isn't just a piece of leather, it's how that leather comes together. Is it french seam, a duck seam, a piping? what is the overall coordination of everything and how they meet is something that we study very closely. - I like this one, actually. So, the right here, looks like it's been through a war almost.
I mean, it looks real. I looks like it's been lived in and so many times we look at things that always have to look in a brand new pristine state. Is this... - This is a topic that is huge in the automotive industry and that is the specifications for an automotive material are extremely high. For flammability, abrasion, scent, sun tan oil, you name it, there is a lot. This is actually a piece of leather and yes, you can see it has a lot of what we call 'natural marking,' tt's how much acceptable natural markings will the consumer actually desire.
- Yeah, I can imagine that's a tough one. - Yeah. - So, at the highest level this is your inspiration that you brought forward and I see here that we have these masters, so these are actual final masters that you have? - Yeah, these are actually every material gets put into a, there's big leap here that went from super inspirational-- - Tell us about this leap. - This is a real big leap here. This is probably about a year and a half leap from this very conceptual stage where we are starting to gather ideas and then working with outside suppliers to create our ideas and that goes back and forth for quite some many months.
Sometimes we have to give and take because of the restraints that I said earlier but in the end the car has to be manufactured, so we take these ideas and we talked about natural markings already. So, here's a seat material and this actually is a suede like material and this is in the insert of the vehicle but to make sure that this is properly manufactured throughout the years and the life cycle of the car we create this thing that's called the 'master' and it has a code and this is disseminated throughout the corporation to the plant, to the engineers and we keep it and this is checked to make sure that it doesn't degaredate from the original intention because if you think, we're not just making one car, we're making many.
So, the scale gets quite large and this is a way to just document that we don't get off master. - So, the master just keeps the consistency and meanwhile you had to work years with your designers, your engineering, your marketing and then also at the same time you had to work with suppliers and they had to maintain the same level of consistency. When you're evaluating in your journey from concept or your inspiration to final.
You know, I look around here and I see how this environment is really playing a big role. It looks like this environment is designed for design. So, how does this environment help you? - It's an incredible facility to walk into every day, I assure you. It is all about being inspired and feeling inspired but beyoned that there's physical things that help us and especially color designers because our studio is, one wall is glass and that glass allows us to have natural light, so because we're constantly checking these things for matching because I have to take materials and match them and sometimes they're different materials and they don't want to match.
There's things thing called metamerism where things change under different light. So, it's very common to check under a light box and that's one way of doing it but our philosophy is natural lighting is best and so for us to quickly walk outside to outdoors and check is a true bonus for us. I think unique to our studio. - Beautiful gardens. You've got the blue sky, you've got the waterfalls and the gardens that really accentuate it and I think that makes it look much more natural, at least when you're evaluating.
- It's a pretty tremendous place to work. - It is. It is by far one of my favorite car studios in the world and I love the way this layout is allowing you to make this happen. - The one thing I didn't think about and for me as a designer, I would have probably add it, you said it was okay to kind of think about it. We talked about looking for stuff in the trash and that kind of belittles a little bit of what we do because I wanted talk about not just a physical object being inspiration but, as you said, even observations so like, in my mind as I was typing at midnight last night, I was thinking you can find inspiration in the middle of scrap yards and finding a perfect patina that can never be changed again or you can't make that and it's just perfect and mesmerizing, how did it get there? And it tells a story but at the same time you can go to a grocery store, getting groceries with your family and you notice that everybody's buying kale and it may not be an actual material but it's telling you maybe people are wanting more healthful environments.
That still is an intuitive sort of thing that you have to be aware of and then also, the third thing, even a sort of thanksgiving dinner where you see your grandmother trying to eat her soup and can't grab her spoon, all of sudden, hey, maybe there's an opportunity for a grippier door handle for grandma. So, there's different parts of it that all come to play, so being a color designer, man, you got to be on all the time. You're a sponge getting everything.
It isn't just, I personally like looking through trash for things but, (laughs) you know what I'm saying? There are a lot, there's almost nothing that doesn't inspire a color designer. - So you're around all the time. - All the time. - All the time. So you're 24/7. - Maybe even when I sleep. - Well Brenda, I want to thank you so much for joining us. - You're welcome. - And going through this experience, it was very high level and I know we could talk about this for weeks but Brenda and I are going to take these master samples and we're going to head outside and she's going to show us how the directly applied it to the application of a vehicle.
- How the five senses influence design
- Finding inspiration from nature
- Creating a product from a sustainable material
- Practical application of automotive design
- Product and transportation design
- Custom materials for manufacturing
- Reviewing options for custom materials
- Labs that create custom materials
- Exploring new applications of product materials for product design