Taking advantage of million-dollar virtual reality technology, a powerful supercomputer and the same software behind animated hits like "Shrek" and "Monsters, Inc.," Brigham Young University industrial design students have created a variety of 3-D concept car designs for Ford Motor Company as part of their transportation design class.
Asked by Ford to choose from a list of six adjectives, the 16 students used this design vocabulary to construct 3-D vehicles including a "high-tech" sport utility vehicle, a "playful" mid-size compact car and an "aggressive," but small, truck. They will present their concept cars to Ford designers via the 3-D technology of BYU's virtual reality room Dec. 14 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
John Marshall, a professor of industrial design, says technology resources like the virtual reality room give BYU industrial design students an educational edge and help prepare them for the working world.
"In transportation design, this type of technology is as good as it gets. We're employing the same methods of design that industry uses," Marshall says. "These resources put BYU on the map in terms of what we are capable of doing and the speed at which we do it - our students are three times as effective with these means of design."
Bruce Youngs, one of the Ford designers overseeing the students' work, says working with BYU industrial design majors benefits education as well as industry.
"I am excited to be working with the students and faculty at BYU to explore various aspects of their design education," says Youngs, who works in Ford's Design Center in Detroit, Michigan. "The students at BYU are particularly strong in their ability to present themselves and their design work in a professional manner. As representatives of their generation, the students help us understand how they see future needs in transportation. That is a viewpoint that isn't available to us on a daily basis."
Robert Jensen, 24, a senior in industrial design, says the combination of resources and the close partnership with Ford has opened new doors in BYU's transportation design curriculum.
"We're in the middle of a program transition - before, students used to spend all of their time making physical models using clay or foam and then surfacing and painting them," Jensen says. "Now we focus more on the sketching and computer work, which is an important part of the industrial design process."
In the past, when BYU students partnered with General Motors, they were asked to redesign a specific car model, like the sleek Camaro or rugged Hummer.
Marshall says for this project the students didn't have a specific car model to redesign. They decided which type of vehicle they wanted to work on and then employed one or two adjectives to direct them in their designs. The adjectives from which the students chose to complete their designs included: "aggressive," "sophisticated," high-tech," "rugged," "playful" and "elegant." In turn, Ford provided them with feedback as to which design combinations would work better than others.
Jensen's design direction was to incorporate the design vocabulary of "elegant" and "aggressive" into a sports car. The result is a flashy, yet slick, coupe.
Even though the fun, creative aspects of design are what drive most industrial designers, Marshall says the feedback the students have received from Ford throughout this semester-long project has been valuable.
"The Ford designers and students have been in constant contact through weekly conference calls and frequent e-mails," he says. "The students' work is set up on a Web page so those at Ford can see their progression and offer recommendations."
The students' work is also accessible to the public through BYU's Industrial Design Web site at: (*~* http://www.et.byu.edu/id/byu_ford.swf*~*).
Jensen, a Provo native, says his interaction with Ford has enhanced his understanding of the concept of design vocabulary, and may also help him get a job in the future.
"When Ford interviews potential employees, one thing they find is a weakness in describing design vocabulary and its appropriateness for a design market," he says. "Ford wants us to better understand how to design for a certain consumer market."
Jensen says he enjoyed this project because it provided valuable instruction from the best of both worlds.
"It's not that we're just receiving instruction from our professors - we're receiving applicable instruction from one of today's automotive industry leaders."
December 11, 2001