Audi representatives attend IND students’ final presentations as part of the collaborative Corporate Sponsored Class
By Nina Tabios
Kevin Chen is no stranger to imagining what cars could look like in the future.
“A lot of it is taking inspiration from science fiction films,” commented the soon-to-be graduate from the Academy of Art University’s School of Industrial Design (IND). On Monday, Dec. 17, Chen, along with eight other student groups from the collaborative Corporate Sponsored Class (IND 494), presented their final projects to Audi representatives. There was a little science fiction as students were tasked to develop a car for 2040, but reimagining Audi as a lifestyle brand—complete with living quarters and a holistic experience for the customer—wasn’t too far from reality.
“We had to design an entire Audi ecosystem,” Chen explained. “From interior space to the car, we needed to imagine something that fulfilled all aspects of [customers’] lives.”
“The industry is going through a revolution,” said Director of Design Loft for Audi’s Malibu office Gael Buzyn, who was among the Audi representatives attending the final presentations. Buzyn was also part of a previous Corporate Sponsored Class partnership with General Motors. “This is a chance to redefine the interaction between the customer and cars.”
The Corporate Sponsored Class is a studio course spearheaded by IND Director Antonio Borja. Collaborating with the Schools of Web Design & New Media, Graphic Design, and Fashion, past semesters drew up autonomous Volvo trucks, transformative Jaguar sports cars, and innovative Maserati racers. For the Audi project, Borja invited the School of Interior Architecture & Design (IAD) to create the car-interfacing residencies.
“There is a whole lifestyle [where the] majority of our day is spent either in traffic to work or at home,” Borja said of IAD’s role in the project. “We’re able to control those two touch points in a way that we haven’t been able to do so before.”
Chen and his group, Matrix, developed their project around the rising trend of brand influencers. For 2040, they pictured Audi building a community of Audi enthusiasts who still enjoy the thrill of driving (referred to as, “motor equestrians”) even as autonomous cars become mainstream. These enthusiasts sell the lifestyle as brand ambassadors.
As Chen’s car design encompassed “a pure driving experience” with elegant, push-pull steering that could go autonomous on road trips, the IAD students transformed Audi dealerships into comprehensive centers that showcased transportation and residential options, plus recreational amenities such as a clubhouse and fitness rooms. The vehicle’s aesthetic echoed throughout the living quarters and a glass elevator lifted the car to an in-house glass garage display, a connection between the road and home.
“We wanted leaving [the car] to be a fun experience as well,” said IAD student Bastian Tandean. “We believe that this enhances the relationship you can have with your car.”
Buzyn was impressed by the Matrix experience’s continuity, from car to residency to workplace. This high level of thought and substance is why Buzyn wanted to carry over his Academy partnership from GM to Audi.
“The fact that [the Academy] involves a lot of disciplines and departments into the project gives a way broader-minded approach to the project and what we’re trying to achieve,” he said. “I haven’t seen too much of that approach in transportation design schools, and I really commend the school and [Borja] for trying to do that, really pushing to involve a lot of people.”
This was the first inter-disciplinary studio collaboration and corporate client-facing experience for many of the participating IAD students. Under the guidance of IAD Capstone Coordinator Tom Collom and Retail & Commercial Design instructor Scott Cress, young interior designers such as Maria Gudaykina learned how to develop a deadline-driven and multi-faceted, cohesive project.
“We had to come up with our own guidelines on how our project has to move, what the pace is and what has to be submitted when,” she said. Gudaykina further explained that having others specialize in particular elements of the project—graphics, colors, materials—really helped them focus on making their part the best it could be. “It just comes together in a completely different way than if you were [to] do it on your own.”
“This is the kind of collaboration experience that’s going to help you get a portfolio piece that’s going to get you a job,” Cress said. “Not only that, but it’s going to impress people that are looking for people that are team players.”
The Audi collaboration is Chen’s third and final Corporate Sponsored class. He said the corporate client presence added a unique pressure that he feels prepared him for the professional world, one of the many aspects that keeps Borja excited with each new corporate partnership.
“We’re training students in methodologies that they’re going to be using upon graduation from the university,” Borja explained. “It makes the university have standards in the classroom that are industry level and we know that we’re creating students with the skills necessary to be marketable for when they graduate.”
“If you’re uncomfortable with it, then that’s a good thing,” Chen acknowledged. “No matter what happens you usually end up with a pretty cool project.”