What Disruption is not

BRIEF: I have been invited to a conclave of the Society of Indian Automotive Manufacturers (SIAM) in Goa. To run a workshop – and “shake things up”. The session length is 90 minutes, and the target audience is car designers within large Indian auto manufacturing companies. The question is what value can I provide to highly capable designers, with a long track record (experience), capable of working within complex engineering organisations?

Designing the Workshop

I had a few things I could potentially do. Here were my options:

  1. I could run a session on ‘how to come up with a design that goes viral on the internet’. This would draw upon my experience of teaching car design since 1994, with specific emphasis upon the message of this blog – how to do a campaign project.
  2. I could run a session on ‘how to feed the inner artist’. For the design job could prove to be a joy killer.
  3. I could run a session on ‘cultural capital’ as a way to reimagine who to design for.

On the topic of design jobs being a joy killer – or boring – here is a blog post that addresses this issue through the comments section – priceless. Titled the ‘in house designer’ the discussion centres around the downsides of working in house. Here are some comments:

I find that I spend the majority of my time trying to sell an idea or ideas to the internal team rather than working directly with the client to find that new and exciting idea we both can be inspired by.

You don’t have as much freedom to express your own ideas in a larger organization… at least not without convincing 3 different committees and submitting several forms/documents. Even if you do that, your own ideas could get squashed by another manager in another department who has seniority and doesn’t like or fully grasp your idea (or just doesn’t like you or your department for that matter).

Familiar? Its possible it doesn’t have to be this way.

Disruption theory is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success

Most people in leadership within car companies are familiar with the notion of Disruption. Now even managers can do disruptive thinking – having read Clayton Christensen they can play experts. However its possible their understanding of disruption is incorrect – as is that in much writing (click here to read the article that explains this)

“Disruption” describes a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses. Specifically, as incumbents focus on improving their products and services for their most demanding (and usually most profitable) customers, they exceed the needs of some segments and ignore the needs of others. Entrants that prove disruptive begin by successfully targeting those overlooked segments, gaining a foothold by delivering more-suitable functionality—frequently at a lower price. Incumbents, chasing higher profitability in more-demanding segments, tend not to respond vigorously. Entrants then move upmarket, delivering the performance that incumbents’ mainstream customers require, while preserving the advantages that drove their early success. When mainstream customers start adopting the entrants’ offerings in volume, disruption has occurred.

  • incumbents focus on improving their products and services for their most profitable customers

  • ignore the needs of some segments

  • successfully targeting those overlooked segments

Importantly in this article you will encounter the question: is UBER an example of disruption? “According to the theory, the answer is no.”

Then to continue on my options: I could run a session on disruption.

For Disruption is an explanation by Christensen that is part “a posteriori” and part a “post hoc” proposition. What is questionable is whether disruption can infact be designed and implemented at all. By the same measure any paradigm shift can be re-explained as a disruption. Lionising disruption also marginalises maintenance – read “tradition” and the collectivised ways of doing things. If we take food as an example we can ask the question: Does food need to be disrupted? The answer is no – for some of us. So the balance between maintaining current ways and coming up with new ways (innovation) is a fine one. It just so happens that we are in a period where ‘innovation’ is riding a high.

For design a better word (rather than using disruption) is project. Within the notion of the project pre-exists paradigms of ‘listening’, ‘provoking’, ‘nudging’ and simply taking risks. The pre-existence is very old and established. The problem within ‘corporate’ ecosystems is the issue of ‘justification’. The project to the corporate administrator (a bureaucrat who is referred to as the ‘executive‘) is always about getting it ‘right’ – in the dart board analogy thats about getting a bulls eye – hitting the target. The project – some very successful ones and the theory of Christensen argues for this – is often focussed upon a marginal and neglected area. One that is not profitable – or considered to be of value. Radical design often focus away from the centre and pick up themes from the periphery.

The question then is how does a designer within a large enterprise focus away from the target, and make a case for privileging? With difficulty I guess. But I have some ideas.

The Designer as Creative Practitioner

Within the PhD space in my place of work – we have a focus upon privileging the “creative practitioner”. If I were to treat the designer within the car company as a creative practitioner – then I would be able to open a line of discussion around the ‘work’ – the oeuvre – of the designer (artist). What this could do is to focus the work of the designer upon a inner ‘boss’ quite different from the external corporate ‘boss’. This designer wouldn’t need to do what the superior or employee in the organisation with a higher pay says, or what the ‘customer’ survey says. The designer can simply choose to take a risky path – design by designer – in opposition to the “design by designer influenced by many superiors and loud people”.

However the sub-ordinate position of the designer is a problem. Its an issue that has dogged designers for ever.

It is at this point that I have a solution. I may come back and upload – how I did it. Watch this space.

For now I will share a teaser from a video mashup I am working on.





3R-C Concept

Honda to Unveil the Electric 3R-C Concept in Geneva : TreeHugger

Next week ushers in the Geneva auto show, and based on last year’s momentum and the previews thus far, it’s going to be bubbling with alternative vehicles. Honda has released a teaser of its 3R-C, an all-electric single-seater urban mobility concept. With two wheels in the front and one in the back, it conjures images of the Aptera, but even more compact.honda 3rc concept photohonda 3rc concept rear photo

Nissan’s electric cars

The past and the future of Nissan’s electric cars: from 1947 to iPhone apps — Autoblog Green

Nissan has made a big splash in the electric car world with its recent Leaf unveiling, but let’s not forget that the company has a long, long history with engine-free motoring. A new press release put out by the Japanese automaker quotes Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park novel (seriously) for extra cred while looking back at the first all-electric vehicle in the corporate history book: the 1947 Tama Electric Car (pictured). That EV used lead acid batteries to go an easy 22 mph and had an astonishing range of 40 miles. It was sold in post-war Japan for three years. Other EVs from the history books described after the jump: the Prairie EV, the Altra EV (known as the R’nessa EV in Japan) and the Hypermini. Quite a lineup

Looking forward for what might be coming in the upcoming Leaf all-electric vehicle and Nissan’s other EVs, the company is reportedly developing an iPhone application that will allow owners to check in on the battery’s state of charge as well as operate the car’s air conditioning and heating system. Why would you want to do this? Similar to the automatic cabin cooling that happens with the solar roof option in the 2010 Prius, a remote climate control app means you can tell the car to use the grid’s energy to get the car to a comfortable temperature before getting in, saving energy in the battery for more momentum. Perhaps Nissan has learned something after six decades of EV work?

Small car for the future

Moville – A Green Drop In Ocean Of Futuristic Automobiles – The Design blog

Design contests aim to squeeze the best out of grey cells of creative thinkers who dare to give shape to their visions of a reliable future. One such contest is the 5th Peugeot Design Contest 2008 where Woo-Ram Lee of France conceptualized a car which is aptly designed to evolve within the cities of the future, whilst retaining the key values of the 21st century. Christened as Mo Ville, this single seater is intended for the Megapolis. This eco-friendly auto consists of a tear shaped capsule over an electric drive train while the three magnetic ball wheels render frictionless motion through electromagnets. Programmed with an artificial intelligence, this robotic car is capable of recognizing its owner and welcomes him/her with open doors. Fitted with a self driving feature, it can also be manually driven with wireless digital gadgets like cell phones and portable game consoles.

Car Sharing

Car Sharing – was the theme of a project last year. One of the outcomes from the project was this descripter – of the car sharing system – where the city was described as being composed of three zones. This is an interesting insight which explains car sharing as public transport and defines three different kinds of cars for each of the zones.

Car design in India

Automotive design gets ready for a greater role in India

The initial flow of companies setting up design centres has led to as many as 15 institutes introducing courses in automotive or transportation design in the country.

Auto design is also getting more classroom space in design centres that have traditionally focused on other industries.

The National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, launched a postgraduate course of two-and-a-half years’ duration in transportation and automobile design in 2006. MIT, Pune, and IIT Madras also have programmes on automobile engineering, but the industry says that finding design manpower is still a problem because between the institutes, only about 300 designers graduate every year.

“It’s a turning point in the Indian auto industry,” says Pradyumna Vyas, mentor, transportation and automobile design, and head, education, NID. “The role of design, more than ever, in the Indian auto industry is gaining increasing importance if the ongoing auto show is any indication of the shape of things to come. ” NID has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Italian design houses and schools such as Pininfarina SpA and Domus Academy where their students go on exchange programmes.

Bobby Benz

Now Everyone Can Drive A Mercedes…Well, Almost. | Mark’s Technology News

It’s not just adults that appreciate fine automobile design and that’s something Mercedes seems to have caught on to. Their latest creation is a limited edition, tot-sized, ride-on version of their SLK AMG called the Bobby Benz, which joins their smaller, made-to-order model cars aimed squarely at this neglected audience of car aficionados.

Who knows what their motivation is? To instill brand loyalty from a young age? To take advantage of a relatively untapped market? To help the company remain solvent through the economic downturn? Nah, maybe they’re just trying to bring a little happiness to the children of the world uber-rich.

According to the company’s recent press release, the Bobby Benz is the successor to the classic children’s go-cart and like any decent luxury vehicle, features ergonomic leg positioning and noise reduction technology. It also includes a Direct-Steer system that reduces the vehicle’s turning circle…imagine that.

The future for GM is in these words

Fueling the Future | The American Prospect

More broadly, we should then ensure that, within a decade, every new car sold in America can run on flexible fuel. We can advance this goal by offering manufacturers a $100 tax credit for every flexible-fuel tank they install before the decade is up.

As my friend Tom Daschle details in this report, millions of people driving flexible-fuel vehicles don’t even know it. The auto companies shouldn’t get CAFE credit for making these cars if they don’t let buyers know about them, so the entire auto industry should follow GM’s lead and put a yellow gas cap on all flexible fuel vehicles, and notify consumers in writing as well.

We have a choice in this country. We can continue down our path of oil dependence and watch as foreign competition kills our auto industry. Or we can help the industry transform itself back into the giant it once was. Eighty years later, Henry Ford’s dream of a future without oil is not only possible, it’s essential. For our environment, our security, and our economy, it’s finally time for America to pursue it.

Edwin’s Muscle Car

This is Edwin’s Car Design for car sharing. The model is coming along really nicely.  Note the brake disc and shoe assembly.

Making the 1:10 Scale Model of the HSV Encore « Edwin Conan

Car Design for Car Sharing

Click on the image – to go to the blog – where you will get more details. In the blogs if you click on the images you will see the enlarged image.

John, Nathan, Aaron – (the image is from Aarons blog, you can also see the project on John‘s and Nathan‘s blog)






What will the car of the future look like?

Imagine this: Sometime in the future – private ownership of cars may be curtailed.

Car will then be shared but not owned. This will fundamentally change the way companies think of and develop cars. Cars will not be seen as possessions but as modes of transport. Cars will in short be PUBLIC TRANSPORT.

What then will these cars look like? Do post your ideas and discussion points. I would be very keen to hear what you think.

Volkswagen 2028

Volkswagen 2028 > Volkswagen Company > Volkswagen Company > Volkswagen Australia

The cars of the future: innovations are coming
Cars won’t be able to fly in the year 2028, but we’ll experience vehicles that communicate with traffic lights and other vehicles, that you can control using words and that have the necessary intelligence to find a free parking space and park in it automatically without a driver. You’ll be able to change the colours and forms of your custom-made car at any time. We’re looking at new drive concepts so that we can make the vision of emission-free cars a reality as soon as possible. Be inspired by functions that are both innovative and useful.

For Video see here.

To Design A Car for Car sharing

Sometime in the future – private ownership of cars may be curtailed. Such is the proposition for this project. Car will then be shared but not owned. This will fundamentally change the way companies think of and develop cars. Cars will not be seen as possessions but as modes of transport. Their color scheme may even be chosen by the city which commissions a fleet.

The crucial question then is will cars look different from what they are today?

Car share organizations ( be they companies or contractors running a fleet on behalf of a city as may be the case in Paris in the near future) today have a set of criteria they use to define the right car/s for their fleet. These criteria are mainly the eco footprint of the car and the kind of trip the car affords.

Therefore if a car in its design were to respond to the car share industry:

  1. What would be the external form of the car?
  2. What would the controls on the shared car interior be composed of and look like?
  3. How would the materials and detailing change?
  4. How would the design address issues of durability (cleaning of interiors, exteriors and scuffing of exteriors and interiors)
  5. What would the engine be?
  6. How will the car respond to emerging communication and electronic technologies?

I see Fuller’s Dymaxion car, the MIT project, and the humble airport trolley all as cousins of this vehicle waiting to emerge.

The spectrum of devices from the cars (Flashy) to the buses and trains (subdued) have a range of previously tried options – and form expectations. So I imagined that the spirit of design would be arrived at colleactively – and the people would have a say in what they want to see on their city streets. A sort of open forum would be required where the design is unveiled – and approved. So this is design for the collective – a way towards the future of sustainable transport design. A porous design responsive to the spirit of tomorrow.

I will add to this – to articualte my ideology of design and the spirit of …

Nissan Denki Electric Cube – NY Auto Show

The CUBE Nissan Denki(Electric)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Cars that avoid collisions

YouTube – World Tech Update

n this week’s show: We take Nissan’s high-tech cars for a spin, Steve Jobs grills employees over MobileMe, riding Toyota’s robotic transporter, new rules for gadgets at U.S. ports and news on upco…

Petrol Prices and Social divide

Social gap widens from outer to inner Melbourne | theage.com.au

SUBURBIA is bearing the brunt of rising fuel prices and extreme mortgage stress, a major study of Australian cities has found.

Governments must step in to provide outer suburbs with better public transport or risk extreme social breakdown, it warned.

The report, Unsettling Suburbia, for the first time combines the 2006 census figures on car use, mortgage levels and income.

Outer suburban households are under the greatest stress from petrol prices and mortgage levels as a percentage of income, according to the Griffith University’s urban planning unit report.

Melbourne’s outer suburbs were far more vulnerable to rising fuel prices than the middle and inner suburbs, it warned.

“The households that will have the greatest (problem) coping with higher transport and housing costs are among those with the least resources and weakest access to local infrastructure,” authors Jago Dodson and Neil Sipe said.

They warn of a greater social divide between inner Melbourne, which has better access to public transport, and outer suburbs where residents have little option but to drive.

Retrofitting Hybrids

I like this as I think it is a welcome boost to reusing old cars – and my favourite Austin Chummy from 1929 – with an electric wheel.

Strap-On Hybrid Kit Coming This Fall | Sustainable Life Media

July 25, 2008 – Soon you may be able to turn your non-electric vehicle into a hybrid simply by attaching an electric motor to your car’s back wheels.

The new Poulsen Hybrid system, packaged in the form of a do-it-yourself kit, can convert any car into a hybrid by strapping two 7-horsepower electric motors to each of a vehicle’s rear wheels.

The device can supply enough electricity to power 70% to 85% of normal driving, according to Paulsen. The conventional combustion engine helps with vehicle startup, acceleration, and hill driving.

The system works equally well with rear- or all-wheel drive vehicles, gasoline or diesel, the company says.

Poulsen Hybrid here.

Share your car

Press Release

Car sharing is becoming popular with the advent of high fuel prices and local people are being invited to join a car-sharing scheme set up by Kirklees Council.

As well as reduce travel costs, the scheme will help to reduce congestion and pollution in the area and will ease pressure on parking spaces. Since the start of the scheme it has saved over 36 tonnes of CO2 and almost 120,000 of car journeys a year.

The scheme can be used by logging on to http://www.carsharekirklees.com and registering your journey details. The system will then highlight others travelling in the same direction and will encourage the drivers to make contact using a secure email connection so that they can arrange to share the journey and the costs of travel.

The specialist software used by the scheme has been provided by Liftshare which is the UK number one car-sharing company and which has extensive experience of setting up car-sharing schemes. It has established more than 200 schemes across the UK for a range of clients. The national Liftshare network has now arranged for an estimated 50 million miles of journey to be shared each year.

Cllr David Hall, Kirklees Cabinet member for Highways and Transportation, said: “We are all feeling the pinch at the moment and this is a good way to help both the environment and the pocket.”

Model T Car Design Project

Designing the Model T for the Future – NYTimes.com

AS part of its celebration of the centennial of the Model T, the Ford Motor Company commissioned a group of transportation design students at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit to rethink the Model T for the future. The students were asked to imagine “a car for the 21st century that would offer affordable transportation and social impact in the way Henry Ford’s original Model T did.”

The way Cars are Designed

I am going back in to teach UG classes after a semester of work exclusively with post grad. I am beginning to feel the energy of this enterprise and am quite excited.

Undergraduate teaching in design consists of setting up fictional projects – which simulate a design project situation where the student plays the role of a designer in a workplace. Usually we only half set up the fiction – that is we let students into a class (say) ‘to design a car’ for a semester and then sporadically interact with them to help them do a good project. The half is when we just set up the shell and wait for the student to put the content in through their own research. A great way to teach design and innovation.

I however believe in Authentic Tasks – which means the fiction is a reality. That is the design project the student works on is real and will have an impact. So …

I began a dialogue with Car Share firms to set up the context in which car share firms can influence the ways cars are designed. Th student project teams ( 3 of the) thus become the agency which converts ideas ( which can be influenced by the car share firms) into a three dimensional design.

My next task is to see that the teams that are set up understand their role – and what is required of them in this project (as distinct from what they may do in other projects on offer next semester). I plan to communicate this to them by saying:

  1. The project is a Work Placement opportunity.
  2. The Design Task is to take the ideas of the car share firms and convert it into a design that a firm like Honda can appreciate.
  3. The Campaign Task is to put all their work into an accessible channel like YOUTUBE and FLIKR – so that others can get inspired to do their own projects of this kind.
  4. With the aim – to generate critical mass to influence the ways cars are designed in the future.

Cars for Car Sharing

The Melbourne ICARUS Project began with the objective of looking at – A Car specifically Designed for Car Sharing in Melbourne. See what I wrote before I went in to see Monique Conheady the CEO of Flexicar.

And what she told me changed the brief. Before it was 2-seater and small and now its not!

1929 Austin 7 Restoration Project 2003

A car not as a status symbol, to drive on highways, to zip-nip-revv-race and just zoot in.

The Image is of a 1929 Austin 7. This was a Restoration Project I worked on in 2003. With 20 students.

The engagement is with Car Design and titled Melbourne Icarus Project. The project looks at the phenomenon of Car sharing and speculates upon the Design of Cars for the future – cars that would fit with the requirements of the car sharing systems. Currently cars used in car sharing – Yaris by GoGet and Jazz by Flexicar – have not been designed for this specific purpose and have been retrofitted with the necessary hardware/ software to enable car sharing.

In 2008 the project aims to develop a understanding of Car Sharing services and begin a dialogue with the service providers. The outcomes of this project are to be two fold: (a) the design and depiction of the service for car sharing and (b) the designs of cars expressly visualized for car sharing.

The CAR: A car designed just for the Car sharing Industry. For now this vehicle is specified as –

1. Using a 400 CC multi-cylinder Honda CB motorcycle engine running on CNG, and Exploring hybrid options

2. Seating two

3. Luggage space for city shopping

4. Weight Conscious (PEEL was 132 Kgs, This car? 300 kgs?)

See for Carsharing:

1. The Car Sharing Library

2. World Car Share Consortium