I'm Unimpressed with UnEmotional

The following blog is a letter sent to the Globe and Mail late last week following my reading of their article on Industrial Design and Toronto's new "state of the art" streetcars.

I applaud the Globe and Mail for featuring Industrial Design prominently in Friday’s business section. However, I’d like to point out a slight oversight. Industrial design involves the creation of products. Vehicles are designed by Transportation Designers. While the two disciplines cohabitate liberally there is one overriding difference: Vehicles must have emotion. Ask any car designer in any company in any country in the world, and he or she will speak about the “styling theme”, the “flow” the “character”, the DNA of the product.

Yes, good design must encompass functionality on all levels including sustainability. However, without emotion, these object become appliances. The 2013 TTC Streetcars are a good example. The design though professionally executed and competent is devoid any real character. I firmly believe Toronto needed a more daring design, something to celebrate our city’s great diversity. We are a population of vibrant cultures not robots. As well, many of the “innovations” listed in the article have been used on trams for many years. The City, as paying client, could have demanded more gusto from Bombardier’s designers. After all, this was a very large contract.

Some of the example listed in the piece are not beacons of car design either. Toyota is hardly considered a styling leader and spacecraft are honed by aerodynamicists. The innovations wrought in some of the examples came more from the braintrusts of engineering teams rather than the emotions and passions of vehicle designers.