Yes, this may sound like a heavy title for an entry after a multi-week or even multi-month hiatus. Here is my hypothesis: People say they want continuity and predictability, but they get excited by the exact opposite.
The earliest example I can think of is that the figures in a chess set are black and white. These colors are so far on the opposite end of the color spectrum, that they are not actually part of color spectrum. All his just to keep the two armies of the players easily distinguishable. My next point is black and white photography. The images that evoke the strongest emotions are that show string contrast. To prove this, look up Sebastiao Salgado, Herni Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams (Yosemite series and the Aspen series). How often do you get excited about a back and white image you see in your daily newspaper – practically never. According to the above hypothesis, because it is mostly a mush of greys which makes it difficult to recognize the shapes of the objects in the pictures. What your eyes want and what your soul reacts to is contrast. Next music – I have never seen or head of a trashed beer tent because of “power schunkling” which excited the natural frequency of the benches and tables and the tent, which brought about the complete and utter collapse of all party structures. But there is a reason, why there are no chairs and benches at rock concerts (with the incomprehensible exceptions of Asia and the United States at least for in door concerts). Because when you attend Metallica, Guns N Roses, Van Halen or Queen in their prime, you cannot stay in your seat. In fact it bothers you after a while and so it gets thrown out. When Bill Haley and Elvis first came to tour in Germany, there were quite a few venues that started out as seated venues and they ended in saw dust. This sort of emotion is not stirred with music promising continuity. Today’s hit parades are filled with continuity and predictability, it is the equivalent of the music that was playing 40 years ago in department stores also known as “muzak”. As much as i try to remember, but I never saw my mom or any other women for that matter throw their bras around in excitement while shopping in a department store. At some of the concerts I have attended in my day, I have seen other women (not my mom) do that.
And now to those who actually inspired the topic of this entry – cars and their designers. Dear cars designers you used to be heroes following in the footsteps of renaissance artists. And now, look at you. You have become bland, plain sugar-free vanilla. The only car main stream company that creates a bit of excitement when something new is released is possibly Lamborghini. And since the early 2000s even they are copying the American Air Force Stealth designs – to this day. UNIMAGINATIVE! You can do better than that. The reason which Lamborghini is getting some notoriety is because they provide contrast – not in color, but in shape. Their design language consists of large continuous surfaces that meet at sharp well defined angles, interrupted by large black opening.
Now, think back to cars that excited you from a time when cars were hand-sculpted and not forced into shape by a subset of the Navier-Stokes equation. Right, what is slowly coming from the fog of your memory are body panels that had contrast – a mix of concave and convex surfaces. You may see the 1962 Ferrari 250GTO, the 1966 Lamborghini Muira S, a 1957 Chevrolet Corvette, heck you may see a 1958 Chevrolet Bel Air. If you are a franco-phile a Citroën DS or a Citroën 2CVwill appear to your mind’s eye or the 1966 Renault Alpine 110. Of course, if you drop everything you do, for tea-time then only to reminisce the golden days of British cars – think 1955 Jaguar D-Type and 1961 E-Type – timeless classics of beauty not seen in the last 40 years. I can continue with examples of great exciting automotive design, but they are all designs from way in the past.
In the 1980s the Germans – the people who gave the world the car – introduced Computational Fluid Dynamics into car design and allowed computers to dictate the shape of the car – that shape was the famous wedge shape. That is why, starting in 1986, the Audi 80 (A4 predecessor) and the first Mercedes 190 look so much alike. It is also the reason why cars today look like they are made from the same mold – because they are.
But not all is lost. If you google for Gran Turismo Design Studies you will eventually land on this link: http://www.gran-turismo.com/us/products/gt6/vgt/
Proof, that some people still remember concave shapes and the power of pairing concave with the nowadays ubiquitous convex surfaces. Proof, that some people still dare to be creative by turning contrast up to 11 where ever and when ever they can.
Contrast excites people, whether in color, shape, sound, tempo, because it challenges people, it draws a person in. Unfortunately, that is also why politicians with extreme views are getting attention. Established politicians are bland and way too smooth, lacking any interesting profile and are simply too far removed from real life. One way of addressing this would be term limits. Most countries these days avail over large groups of professional politicians, whose interest is to get into power and then maintain it. But teflon-coated (aka PTFE – Poly Tetra Flour Ethylen) people in the public eye is a topic for a separate blog entry.
Today’s blog was about contrast in in shape, color, shade and shape and the contradiction (contrast) between what people say they want and what gets an emotional response.
Alright, I need to step of my soap-box now and start a day of honest work at the steel mill.
P.S.: Yes, I will add some images of emotion evoking car designs.
P.P.S.: I made good on my P.S. above