Is Style Back

Is Style Back

September 25th, 2011 // 3:42 pm @

I want to buy two things, a Fiat 500, and an iPad. I need neither, in fact there is in my life little rationale for either. So why do I want them?

The Frankfurt motor show has been on recently, and I watched with interest to hear what people were talking about as the key new developments on cars. These are the things I assume car makers think will drive us to buy in the future.

The show was dominated by a few key themes. The first and biggest was integrating cars into our other technologies. Adding web access, linking to smart phones, accessing music from cloud computing, and all the other super clever things technology can now do.

The other issue much in discussion was, what will drive cars in the future. The gasoline engine, the hybrid, electricity, or hydrogen? What is clear is that for the first time in the history of the motorcar what fundamentally powers a car is open to a radical change. Although which technology will become dominant remains unclear.

However I suspect none of the above will be the key thing we consider when buying our new cars in the future. The integration of technology will become a given, every new car will have Internet, sat navigation, iPod etc. It will not be a point of real differentiation. The same will be true of the drive train, it will work, it will be clever, it will use less gas. But I am not sure we will understand what is going on under the bonnet, or even care.

What I think we will care about is how it makes us “feel”. There is no such thing as a truly bad car anymore. They are all well built, reliable and technologically advanced. But few cars make us feel good.

What we love is style, and it is missing in so many cars. I want a Fiat 500, I do not want a Fiat Panda (The car on which the Fiat 500 is based), and the reason is simply because the Fiat 500 is fun. The Fiat Panda (sold in Europe) is significantly cheaper, bigger, more practical, and has largely the same running gear. The difference is it has no style.

When so many of the things we are offered are all technically brilliant, the difference becomes how they make us feel about ourselves. How they look, what the tactile experience is, how the interface feels, it is beyond logic and into our emotional reaction to the user experience.

Apple understands this; the experience of interacting with most Apple products makes me feel better about my world. The other product I want is an iPad, even though in my life I can see little benefit, but I want one, because it has style.

Making great products was enough for many years. I suspect as we move forward they will also need to make us feel better about ourselves, to make us smile, to bring some fun into our lives.

And for that you need great designers, people with real style. Maybe we will all be buying Italian cars and ignoring the Germans?


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