Think aims to revolutionise car design

Norwegian electric carmaker Think is going to develop the car interior of the future in partnership with London’s prestigious Royal College of Art.

The project grew out of a partnership agreement between Think, the Norwegian Design Council, the Research Council of Norway and the Helen Hamlyn Centre at the Royal College of Art in London. “It is a unique and boundary breaking cooperation project for both the car industry and as a design object that can have a huge impact on the national and international stage,” says Onny Eikhaug, programme director of Design for All at the Norwegian Design Council.

Katinka von der Lippe, Design Director at Think, is very excited about the project: “We are hoping to produce something we can use in our own product development that can include both specific solutions and conceptual ideas that can be taken further. Hopefully the project will help us take a step in the direction of the car of tomorrow.”

Hand picked designer
From this autumn till September 2009 Swiss designer Filip Krnja will be investigating totally new concepts for the interior of a future Think car. Krnja works as a designer at the Helen Hamlyn Centre, Royal College of Art, who are sharing the project costs with Think, the Norwegian Design Council and the Research Council of Norway.

The Swiss designer has been hand picked for the project from the College’s Vehicle Department, which is considered the world leader in its field. He has already managed to establish his own design studio in London with an auto client list that includes Mercedes, Volkswagen and Mitsubishi.

Stuck in the 1950s
“Cockpits in modern cars are more or less the same as they were in the 1950s. In fact, much of the structure dates all the way back to some of the very first cars at the start of the 20th Century. There are a great many established truisms about how the inside of a car should look, which we now intend to challenge,” explains Research Associate Programme Leader and Research Fellow Rama Gheerawo at the Helen Hamlyn Centre Royal College of Art.

He adds that for modern motorists a car is far more than just a means of getting from A to B. “Our cars are the only really private space many of us have. We share our home with our family and the office with colleagues. We work, talk, eat and drink, listen to music and relax in the car. The car is the only place where everything is done on your terms – at least on the inside,” Gheerawo says.

Design Director Katinka von der Lippe of Think feels the Helen Hamlyn Centre will be an exciting partner for the Norwegian electric carmaker.  “The car industry is facing two major changes. One is the shift from the internal combustion engine to electric motors, and the other is to become more user oriented. Think is an international product while Norway is a pretty small market. Which means it is important we adopt an international perspective. To do so, we need partners with wide-ranging international know-how, which is why the Helen Hamlyn Centre’s approach is so interesting,” she says. 

Extreme testers
Over the past nine years the Helen Hamlyn Centre has been involved in over 100 projects in close cooperation with business partners like Nokia, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Toyota, Ford and Levi Strauss. During the course of this work, the centre has developed its own methodology where design principles are very much an integral part, something that has been one of the main investment areas for the Norwegian Design Council for many years. This is also an important reason for IT Funk’s involvement in the Think project. 

“Traditionally you find a number of target users who can be considered as representative or average users, and ask them specific questions – but this gives you information rather than inspiration. Instead, we select around 10 people whom we call extreme users, each of whom will have an interesting point of view on the subject. For instance, they can be totally fascinated by technology, or be right at the opposite end of the scale. We get more interesting feedback from these people that we would otherwise have missed out on and this forms the basis for design inspiration. The electric car of tomorrow will be driven by people of different needs; demanding consumers of all ages and abilities. This is especially important when considering the interface between a car, its driver and its passengers.” says Gheerawo.

Can lead the way
He praises the Norwegian electric carmaker for daring to be innovative in what is generally an extremely conservative industry. “The cultural values inherent in the car are largely unexplored. Think is an independent company that has more freedom to innovate. Think has a fantastic opportunity to lead the way in the car industry in shifting design thinking about tomorrow’s cars in the direction of user needs in a wider perspective. If Think succeeds, this will send powerful signals to the rest of the car industry,” Gheerawo argues.

Designer Filip Krnja is already working on the first phase, in which he will define what the project should embrace, in consultation with Think, the Norwegian Design Council and the Helen Hamlyn Centre. Although Krnja is based at the Helen Hamlyn Centre in London, he has also been given his own office space at the Think head office outside Oslo.

IN THE DRIVING SEAT: (from left) Onny Eikhaug (Norwegian Design Council) and Rama Gheerawo (Helen Hamlyn Centre)are convinced Katinka von der Lippe and Think can lead the car industry in a new direction by realigning design thinking with user needs. Photo: Johnny Syversen


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THINK city is a modern city car.Photo: Think

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