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This is a quarter-scale model of an idea called ‘Revolver’ – a design based on circular motion and continuity, with tubular doors that revolve into the floor, iris headlights, and a chassis that is sideways and circular-driving by means of two joysticks that innovatively interact the speed and direction of the wheels and motion.

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As a designer I think my skills are in creating physical forms with attention to detail, and an overall ability to ‘see’ a form with a physical, functional presence. Walking around something, having a mental map of every line, every intersection; feeling and experiencing it. I did my entire final year of Automotive Design without digital modelling; I could sculpt anything in life, with clay, but the interface of the program I was shown was not intuitive, and did not help me to transfer my skills to the digital realm. The construction of 3D models seemed in comparison to be an abstract technical exercise rather than an artistic, physical, feeling one (it’s a shame there isn’t an interface that could have married the two). Because time was of the essence, the only way of producing the physical, working model, with complete interior and exterior, was to work in the way I knew I already had expertise in.

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First, I sketched out a plan and profile, with accurate packaging. That allows me to ‘see’ the design in my minds eye. I let ideas evolve, but I rarely move into 3D without knowing where lines are going to go. I did not do a pile of sexy marker renderings with 25 inch wheels, zero ground clearance and windows only a cockroach could see out of! Instead, I modelled it in cardboard. I then produced a more accurate technical package, quarter scale, and sculpted the quarter scale clay. This was finished and cast in fibreglass extremely quickly, as the greater part of the work was finishing and fitting out the inside, and working out the mechanisms for the sliding door etc.

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The final exterior finish is another instance of designing an item to ‘age’ and look better old than new (see my pilot project for this concept here), and therefore resembled slightly dirty brushed stainless steel. Several processes went into creating a finish that, next to the real stainless steel of the doors, looked like the same material.

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The model is very much a concept car – I suppose I see only the faults and where the design needs development (so much of it was unfinished or only hinted at) but I did achieve one of the few display models that had a realistic ground clearance, real-world wheel sizes, and interior head clearance. You can’t cheat a model that has a complete working interior (something rarely done). It had sliding and tilting seats, and working lights; the only thing that it didn’t do was drive. It was awarded Best Physical Model in show.

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The next stage I’d move into if I were to develop this design is digital modelling. I slightly hesitate to use the term ‘CAD’ (‘Computer Aided Design’) – I can see how ‘designer’ has been conflated with ‘digital modeller’ in industry, but it does neglect the value of design as creative art and thought process. Design skill itself is one of those things you might describe in terms of the larger percentage of the process being in the mind; the physical part is a matter of communication. It is only in relatively recent history (only the last few decades, in fact) that computers have aided us in speeding up prototyping and manufacture. A great deal of extraordinary design has been imagined and created over the centuries, not once requiring additional skills that do not relate to the ability to think conceptually; to think differently, to resolve problems creatively and to be able to convey visually and accurately ideas, such that engineers and machinery specialists can help develop them. I enjoy designing cars (coming from a social and psychological interest in freedom, physical autonomy and automotive ‘companionship’) but, in an industry mostly interested in quick and efficient turnover, and whilst innovations do trickle through, if anything revolutionary exists in terms of pure design it most likely resides in the minds of individuals or teams with complimentry skills and a priority for creating something that has genuine value and authenticity.

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