1,000 days and 1,400 sketches: One car's journey from concept to cruiser
Having given us a glimpse of its future design direction with last year's 20V20 SUV Concept, Spanish carmaker SEAT has now provided an insight into how its designs are actually brought to fruition. The whole process takes about four years, meaning that work on the 20V20 likely began in 2011.
Back then, the 20V20 would have been little more than an idea based on SEAT's plans for the future look and feel of its cars. As you'd expect with any major carmaker, though, the firm has a fairly regimented approach that it uses to bring those ideas into reality, and it has just released details of that process.
First, a roadmap for the design and build process is tailored to the model — in the case of the 20V20 taking into account its SUV form factor and conceptual nature — and laid out before work begins.
Once the prescriptive detail of the roadmap has been agreed upon, work begins in earnest on the design phase. Even in today's high-tech age, every SEAT produced begins with pencil sketches, and this is where the sharp and sporty looks of the 20V20 would first have been brought out of the designers' minds and onto paper.
According to SEAT's head of interior design Jaume Sala, those first sketches of the car show "what we would like it to look like," before iterative sketches refine the design into something "picture perfect." The 20V20's sloping roofline and creased flanks, for example, are two of the vehicle's features that would have been the subject of an untold number of revisions at this stage.
Over 1,000 sketches are created over the course of the design process and, when the final sketches are approved, they are recreated digitally. These digital renderings "give volume" to the proposed vehicle, which would have allowed designers of the 20V20 to look around its 600 l (132 gal) of luggage space, for example.
Next – and perhaps most impressively — a life-sized clay model of the vehicle is created, which, in the case of the 20V20 would have been around 4.66 m (15.3 ft) long, give or take. We say give or take because at this stage, the design is sculpted and shaped by craftsmen until the physical recreation of the digital model shows an exterior design that is ready for the road. Then, the design is "frozen," after up to 5,000 kg (11,000 lb) of clay has been used to get the look just right.
The mustard yellow sported by the 20V20 comes courtesy of SEAT's color and trim department, which takes control of the next stage of design. The department draws inspiration from fields such as fashion, architecture and product design, before distilling 100 formulations and 1,000 l (220 gal) of paint down to only 12 shades that will feature in the car's exterior color chart.
The color and trim department is also involved in the next stage, which sees the development of the seats. Here, the two-tone leather upholstery for the 20V20's seats would have been brought together with comfort and shape design notes, as well as the practical concern of needing to fold down.
Designing the rest of the vehicle's interior is the final part of the process and is where the 20V20's use of aluminum, dark glass and programmable infotainment displays would have been decided upon. At this point "everything is driver-oriented," explains Sala. "We ask ourselves where it would be most convenient to store a mobile phone, glasses or a bottle of water."
At the end of this process, SEAT has a new car model to show for its efforts. The 20V20 concept went off to the 2015 Geneva Motor Show to show what we can expect from future SEAT models, but other cars will come out of the process and go into SEAT's showrooms and eventually, on the road.