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Volvo’s New Design Direction Inspired By Barcelona

Barcelona, a sophisticated and stylish city in Spain, is more than just a tourist attraction. The warmth, culture and feisty ambience of the city made every visitor long for a return. The Picasso Museum in honor of a famous artist could be influential to some especially to his fellow artists. Barcelona’s elegance and artistic dexterity have attracted Volvo’s designers to come up with fabulous lineup that mirrors future auto design.

Barcelona is without doubt one of the most popular and exciting cities in the Mediterranean. It boasts enticing beaches, rich history and culture that could be reckoned back over 2,000 years. Everyone deserves to see the beauty and grandeur of this city. This is the inspiration that Volvo wants to achieve so the pool of design experts of the automaker imbibed the artistic and inspiring features of the city to its vehicle lineup.

David Ancona, chief designer at Volvo's Design Centre in Barcelona, first visited the country in 1992 as a consultant with Seat. According to him Barcelona offers the kind of bustling pace, diverse culture and nurturing of creativity that designers need to fuel their passion.

Ancona and his staff spend their days in an awe-inspiring building in an astonishing city that takes design seriously, from the architecture to the large limited-run furniture industry to the mounting respect for its fashion industry and designers like the world-renowned Balenciaga.

Ancona said, “It helps, even when your employer is a couple of thousand miles away, has a very different culture, a different climate and a different aesthetic -- Swedish automaker Volvo. I was here both to visit the design centre and to try the new C30, a coupe Ancona describes as an "unapologetic" three-door car.”

Ancona thought the Mini and the A3 are beginning to suffer from overexposure, perfectly positioning the Volvo C30. So there has to be something to divert the bandwagon and it has something to do with transforming the aging Volvo 960 parts into something fabulous in the present time.

“The Volvos you see on the road are an amalgam of designs that originate here, in California and in Goteborg, Sweden. The original design, interiors and colour for the company's VCC concept originated here, as did the first sketches for the C70. The front end came from here," Ancona divulged. "The rest just skewed too young," he added, illustrating why it takes a village to raise a Volvo. "Designs always end up a blend. The senior managers all get together and do a walk-around, looking very serious. We have been fairly successful the last couple of years. Part of our job is to supply management with enough things in the cookie jar that they can make a business case."

Ancona admitted that the Barcelona office is "extremely influential. “Our success has been in inverted proportion to our size.” Ancona added, “The process starts with a designer searching for an emotional hook and hand drawing, which to anyone with some life drawing background would look much like gesture sketches - quick, rough and spontaneous. They are exaggerated, then we begin to bring it into realistic proportions."

He continued, “From there, a design is worked into Photoshop, then goes to Alias modellers who work with the 3D design software. Then, to Bunkspeed, a visualization tool that takes an Alias model and assesses its proportions, highlights, etc., and is managed by a Playstation controller. Designers can use Bunkspeed (which loads an Alias design in about 30 seconds) to change colors, virtually "drive" the vehicle, change light sources to check out shadows, etc. Before Bunkspeed, it was ridiculous to me that within the industry visualization tools weren't up to par with what you could do in your own living room."

Among the three Volvo design studios in Barcelona is a "certain competitiveness, but we're all in the same game. The end product is the thing. We've all got enough confidence in senior management to make the right decision. You win some, you lose some." When asked whether Barcelona’s influence is a liability, the Volvo designer answered on the negative. "Particularly with prestige brands there is a strong brand identity and our designs have to have that. Our cars have that short-nose, long-tail feel of the S60, but we're here to give our take on things, so there has to be some leeway." After a car design has passed design feasibility, heavy engineering becomes crucial.

After the Volvo C30 is seen on the roads, Ancona said Volvo may consider producing a sports car - a la the RX8 or a sports car like the Volvo P1800. These future vehicles could just popped up out of nowhere.

About the Author: Glady Reign is a 32 year old is a consultant for an automotive firm based in Detroit, Mi. she is a native of the motor city and grew up around cars hence her expertise in the automotive field.

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