Emotion of Form in Function

POSTED BY Amirul Hazmi ON 18 March 2016

IMG_5351WHETHER we realise it or not, the design of a car plays a huge role in determining its major expression and attraction that it gains from people who see it.

While the technical characteristics of a car may only be appreciated by car guys, it is the design that would appear to be the factor of acceptance to the rest of the audience.

That is why automakers toss a reasonably large amount of their resources into their design division. Our national carmaker, Proton Holdings Berhad, is no exception.

Consisting of around 60 staff members, Proton’s design team comes from a variety of backgrounds – about 60 per cent associated with industrial design while the rest are from engineering, fashion design and architecture.

Cars, Bikes & Trucks caught up with Azlan Othman, Proton’s head of design, and according to him, diversity in the design team is a good thing as the members get inputs from different industrial backgrounds.


Design philosophy

You may be familiar with the term “form follows functions” or “function follows form”. Proton’s design philosophy however is “Emotion of Form in Function”. According to Azlan, Proton believes that car designs should have the emotional effect to be felt by the five senses of the human body.

There are four key fundamentals in the Proton design elements; proportions, surfacing, postures and details. Azlan relates the proportions in design with the human body.

“We may sometimes see a person to look attractive, that is because the proportions of the body meet our common perception. The same goes to car design as a whole; a positively-proportioned car might have intuitive architecture and logical positioning of its design details,” Azlan said.

He said that surfacing is defined as how the car curves or flatten to deliver its proportions and reflections, and designers always play those two aspects to get the sweet balance.

“Postures of a car is the way it sits on the road. If we take a look at a sports car, it sits low, has a wide stance and looks stable. It is not always the case with a normal passenger car or compact car, but again, the tyres and wheels for example must be balanced with its overall body. A small car like the Iriz could have a stable, wide look if the fenders are sculptured towards that intention,” he added.

IMG_5348Details on the other hand is the part of the car that can be appreciated if we take a close look at it. Azlan again used the Iriz as an example where its dashboard is made of a material that looks like a soft-touch material.

“The stitching effect on the dashboard is a lengthy eight-time process, and a tiny Proton emblem at the outer side of its headlamp will also be featured on all Proton models after the Iriz,” he explained.

As other carmakers produce cars with trendy or timeless design, Azlan said that Proton’s principle is progressive design. “If there is a line where they are trendy and timeless at both ends, progressiveness sits in the middle, where the car we design would look fresh as well as being ageless.”

Design language

“Early Proton models of course still carry the design language of its donor car. During the era of the Waja, Gen.2 and Savvy, we experimented with different design language for different market segments,” Azlan said.

The turning point however is in its compact city car prototype, the EMAS, where Proton started to have common “Proton Wings”, dynamic arrow on the side and horizontal connecting bar at the rear as its design language. It makes the car become more refined, dynamic and exciting.

IMG_5345Moving into the interior, the Iriz (as well as Proton’s future models) gives a cascading and layering attribute, bringing exterior elements into the interior.

In-house design capability

The process of designing a car follows the flow of phases such as product proposal, styling approval and model fix before the final product launch. At each different phases, designers may encounter other divisions such as engineering, manufacturing and top management.

Similar to other major carmakers, Proton also uses Computer-Aided Styling (CAS) software in digitalising the sketching into 2-dimensional or 3-dimensional data.

IMG_5338“We are capable of generating a highly-detailed rendering that looks like an actual photograph, long before the production of the car. This is usually made to present the product to the top management and stakeholders,” said Azlan.

“We are also currently ulitising visual reality technology to be further immersed in the experience of our product presentation.”

Design barriers

Of course there are several concerns to be taken in taking the aesthetic design idea into finished products. “Things such as emission regulation gives front-end direct impact on how we design a car. The aerodynamic objective of the car also must be balanced with external aspects such as pedestrian safety where we have certain requirements to comply,” said Azlan.

“Some cars also have pretty high front bonnet due to the engine packaging, therefore making it the reason we usually design a car inside out. The powertrain and driver’s perspective are the priority that needs to be satisfied first before moving out to other areas.”

It is usually a kind of compromise between the artistic, engineering and mechanical as well as the cost in the design process; which voice is stronger, and it heavily depends on which market segment and target audience of the final product.

By: Amirul Hazmi


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