From Idea to Sketch to Clay to Metal: How a Vehicle Comes to Life in the Lincoln Studio
Lincoln has torn down its physical and creative walls with its new design studio.
The studio is an incubator for design where ideas, inspiration, ability and a wide range of automotive disciplines come together to create the new Lincoln experience — luxury vehicles that combine consumers’ emotional wants with their rational needs.
“Being able to fit interior and exterior design teams into one space is really important because often they are two separate workstreams — two different sensibilities,” said Max Wolff, Lincoln Design director. “But, everyone can learn from each other as we focus on what Lincoln should be.”
The creation of this type of experience begins with the brand communicating with its targeted young, dynamic and open-minded consumer. This serves as the catalyst for the design team’s vision. A vision, unlike some art, that is both creative and technical.
Collectively, all 150 team members of the Lincoln design team bring vehicles to life through a design language that fosters a creative approach to premium automotive design between the pillars of regulatory standards and competitive benchmarks.
The loft-like environment banishes cubicles in favor of open workspaces. Interior and exterior designers, for example, work across from one another and can share ideas. Lincoln will introduce four new or significantly refreshed vehicles in the next four years.
Collaborative spaces in the studio invite the design team to come together, peruse magazines for inspiration, share ideas, get feedback and create a design vision.
Once a vision has been established for a vehicle, designers began the process of sketching and bringing their ideas to life.
The interior and exterior designers begin working to execute a common, complementary vision. Working closely together in an open environment helps remove any creative roadblocks that may arise from two different design perspectives. Throughout the process, designers make thousands of sketches.
Once a harmonious design is developed, the team produces up to 15 polished drawings or renderings and about 20 virtual images that will be used to create clay models of the vehicle.
Clay and EMM
(Electrical Math Modelers)
The clay model or prototype allows all workstreams to begin editing the design.
During the design process for the all-new 2013 MKZ, for example, exterior and interior designers were able to make revisions to the prototype as needed and dependent upon feedback from engineers for features like the retractable panoramic glass roof.
The Colors and Materials team worked with interior and exterior designers to ensure colors, wood and chrome appliques and leather choices accentuated the features of the vehicle to create a warm, inviting environment.
Clay modelers make the edits to the prototype and sculpt the design with keen attention to detail before the car begins production. Milling machines use computer-aided design to create precise clay models for aerodynamic wind tunnel testing. Often up to 20 versions are made on the large clay model.
Engineers collaborate with designers to create features like the retractable roof and to make sure the design comes to life as a producible vehicle.
Interior designers who envisioned a spacious interior with an open console worked with engineers to execute the push-button shift that replaces the traditional lever.
Designers and engineers work as a team on exterior features as well like the standard LED lights on the new MKZ to make sure the head and tail lamps meet regulations.
Prototype Validation and Testing
Before a customer ever knows about a new Lincoln, a passionate team of engineers ensures that a new model meets the design intent and stacks up favorably against benchmarked competitors.
To deliver the optimum blend of sporty performance and refined ride – an attribute the new Lincoln customer demands – the new MKZ uses Continuously Controlled Damping (CCD) suspension. There are more than 1,200 individual settings that go into tuning the Lincoln CCD system. More than 4,000 man hours went into perfecting CCD to deliver the Lincoln ride DNA.
Lincoln design makes a promise. The validation process ensures that the end product overdelivers on that pledge before it goes into production.