During the past weeks I’ve read a lot about the new Tesla pickup Cybertruck and I’m not referring to data sheets or articles in magazines, I’m talking about people’s comments on social media. What I found is that we have a peculiar idea of what’s elegant and what’s not, our concept of beauty is twisted to say the least and has different standards to different categories of product. A fair share of gearheads made fun of the poor thing labelling it as childish, arguing that it’s too simplified to resemble a proper vehicle but who said that mainstream car design is the best achievable? Commercially speaking it could be, academically speaking there’s room for improvement.
We got used to certain common aesthetic features in cars, they kept evolving for over a century in a smooth way (with some disruptive exceptions) trying not to shock buyers -cause in the end it’s all about sales- but this doesn’t mean that the ultimate product of this metamorphosis from model T to nowadays SUVs and trucks is the best compromise between style, cost and practicality.
We are accustomed to organic shapes and that’s why we throw anatomy terms into car design, words like shoulders, tail, dog-leg and musclecar itself of course can be heard at a briefing with designers. Vehicles are 21st century armors, we identify as our car while driving it and movies played a big role in giving automobiles human connotations, just think about Herbie and Cars. Think about it: On the road we prefer to be a Jaguar rather than being a Pinto, right? It’s in our nature. The truth is that only few can afford outstanding performance, the rest just make do sitting in over decorated vehicles padded with superfluous air intakes, useless grilles, chrome trims, even fake plastic exhaust pipes (oh God, these are the worst). Now it’s funny how the same standard doesn’t apply to home interior design, quite the opposite indeed: a high percentage of people consider minimalism in furniture a sign of elegance while, for instance, the replica of a baroque cabinet with fake gold details is definitely ‘ew’ (more like Eeew!). Now, the first question is: Why do most people think minimalism is a plus in architecture and not in car design? Furthermore: Is the future of car design doomed with the addition of useless features to give more charisma to products? Of course nobody is forced to like Elon Musk’s latest sharp creation (or the rounded VW New Beetle for that matter) but it is fair to say that the Cybertruck is unattractive as much as other competitors are tacky. Yes, we all want to drive something that makes us accepted by peers without looking like out of place, after all understatement is still a value, but embracing passively the standard of the majority has never been a good sign in society. Like it or not, the Cybertruck brings fresh air to the establishment, hence, the topic of this discussion is not whether I love it or hate it but it’s about recognizing Musk’s effort to make a bald statement sharing with all of us his crazy (but intelligent) dream and I personally thank him for this.