For the layperson, the creative process involved in the designer’s job can be quite difficult to grasp. How can a car’s inception begin from the idea of a fish (such as the extraordinary Mazda Senku concept from 2005 by Atsushiro Yamada), of a snow-covered dune on the shores of the North Sea (the dash of the current Volvo S80 conceived by Jonathan Disley), of a Swedish island on a sunny summer day (Stefan Jansson for the exterior of S80) or of a lion with gaping jaws (all Peugeot designs from the past few years under the stewardship of Gérard Welter)?

But that’s how it is: if you are ever given the rare privilege of being allowed into the inner sanctum of a design studio, you will find a mind-boggling collection of photos, drawings, bits of fabric and other objects with no relation whatsoever to the automotive world pinned to the walls. These are what they call ‘inspiration boards’, and the inspiration stage in a project is a slow, laborious and very personal process. The computer, however, is about to change all that.

Trends (‘Trends Research ENabler for Design Specifications’) is the name of a software system, still in the prototype stage for the time being, developed recently by a group of companies and businesses under the auspices of the European Union.

The goal of the project, which cost 2.5 million Euro and took three years’ work, was to make millions of images instantly available to designers, so that, starting from an initial concept (expressed in a word, photograph or even a sketch), through a series of search filters and selections, the system may offer tens, hundreds or even thousands of images responding to their requisites.

The whole process is so rapid (with each search taking no longer than two seconds) that very soon the hallowed reference books filled with images and pored over painstakingly by designers in search of inspiration, will be a thing of the past. Some have already called it “Google for designers”.

The article continues in Auto & Design no. 175

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