“The world of car design will never be like it was before”: Lowie Vermeersch, founder and CEO of the Turin design house Granstudio, has no doubts that the design approach must change. “The new possibilities in the field of technology and new ways of using the car require that we go beyond the traditional focus on the geometry of physical shapes, fully integrating the intangible aspects of design into our creative thought”, Vermeersch says. “To support this new approach, we have developed DigiPHY: an intelligent design and communication tool that combines virtual reality with physical supports, creating an immersive, creative experience. Actuators and a specific software program make it possible to adapt it to any project and to always align the virtual experience with the physical one”, Vermeersch continues.

Open platform

Like a tailor’s mannequin, DigiPHY can be dressed according to the designer’s needs. This new tool can subvert the classic canons of automotive design: “Everything now starts with the human experience, creating an idea of interaction between the person and the vehicle, right from the beginning of the project, while once upon a time the first step was the definition of the shapes. We work on emotion, beginning with the impression that each element of the vehicle produces on a person”, Vermeersch emphasises.

Coexistence of physical and virtual

The stylistic process thus changes from the foundations but, in contrast to what you might imagine, it doesn’t become completely digital: “Virtual design is enriched with several physical supports to give even more concreteness to the vehicle that we are displaying. This gives us an additional step ahead to bring the virtual world as close as possible to reality”. So, during the design phases, you can add door sills, pillars, screens, multimedia systems, or, in the case of robot vehicles, furnishings – such as little tables or couches of any material – to the DigiPHY.

Reset, the first concept car

The project that Granstudio has developed to illustrate this new philosophy is called Reset and is an electric, high-ground vehicle the definition of the proportions of which began with the interiors. Relationships are, by definition, linked to emotion, but how can you generate a relationship between a person and a vehicle? “We have to create a more empathetic design. For example, when you get close to the car, the transparent screens positioned in the lower part of the glazing light up, demonstrating that the car has recognised the person’s presence”.

Involving several design phases

These are small steps that instil people with the necessary serenity to face a paradigm shift that is already underway and doesn’t just involve mobility: “The simple digital support is no longer enough. We are working towards a possible connection between two worlds, the physical and the virtual, and DigiPHY is an ideal planning tool for satisfying this need. We can, at the same time, take care of the interiors and the exteriors, colours and materials, while also managing the project’s insertion into the reference urban context thanks to augmented reality”.

People always at the centre

There is a multi-disciplinarity that, from the beginning, has characterised the operations of Granstudio, where creative personalities with different expertise from city planning to User Experience, from mobility to industrial design, work together. “The constant dialogue generates a cross-pollination of ideas that are the product of the experience of each one of us. DigiPHY was born, in part, because of this: rendering the virtual world highly human”.

(Full article in A&D no. 246)