Global, emotional, progressive – those are the criteria for successful design as far as Audi’s chief designer Marc Lichte is concerned. “Designers have to hit the Zeitgeist – of today and of tomorrow, in Germany and across the world. And they have to succeed in translating their passion into the car.”
This passion is evident among the 76 participants in the Audi design UNIverse. The students have spent a whole year refining their ideas. In the process, they developed their ideas, rejected many designs, sometimes discovered their idea was already out there and started over again from scratch. The brief was different for each of the participating universities – a futuristic sedan, new experiences in the car of the future, a premium service for the customers of tomorrow.
But in all cases, the focus was on the car of the future. Be it Aalto University Helsinki, Scuola Politecnica di Design Milano, Technische Universität Dresden or Politecnico di Milano, certain elements featured in all the designs: The car of the future is driven by an electric motor and the technical components are reduced to a minimum to create space in the interior. The latter has a minimalist design; the operating elements are not recognizable as such and can only be controlled by touch or gesture. Depending on the driving mode, the steering wheel can disappear into the dashboard, because this car drives autonomously – in certain situations, at least. If the car is winding its own way through traffic, the focus for the occupants is on their experience within the car. Augmented and virtual reality, as well as large OLED screens, facilitate wellbeing and provide entertainment.
Is that typically Audi? Is that innovative? Is that global design? These are the questions being put to the participants in every phase of the project. They can at least try out whether their ideas work worldwide within their own microcosm, because everyone is grouped into culturally diverse teams, coming as they do from a wide range of countries – from Australia, to India, to Finland. Students from a total of 14 different nations took part in the Audi design UNIverse. “This kind of intercultural teamwork is absolutely essential in Audi Design. This is the only way we can create automobiles that meet customer tastes all over the world,” says Marc Lichte, going on to cite his own team as a good example – it comprises 400 designers from 24 countries. And the Head of Audi Design is also the best example of how a strong performance in a competition can pave the way for a great career: As a student, Marc Lichte himself won several design competitions, including prizes from German publications Autozeitung and auto motor und sport.