Wheels Automotive Design Awards 2008
8 May 2008
Does form follow function or do superstar looks corrupt great design? Our judging panel sorts good from bad in the third Wheels Automotive Design Awards.
If, like me, you’re a car nut and a child of the 1970s and 80s, it’s likely your bedroom walls were overlaid with automotive posters. My preferred interior decorating touches were supplied by UK outfit Athena, who did a supercar series that included such design icons as Ferrari’s 288 GTO and Testarossa, Lamborghini’s Countach and Porsche’s 911 Turbo.
Around Australia and across the globe, these and other static images fired the collective imaginations of young car enthusiasts, wannabe motoring journalists and budding automotive designers. Indeed, at the launch of the Nissan 350Z in 2003, the Z-car’s car’s designer, 30-year-old Ajay Panchal, told me he had a Lamborghini Countach Athena poster on his bedroom wall as a lad growing up in England.
But while many designers would love to have their signature adorn the flanks of an Italian supercar, the reality is that most will only ever work on somewhat more prosaic conveyances. One glance at the entry list for the third Wheels Automotive Design Awards (WADA) confirms that few of the assembled cars would qualify for poster status – Audi’s futuristic R8 being the obvious exception.
Though hero cars may be thin on the ground at WADA, our judges can be sure they’ll be asked to consider cars from across the breadth and width of the Australian market. This year our list of contenders takes in the aforementioned Audi supercar, through a Holden ute, to a decidedly unsexy Renault Grand Scenic people mover, with a half dozen others in between. Judges will be asked to name a best interior design, best exterior and best overall design.
Of course, good automotive design is about much more than whether a car moves you to Blu-Tack a picture to your wall or, as the case may today, save it to your computer’s screensaver. Judges need to consider aesthetic appeal, of course, but they must also consider if the design also works on more pragmatic levels. In design-speak, it’s called ‘fitness for purpose’ and many great looking cars – quite a few from the Athena poster series, in fact – would fail this basic test.
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