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Design By Story: The Psychology of Car Design

0708auto_5A recent article in CAA magazine discussed the emotional reasons that people are drawn to cars. According to Lars Perner, associate professor at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California,"a car is a kind of extension of the self - it seems to send a message about what kind of person one is and one's sense of values and style."

This view of a car possessing qualities that relate to us on an almost human level is common to timeless brands. For a brand to be timeless, it must relate to us on both a rational and emotional level. Certain car brands relate to certain types of personalities. Think of the Ford Mustang. According to Cheskin, Mustang had emotional meaning to the American public as it represented an animal that was "rugged" and "fast." Americans could identify with these qualities, and the styling of the Mustang was in harmony with the name.

Anthony Prozzi, design manager for Ford in Michigan, explains that "part of a designers job is to play psychologist, anthropologist and sociologist, and knowing those things helps you read consumers and know what puts a smile on their faces."

Cars have personalities, just as humans do. Prozzi, who once designed menswear at Donna Karan, uses the principle of story when he designs cars. He says that even before he puts a pen to paper, he needs a good story. He does this by asking the questions "Who is this person or group of people? How do they live? What do they respond to and what are they sensitive to?"

Even the colour of cars can have psychological impact and meaning. A current trend is to show shades of colours meant to represent everything organic. Green could be modified as a reaction to the environmental movement.

What type of car do you drive? What colour is it - and what do you think that colour says about you? 


Martin Buuri Kaburia

Interesting observation

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