The Inertial Arms Race in Car Design

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Engineering vs Design

Issigonis’ original design for the Mini was a masterpiece of clever use of space and defined a new type of car that was impressive and sexy precisely because it was small and therefore urban.

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Beautifully Efficient use of Space

BMWs version of the Mini took the original shape and name and managed to create a skeuomorph of itself. A grotesque, bloated interpretation of the original which was hailed for its engineering prowess, but which lacked any design finesse and whose actual market was middle aged people, while it purported to target the youthful.

What this represented was a broader change in car design triggered by SUVs, where safety desires of family owners were provided for the occupants at the expense of those outside. SUVs triggered an inertial arms race in car design where cars got bigger and bigger, even ones that were expressly supposed to be small, like the mini, creating vehicles that had far more environmental impact than they needed to in terms of design, even while from an engineering perspective, overall engine efficiencies increased. …


David Galbraith

Architect: I used to design buildings, now I design companies.

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