Coventry graduate scoops Pilkington Vehicle Design Award

Alumni news

Tuesday 28 June 2011

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A graduate of Coventry University’s Vehicle Design course has scooped top honours at this year’s Pilkington Vehicle Design Awards at the Royal College of Art, for his new concept on the modern family car that uses iPad-style technology.  

For the first time in the awards’ 24-year history, the prizes for Best Overall Design and Best Use of Glazing were presented to one designer.  Adam Phillips, who studied at Coventry University before completing a vehicle design postgraduate degree at the Royal College of Art, impressed the judges with his concept called Family Dynamic.

Adam, who previously worked as a toy designer for Lego before studying at the RCA, designed the vehicle as a space which allowed for healthy interaction between its occupants.  He said:

Current interiors of vehicles promote an outdated family dynamic, with one person – the driver - being handed all of the focus and responsibility. Nowadays however, children have much more influence and freedom.  My design mimics life in the home, where the occupants have greater interaction.

The interaction is created with a clever seating arrangement and an interactive wall using digitally enabled glass which spans the length of the passenger space.  It connects the occupants and allows them to collaborate through applications such as movies, gaming or communication.

The vehicle is also designed as a range of modular components allowing the interior to be configured to suit the size of the family and their needs – from storage to intimacy or group activity.  Adam added:

I’ve always wanted to design good things for everyday people.  Just because something isn’t expensive, doesn’t mean that the design has to be sub-standard.

The judging panel for the awards included Earl Beckles, principle designer at Advanced Land Rover Design, Hong K. Yeo, designer at McLaren - both former winners of the Pilkington award - David Wilkie, design studio director at Mia Electric and Paula Hilditch, global product manager at Pilkington Automotive.

Explaining the reason why Adam’s design stood out above the 18 other entries, David Wilkie said: 

Family Dynamic is a very well thought out design.  It is a car to be lived in and the use of current and future technologies has been well integrated into the vehicle.  It shows that cars do not have to have the sensation of speed, but they have to be well designed.

Earl Beckles added:

Adam demonstrated a relevant use of glass by enabling portable devices to interface with digitally-enabled glazing within the vehicle, to display a variety of information.  His use of glass was very innovative and appropriate particularly as Pilkington manufacture the glass for Apple’s touch screen devices.

Commendations were also awarded to Robert Hagenstrom, from Sweden, who designed a vehicle made from Bamboo for people living in the third world and Fernando Ocana, from Mexico, for his Monoform design which used reflective glass and architectural shaping to encourage people to view their current environment from a different perspective.

Robert Hagenstrom’s Bamboo concept entails a fully sustainable process whereby people can generate their own materials to build a car that, once built, can continue to provide an income and enterprise.

Robert explained:

It’s a farm, forest and factory in one.  Once given a patch of land, a person is provided with a kit consisting of an engine, essential seeds and saplings. Bamboo and switchgrass are quick growing and once used to build the vehicle, they can continue to provide income through its ongoing farming and cultivation.  The vehicle itself is designed for local transportation of harvested crops and can be built using traditional craftsmanship.

Fernando Ocana wanted to explore conceptual design during his time on the RCA’s course.  He explores urbanism, symbolism, complexity and evolution through his design which uses its mirror-like form to attract the attention of passers-by and encouraging them to look at what is around them from a completely different perspective.

Discussing the future of automotive design, Fernando said:

I hope that we, [the next generation of designers], are going to do things differently.  I want us to flip car design over and turn it on its head.

The Pilkington Automotive awards, in partnership with the RCA, have become a recognised barometer for celebrating the next generation of vehicle designers.   The awards have seen students push the boundaries of glazing technologies and design innovation, with many going on to have successful careers in the industry.

Professor Dale Harrow, head of vehicle design at the RCA, comments:

The Pilkington awards have become synonymous with nurturing the best young talent in vehicle design and for launching the careers of some of the most creative people in the business.  The awards represent a mark of quality for potential employers, which is why the students work so hard to produce the most innovative designs.

All of the 2011 winning designs are on display to the public at the Royal College of Art graduate exhibition in London from 24 June to 3 July.