Volvo: Strengths and weaknesses in design

This is a video about Volvo’s design and its new design challenges.

The first thing coming into mind when talking about Volvo is safety. Although it is significant to protect people in the process of driving, it is necessary to make the consumers love and enjoy the vehicle by fantastic designing. In spite of the long history in auto manufacture and design, Volvo had been losing its directions in car design for such a long time. As such, design was not Volvo’s strengths in those days. However The management department of Volvo Cars seemingly noticed this big problem and began to spend efforts in the progress of car design in recent years, since the advantages of safety are losing their huge influences gradually because of the development and competitions of technology among all car manufacturers. In a word, Volvo has no advantages in design now, when compared with other huge manufacturers, such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz. But at least Volvo are making good efforts as we all can see.

To analyze what are Volvo’s efforts in design these years, the new-design Volvo Concept Coupe is a wonderful instance to illustrate several aspects of this issue. In this case, Volvo tried to do research about car design in two different directions – design DNA and emotive power.


Volvo Concept Coupe 2013

Direction 1 – Design DNA:

As the first of three new Volvo concept cars to be unveiled, the Concept Coupe C signals an evolution in Volvo design. In this video, Thomas Ingenlath (Volvo’s Senior Vice President of Design), explains the philosophy behind the sleek exterior and luxurious interior of Volvo’s Coupe C.

“The last few years car design has become increasingly standardized and streamlined, and too often defined by cluttered and overly complex design. While other brands try too hard to look luxurious and muscular, Volvo Cars will stand out as the calm, confident and naturally powerful challenger. We have no ambition to blend in, and the Concept Coupe efficiently manifests how iconic design will reinforce Volvo’s identity.” said by Ingenlath explains. (, 2013)

This time, the aesthetic visual language is defined by clean, well balanced surfaces – influenced by contemporary Scandinavian lifestyle – combined with distinctive proportions and shapes that aim at offering an iconic look. Designers took inspiration from the Volvo of the 1960’s and more in particular from the P1800, in particular for the proportions and for the front end with the floating grille and the cow horns. The result is an original and effective look that doesn’t follow the current mainstream trends, as Thomas Ingenlath explains.


Volvo P1800, 1960


Comparisons in side views of P1800 & Concept Coupe

From both the video and the image, it can be seen that Volvo are looking for design breakthroughs in reviewing its glary history and inheriting the former design genes.

Direction 2 – Emotive Power:

As shown in this video, Volvo has conducted a series of experiments that have revealed how “beautiful car design can tangibly evoke a powerful range of feelings that are on a par with the most basic of human emotions.”

The scientific experiment, carried out in collaboration with EEG specialists Myndplay, tested respondents to analyze how the brain reacts emotionally to car design – and how design aesthetics actually make us feel.

From the official Press Release (, 2013):

Volvo took experiments on car design and human emotions. The experiment proved that humans react emotionally to the shape of a car, with men in particular seeming almost genetically programmed to like sleek design with beautiful lines. The experiment was conducted to coincide with the launch of the Volvo Concept Coupé, the first interpretation of Volvo’s new design strategy aimed at building a more emotive connection with the brand. Participants were asked to rate a series of images whilst wearing a dry sensor EEG headset that measured brainwave activity in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. EEG is the recording of electrical activity along the scalp and measures voltage fluctuations resulting from ionic current flows within the neurons of the brain. The images included the new Volvo Concept Coupé alongside perceived ‘bad’ and ‘out-dated’ car design, visuals of happy/crying babies and men & women considered to be ‘beautiful’.

This experiment finally proves that what the Volvo design group has always suspected – “beautiful car design can elicit strong emotional responses ranging from a positive frame of mind to a sense of empowerment”. And this result will definitely give Volvo more references and inspirations in the progress of car design, leading to positive outcomes in Volvo’s future products.

Bibliography: 2013. Volvo Concept Coupe signals new design direction – Car Body Design. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 20 Dec 2013]. 2013. Volvo researches the emotive power of car design – Car Body Design. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 20 Dec 2013].

Core77 – Industrial Design Supersite. 2013. Forum Frenzy: The New Volvo Concept Coupe Marks the Automaker’s New Design Direction, Might Eventually Go Autonomous. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 20 Dec 2013]. n.d. Design | About | Top Navigation | [online] Available at: [Accessed: 20 Dec 2013].


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