The Industrial Design of a Flying Car


I’m not sure how I missed this!
Some months ago, Boing Boing ran an interview with Jens Martin Skibsted on the industrial design of the Terrafugia flying car. Skibsted, a Danish industrial designer, is better know as the founder of Biomega bicycles and a partner of a multidisciplinary industrial design partnership kibisi.
The interview was quite insightful, but what was more interesting was the extensive documentation of their concept development process that involved a lot of sketches, 2D layout drawings (on foam core?), 3D models and scaled concept models.

The overall design approach and thought mode has been holistic – making an unfamiliar object appear as a wholesome whole. Step by step it has been built on one new coherent DNA set, aligning very different sets of requirements and, to one another, outlandish elements and characteristics from each their transportation paradigm. Quote from kibisi.

Although KIBISI likes working on concepts for unusual objects and designs, this is not one of those things. This is a real vehicle that needs to fly. Usually, you have designers ping-ponging ideas with engineers. But this project had three stakeholders: us as designers, mechanical engineers, and then the aerodynamics engineers. Not only did we have back and forth between both of those groups, but at the same time they were battling with each other. For example, the mechanically cool engine might make the plane too heavy to fly. On top of those teamwork dynamics was always the question of whether is this a car or a plane? Or is it something else entirely? We ended up where it’s mostly a plane. Quote from Boing Boing.

I always say that in such archetype defining design projects, there is a great opportunity to make your mark by defining this archetype and setting a distinct design language right from the beginning. So, despite their design approach (quote above), I was a little disappointed that they went with a final design that was more like a plane with folded wings.
However, I can imagine that this must have been a very tough project, as they would have to juggle tons of physical constraints, in addition to budget and mindset challenges. No, not easy at all. Furthermore, I do believe that this final design had gone through many intense design discussions and debates before decisions can be made. This alone, is something everyone in the team can be proud of.


Check out the full interview and the rest of the pictures at Boing Boing.

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