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the 'lingo' of auto designers, talkin the talk

the 'lingo' of auto designers, talkin the talk

Old 04-01-2007, 07:42 PM
HankL is offline
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Default the 'lingo' of auto designers, talkin the talk

April 1, 2007
Body Language: How to Talk the Designers’ Talk

NEVER say dashboard, not if you want people at the auto show to think you know what you are talking about. Say I.P., for instrument panel, as designers do.

Dropping in a mention of the greenhouse or the beltline is pretty easy, but you will really get points with casual references to A-, B-, and C-pillars, the order of the roof supports arranged from the windshield, whose base is called the cowl, to the rear window, or backlight. You might say, “That fat C-pillar would make it impossible to parallel park.”

Every profession has its lingo. A list of common terms — and a few of the most colorful ones — can come in handy. With cars, words and metal share territory: each brand’s vocabulary of shapes is collectively known as its design language.

The beltline divides the greenhouse, or glassed-in upper body, from the portion that extends down from the window sills.

Equally important is the A-line, said Michael Castiglione, principal exterior designer at DaimlerChrysler’s Pacifica studio in Carlsbad, Calif. The A-line runs the length of the body from headlight to taillight, tracing the car’s silhouette. The car may also have a character line, a crease formed in the sheet metal of the sides.

Vehicles are said to have styling cues that prompt viewers to recognize models by their resemblance to other family members — a brand’s characteristic shapes and flourishes, the form of its grille or the arc of the roofline.

Cumulatively, they make up the D.R.G., or down-the-road graphic of a car, the visual signature of a quickly glimpsed vehicle that should make it recognizable as a Cadillac or a Ford. At the extreme, think Volkswagen New Beetle. D.R.G. is not to be confused with D.L.O., for daylight opening, the total area of the window glass.

The angle of the windshield is known as its rake — an extreme tilt is said to be fast — while the inward angle of the side greenhouse windows is called the tumblehome.

The body section below the base of the door, or rocker panel, is treated with a varying degree of turn-under, which Chris Chapman of BMW’s Designworks studio in Newbury Park, Calif., defines as the shape of the panel as it curves inward at the lower edge. The front face of a car is visually grounded in the lower fascia or valance, typically made of plastic these days.

Stance is critical to the character a car projects, and its aggressiveness is frequently noted by designers in their presentations at new-model unveilings. The term refers to the way the body sits on the wheels, with energy — or not.

Robert Boniface, director of advanced design for General Motors, recently worked on the Chevrolet Volt and Camaro show cars. He said that “stance has to do with the relative visual stability or instability of a particular design.”

Cars with good stance are often referred to as being planted; small wheels and a wide upper body give a car a poor stance. Being planted lends a sense of sure-footedness to the design. Too high a stance can suggest standing on tiptoe, a tentative look.

One critical element, designers said, is the axle-to-dash ratio, the proportion between the front wheel and the cowl (which is the base of the windshield). It helps to define the visual personality of the car.

Another important relationship, according to Bryan Thompson, a car designer at the Nissan Design America studio in La Jolla, Calif., is that between glass and body. “A vehicle whose body is relatively thick compared to the amount of glass is called chunky,” he said.

The proportion between wheel and body sizes is important in lending a vehicle its visual personality. “Wheel-to-body is the relationship of the wheel-tire plane to the sheet metal wheel opening,” Mr. Thompson said. “Wheels that are flush to the body are desirable. Wheels that are well inboard of the sheet metal plane are buried. Vehicles with buried wheels are called overbodied.”

At its extreme, an overbodied car has the look of a parade float, with the body visually overpowering the wheels, Mr. Thompson said. The distinctive “bathtub” Nashes of the early 1950s suffered this trait.

There is also what is called the roller skate effect, where the wheels and tires are too small for the body. (Volkswagens of the 1980s seemed to have especially small wheels proportionally, and fell prey to this phenomenon.) Huge wheels of 20, 22 or 23 inches, by contrast, make a vehicle look tough.

The space between wheel and surrounding fender or wheel well suggests the jounce of the car. The intervening space between tire and wheel well is sometimes called the dead cat hole, according to Peter Davis, director of interior design for global compact utility vehicles at G.M.

More colorful and less formal terms come in handy in the studio. Mr Davis supplied rat holes, which, he said, were the “small unwanted, usually triangular holes that result from parts coming together.”

Now that designers often move around the globe, their language has become more eclectic. Earlier in his career, Mr. Davis worked in Europe for Fiat and G.M. In Germany, he learned gummidingers, a name for rubber thingamajigs that have no name. Mr. Davis defined the British-sounding mucketts as “complicated rubber moldings that hide nasty window-door frame areas or direct water drips to appropriate places.”

“In Italy,” he said, “what we call the plenum, the area at the base of the windshield where the wipers sit and run off is directed is called the vasca di pesce, or fish bowl.”

Companies have their own phrase books. At BMW, a crease or body line on the side of a car is a zicke, Mr. Chapman said. For New Yorkers, Mr. Chapman noted that the often-used Hofmeister Knick, referring to the traditional dogleg shape at the base of the C-pillar of BMWs, “is pronounced ka-nic, not like the basketball team.”

The shape is named for Wilhelm Hofmeister, a BMW designer in the 1960s; knick is German for fold or crease.

A line can be dead or sweet. To sweeten a line, Mr. Thompson of Nissan said, a designer might give a crease or chamfer a lead-in to enliven a line that is otherwise static or dead. “To lead-in means to construct lines or surfaces in a less geometric manner, with a little more grace,” he said.

William Chergosky, project chief designer at Toyota’s Calty design studio in Newport Beach, Calif., once worked at Chrysler with Bryan Nesbitt, who designed the PT Cruiser and is now head of G.M.’s European studio. “We had a term we used together,” Mr. Chergosky said. “M.B.G. — more better good, which would be scrawled on a drawing or a clay model.” It meant, Mr. Chergosky added: “This pleases me. Do more of it.”

Old 04-02-2007, 06:04 PM
ViperGTS is offline
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Default RE: the 'lingo' of auto designers, talkin the talk

The roller skate effect has hit home with a lot of Silverado drivers. Huge wheel well and body with tint wheels. The ram however looks great

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