2018 Audi A7 Sportback Development. 2018 Audi A7 Sportback Development.
At the start you have a brilliant idea, at the end a harmonious, fascinating product. The design process reflects the connection between idea and product. Audi brings together the best of both worlds in its cars: The digital design manufactory combines state-of-the-art digital visualization techniques with superb handmade precision. The C3 process is the core element in the new design workflow. Thanks to photorealistic visualization in real time, the designers can already assess the design on the screen.
Audi is constantly rolling out new models and new technologies. So the designers’ challenge is to turn more and more design concepts into series-production models in less and less time. With more than 400 employees, Audi Design now has more than twice as many employees as in 2000. At the same time the team is processing five times more projects and is dealing with increasing technical requirements in vehicle projects. Design presentations and technical package specifications must be coordinated across the various disciplines. For this reason the Audi Design team has developed a new design process, which combines CAD (computer-aided design), 3-D visualization and traditional design model making as well as clay modeling. The result is high process reliability, a coherent design concept and greater flexibility for creative design ideas.
Normally the design process at Audi starts around five years before the launch of a new model. At the start the designers create the basic design language and design characteristics of an entire model family. A joint technology matrix tends to form the basis for the design decisions in the basic portfolio phase. Here the designers together with colleagues from Sales and Technical Development are heavily involved in the company’s strategic product planning.
How well does a new compact SUV fit in with an existing midsize model? What derivations are conceivable and which make sense? This matrix of different requirements – segment, configuration, design, customer and market requirements – initially gives rise to several portfolio models. With these 1:10-scale models the subsequent package still plays a secondary role. These models primarily provide a first impression of a design theme in various vehicle segments, such as with a sedan, an SUV and a coupé. The models evolve on the basis of CAD data by milling Ureol plastic or with a 3-D printer by means of rapid prototyping.
The design process of a series-production model starts with the initial design phase. This phase lasts between three and four months. Here the Audi designers work in close coordination with the studio engineers, the engineers from concept development and the Sales experts. As a result they translate the rough technical layout into a 1:1 architecture model. The focus is on those variables which determine the volume and the proportion, for instance the wheelbase and the height of the engine hood or basic technology package and components, such as the position of vehicle sensors.
The 1:1-scale architecture model is milled from a dense polyurethane foam and then painted. The final exterior design does not play a role with this model. It provides designers with an initial comparison of their design ideas with the future product. The model also allows modifications to be evaluated which become necessary due to technical requirements.
Insights from the architecture model provide designers with a reliable basis for the subsequent sketch phase. As such, the exact technical specifications do not restrict the designers’ creativity, but rather guide the designers in the direction of what is technically feasible. Once the technical requirements have been clarified, the designers can give free rein to their creativity. Thanks to the precise technical specifications, the designers can produce suitable concept designs from the outset. The design they are working on comes to life faster than before; the design quality is even higher.
In the subsequent design briefing, designers and Sales experts develop a joint leitmotif in words and images. This entails fine-tuning the package information and the basic knowledge acquired thus far. Teams from Audi Sales, which analyze the market, competition and the customer expectations, provide important input. In the sketch phase, which lasts around two months, the designers traditionally work with pen and paper and digitally with electronic drawing boards. Several exterior designers work with each other in a spirit of friendly competition, normally seven for the interior, and eight or nine for the exterior. The best exterior idea makes it into the next process phase, the C3 process.