Design: Integrating individuality, innovation and art

Jul 12, 2007
  • First studies to sound out the extremes
  • Production model reflecting the inspired ideas of preceding studies
  • The smart as an object of art
From the development of the first city coupe model, the smart brand has always been pursuing out-of-the-ordinary approaches. A primary characteristic was a courageous design which integrated structural elements such the Tridion safety cell as a significant part of automotive styling in a self-assured manner.
The studies which prepared the ground for the smart city coupe still sounded out the extremes. There was the austere, utilitarian NAFA of 1981, in which function took priority over formal aesthetics. At that point in time, a car as straightforward as this was the correct decision in that it was a question of introducing the new concept of a micro-car in the first place. The Californian experiments from the early 1990s, by contrast, came up with a gaudy, colorful design. In addition to incorporating technical innovations, their primary purpose was to explore the aesthetic options for this new category of cars. And as in the case of numerous other show cars, the conspicuous experiment with colors and shapes was an important preparatory step on the way to the market launch of innovative cars. The design of the production smart city coupe, finally, incorporated all these inspired ideas of its predecessors plus numerous new and ingenious developments and as well as completely independent stylistic elements such as the characteristic Tridion design of the safety cell. Another “smart” feature, systematically incorporated in large-scale production for the first time, was the material mix with a hard core (Tridion) and a flexible, practical shell with colored thermoplastic body panels. It set its own accents and caused quite a stir in the automotive world. In terms of its impact, the smart compared with the Austin Mini: at the time of their premieres, both cars boasted their own independent style and fashionable self-assurance, and both of them made the small format socially acceptable and roadworthy. However, the smart reflected the maxim of intelligent minimalism even more distinctly than Issigonis’ legendary design.
smart retained the characteristic design virtues of the first production model for the subsequent versions. In particular, this applied to the diversified derivatives on the original platform: cabriolet, roadster and roadster-coupe were recognizable as smarts at first glance – as were the special series (crossblade) and studies (crosstown, formore). At the time, smart was not only the youngest automotive brand in the market but had also become a symbol of a new awareness of mobility. This also applied to the smart forfour, despite its technical differences from the other models.
The smart design was also addressed in different art projects. After the end of large-scale production in late fall 2006, the last but one smart fortwo from the first series was converted into a – literally – shining role model for the automotive future by the master class of the renowned artist Katharina Sieverding. In the hands of the artists, the car with its brilliant special paint finish, presented in January, was transformed into a futuristic source of light. The smart forfour also became an object of artistic work: in 2006, a total of 20 individually styled forfour models were created.
The smart city coupe celebrated its greatest success in the world of art as early as 2002 when it was included in the permanent collection of the
(MoMA) in
New York.
This honor had previously been bestowed on just five other automobiles: VW Beetle, Ford Model T, Jaguar E-Type, Cisitalia GT and a Ferrari Formula One car. In this lineup, the smart was the first car that was included in the world-famous museum’s collection while it was still being produced.