Interview: "A perfect combination of emotion and intelligence"

Jan 5, 2017

Gorden Wagener, Head of Design at Daimler AG, on the design of the Vision Van.

Mr Wagener, you and your team have developed the Vision Van's design. How would you describe it in your own words?

The Vision Van is a combination of emotion and intelligence. The design underscores its function as a platform for a fully interconnected logistics concept and renders this concept tangible for the driver. The fascination of the design arises from the way in which we have stripped down highly complex technology to its fundamentals, thereby making it extremely user-friendly while always adhering to our high standards in terms of aesthetics and attractive appearance. In short, the Vision Van's design is hot and cool. As such, it embodies the essential elements of our design philosophy of sensual purity.

Where are these contrasting poles of the vehicle particularly evident?

On the one hand, we have created highly sensual surfaces and perfect proportions which make the Vision Van a very emotional and aesthetic vehicle. On the other hand, we have designed very clear and minimalist forms which lend the entire body of the vehicle a seamless appearance. This underscores the wealth of technical features and, in turn, the vehicle's intelligence. This dichotomy informs our design philosophy and invests all of our vehicles with an alluring progressivity.

What are the highlights of the Vision Van from the designers' point of view?

A surprising highlight is the new interpretation of our brand's signature radiator grille. We transport it into the digital world: the typical diamond grille becomes a communication tool. Its displays convey the vehicle's intelligence in an impressive manner. The LED matrix in the Black Panel grille at the front alone incorporates 2000 by 500 LEDs. The Vision Van communicates with its surroundings, signalling when the vehicle is stopping or turning or when drones are taking off, for example. In this way, oncoming traffic can also be warned when pedestrians or cyclists are crossing the road behind the vehicle.

The futuristic windscreen is another design highlight. This is evocative of a high-tech visor or virtual reality glasses.

A further special feature is the design of the reversing camera. On functional grounds and above all for aesthetic reasons, we avoided classic rearview mirrors, as these would have spoiled the clear, minimalist appearance in the front area.

In addition to these innovative exterior design features, the Vision Van's unusually designed interior also presents a vision of the future.

The interior design is extremely futuristic in character and without parallel for a van. How would you describe the design approach here?

The interior of the Vision Van also represents our design philosophy of sensual purity.

It strips down highly complex technology to the bare essentials and embodies a seamless transition from interior design to user experience. The deliberate omission of a steering wheel, pedals and centre console provided us with an unusually broad scope for design purposes. This enabled us to design a sculptural dashboard that spans the entire front of the cab like an arc, creating a wrap-around effect. It is covered in a premium textile that melds the digital world and the interior. When the vehicle is in stand-by mode, the dashboard's appearance is reduced to a blue surface with a black colour gradient. When the van is in operation, the information of relevance to the driver is displayed on the surface of the fabric covering.

Communication between vehicle and driver also features prominently at many other points in the cockpit. Information lights up on the floor, for example, to facilitate work on board and enhance safety for the driver when delivering packages.

Which design features from the Vision Van will we see in future series production vehicles?

We will certainly be adhering to the extremely minimalist design idiom, as this is a key aspect of our design philosophy and in our eyes represents a vital success factor.

Vehicles and their handling are becoming ever more complex in the face of increasing digitalisation. Aspects such as user experience design will thus occupy an ever more central role. It will become ever more important for the diverse design disciplines to work together seamlessly and for us to pursue a holistic approach. As designers, we see it as our responsibility to simplify the appearance of innovative technologies and to design them in such a way that they become tangible and intuitive to use. At the same time, aesthetic and emotional aspects must also receive due consideration.