The design process: From the initial idea to the finished car

Jan 27, 2017

Innovative drive and a loving attention to detail are hallmarks of every designer's work. The process of development from the initial idea to final approval of the finished model covers a period of years in which the design team jointly creates the final vehicle step by step. The team slowly transforms various, initially competing design studies into the next generation of a Mercedes‑B enz vehicle. The design process is an integral part of the development process. The designers collaborate closely with research, development and production areas, coordinating and fine-tuning vehicle dimensions, material concepts and production processes, also ensuring producibility in the process.

The design process: step by step.

Drawing/rendering: The design process always begins with an idea, which gives rise to a drawing. On a sketch pad or a computer screen, ideas which previously only existed in the designer’s head become visible. The best and most promising sketches are chosen from the initial diverse offering.

Package: The essential basis for every design is the so-called “package” - the sum total of all geometrical specifications. On the basis of this package, the sketches are developed such that proportions, dimensions and lines produce a coherent whole.

Virtual model: In order to assess the actual three-dimensional effect, selected designs are produced as authentic detailed 1:4 clay models and as virtual data models. These virtual models are visualised using the Power Wall – a huge multimedia projection screen on which the designers can view and analyse their designs from various perspectives. The car can be envisioned in the correct size and features such as geometry, colour and texture can be altered at a click. While both clay models and data models have their own respective advantages, to this day the virtual world is no substitute for real models produced to scale.

1:4 clay models: Not everything can be simulated to perfection on a computer. At Mercedes‑Benz, clay models of every variant of a new automobile are thus produced alongside virtual models in the subsequent course of the development process. Only then are the designers able to judge whether their designs also produce the desired effect in three dimensions.

1:1 model: All the details of the new model are hand-crafted to produce a deceptively real-looking model. All the characteristic features of the new car become apparent. Optical measuring tools and milling machines are applied to produce the first full-scale prototype.

Model selection: The most promising options are chosen from numerous variants and modelled on a scale of 1:1.

Interior sketches: The first step in the interior design process also involves producing drawings and renderings. The various equipment packages or lines are created here – the interior in which the future driver is to feel at home.

Interior clay model: The development of the design is best revealed to the designer on the 1:1 clay model, which is created from the inside out, as it were. All the details are modelled until an aesthetically accomplished sense of space is achieved. Several alternative interiors are modelled as a rule, in order to decide which concept is to be pursued.

Colour & trim/control and user interface concepts: Materials and colours are chosen for the interior. The trim lines for the future automobile are defined from hundreds of fabric and leather samples and colours. All control and display elements and telematics interfaces are designed and coordinated to produce a fully integrated interior with a seamless appearance.

Equipment models: All materials and colours are presented on an intricate 1:1 interior model in standard production geometry, enabling an all-embracing assessment of the interior with regard to geometry and surfaces.

Final model: The exterior and interior and their respective features are combined by hand to produce a deceptively real-looking final model. All the characteristic features of the new car become apparent. The exterior form of the future Mercedes‑Benz model becomes tangible for all associated disciplines.

Series production data: In the last stage of the process, the final design model which has been approved by the management board is described in 3D data, the so-called “class A data”. All the tools required to manufacture the vehicle can subsequently be produced by reference to these data. Great importance is attached here to precisely designed joints, harmonious surfaces and ideal mirror lines.

Data control model: In order to evaluate the class A data in a real-life scenario and to define the form in more precise terms, they are precision-cut on a data control model. The data are subsequently revised to take into account any modifications which prove to be necessary on aesthetic and technical grounds. In terms of surface quality, the resultant model essentially constitutes the first production vehicle and serves as the basis for series production.

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The Mercedes-Benz Style designers at work
Mercedes-Benz F015 Luxury in Motion: Till Valhairon, Advanced Design Interior, Como/Italy
Mercedes-Benz F015 Luxury in Motion: Holger Hutzenlaub, Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design; Sylvain Wehnert, Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Exterior
Mercedes-Benz F015 Luxury in Motion: Holger Hutzenlaub, Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design; Sylvain Wehnert, Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Exterior; Steffen Köhl, Leiter Advanced Exterieur Design/ Director Advanced Exterior Design
Design development with the aid of sophisticated electronic systems – here the Powerwall in the Mercedes-Benz Design Center Studio in Sindelfingen.