Keeping abreast (of the unknown)
Nowadays, trucks almost have more in common with spacecrafts than with the commercial vehicles of yesteryear … but the process of developing a new unit starts long before it’s launched. Volvo Trucks states that a lot can change during that time.
It requires insight into the future to develop a design that is not only timely on its arrival, but is also considered innovative.
“We started working with the new Volvo FH back in 2006,” says Rikard Orell, design director at Volvo Trucks. “Back then no one had heard of the iPhone. Yet, when the Volvo FH was launched in 2012, smartphones were suddenly an integral part of society. We must be able to predict this kind of change.”
Comprehensive business intelligence is, thus, an important part of the design process in order to predict how society will develop five, ten and 15 years into the future. To attain this, Volvo Trucks follows various strategies; from interviewing drivers to investigating trends within technology and culture.
As for the aesthetics, Volvo Trucks took a different approach. Orell explains: “Our new truck series is like any family. It consists of individuals with their own personalities. It is in these differences that the real strengths lie. For us it was a matter of creating a unique personality for each model, which suits its purpose, usage and working environment.”
When developing the new truck series, there was a strong focus on visualising the specific working environment for each model. Volvo Trucks states that the use of inspirational images has been an important tool during this part of the design process.
“It is a traditional design technique, which helps us capture the essence of what we want to express,” says Asok George, chief of exterior design at Volvo Trucks. “In our industry it is especially important, because we are creating a complex product, which is often both a workplace and a home.”
However, not only the working environments were visualised. Reportedly, the inspiration board of the new Volvo FMX mixed images of harsh environments, sustainable materials and MI6’s most famous fictional spy …
“The image of James Bond describes the new Volvo FMX personality well,” says George. “Agent 007 looks great in a tuxedo, but he is also equally attractive after having been in a fight. The same goes for the new Volvo FMX; it must look cool even after taking a couple of hard knocks.”
Orell adds: “We started sketching our new truck series back in 2006, and these vehicles will be seen on the road for many more years. This places great demands on our ability to visualise the future. So yes, design is about creativity and also about bringing a desirable future into reality.”