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Volvo Entertains DNA Evolution

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Volvo

Volvo Entertains DNA Evolution

Glady Reign
April 3, 2007

Steve Mattin, Volvo's new vice president and director for design, has a problem with old Volvos: there are so many of them. "There are millions of boxy ones out there," said Mattin in an interview. "We want to move beyond the box."

To step out of the boxy image, the automaker is entertaining a new design DNA. And Mattin intends to recast the visual cues of Volvo cars. "We want to evolve our design DNA," he said. The Design DNA is a tag for the basic visual elements of cars. The DNA covers the look of a grille, the angle of a roof, and the contour of the taillights. The DNA makes a BMW a BMW. Ford DNA completes a Ford.

The design director aims to reach out to the young generation buyers and to a wider market for Volvo. "We want to pump up the visual volume," Mattin said. At Volvo, Mattin is not expecting a dramatic change. After all, it was Peter Horbury, the director for North American design at Ford, who penned the automaker’s existing design cues in his earlier job as design director for Volvo. Rather, Mattin sees an evolution.

Mattin's perspective of post-boxy Volvos is of more complex and sculptural shapes. The designer envisions more expressive and more extroverted cars. The idea is laid out in the XC60 crossover concept which was introduced at the North American International Auto Show.

Horbury, on the other hand, started his evolution of the Volvos by giving them a prominent catwalk. The catwalk is a replica of Volvos in the 1950s. It is also a way of softening the high, solid sides of the new Volvos. Horbury gave the sides a high shoulder, rounding off the box in a way that still appeared solid, though less functional.

Now Mattin has came up with angled catwalk and reshaped box as two wedges with sculptured sides. Designer Steve Potter is credited for the exterior. Justin Scully has contributed to make the interior of Volvos fascinating. "I want the cars to be recognizable as Volvos from twice as far away," Mattin noted.

To pump up the visual volume even at night, Mattin integrated small lights near the grille to make the shape visible even in the dark. He also emphasized the lighting of the arched rear end.

Mattin previously worked as a designer for the small A-Class and R-Class wagon at Mercedes-Benz in Germany. He wants Volvos to have large windows to bring in light and bodies recognizable at once as Volvos during the long nights.

The Volvo XC60's vertical rear window is a new cue for the Swedish automaker. It is an expanded version of that found on the new C30. Underneath the wide glass, the automaker’s name is spelled out in large, widely spaced letters, for a virtual banner of brand identification. It is entertained by the automaker to transform the design language back into written language. The same big letters were also shown on the new V70 wagon, which was launched at the Geneva International Motor Show this year.

Inside the car, Volvo pool of designers retains the floating console that has already become a Volvo trademark. The designers are contemplating on the introduction of the new features to serve as refined trademarks of the automaker. Simply, the evolution does not only cover the Volvo pressure plates and other safety features of the cars - it pricks into the design core itself.

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