Theme: Books – The Art of American Car Design

The Art of American Car Design: The Profession and Personalities by C. Edson Armi.

GM designer Chuck Jordan
GM designer Chuck Jordan

Armi’s book (now out of print) rewards repeated reading. Few books seem to be able to find a language to discuss the process of car design. This one does. In giving a vocabulary to the process it becomes instantly more comprehensible and concrete. The interviews with GM designers such as Bill Mitchell and Bill Porter are encrusted with myriad design nuggets. In particular, Armi’s analysis of Bill Porter’s work at Buick, and the interview with this senior GM designer show a depth of understanding not normally associated with auto design.

Porter’s language shows the way towards are more mature and reasoned approach to the art of car design and the methods and techniques to achieve the desired end. Anyone fascinated with the sludge years (the early to mid eighties) at GM will also come away enlightened.

1958 GM Firebird 3 clay model
1958 GM Firebird 3 clay model

The book does not devote as much space to the work at Ford Motor Company or at Chrysler but this perhaps reflects GM’s singular position in Detroit and the extent to which it was, for a very long time, a style leader. Another note is that to enjoy this book, a professional interest in car design is a help. For students of industrial design, this book is a must because unlike the many other “design” books it rises above merely reproducing pictures of beautiful cars and elegantly styled objects and actually analyses the process of design.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

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