We have been discussing design rationalism lately. A lot of my visual analyses have focussed on the main linear elements and graphics. This photo taken early in the morning captures a subtle, sculptural element on the VAG city car body.
Notice the shadow on the doors, to the rear of the shutline. This shows that the bodyside is gently curved outwards; it is most curved just under the window line and if you inspect the window sill by looking down the car, parallel to the centre line, it bows outwards. The curve fades away downward. The shape is reminiscent of the hull of a boat.
The point I want to make is that you should understand that even within the remit of design rationalism as severe as demonstrated on this car, there is room for subtle expression in the sculpting between the main feature lines. The surface that defines the frame of the windows is concave which also creates interesting plays of light and shade.
While many might write this car off as an appliance (which it is), it is one upon which a lavish amount of time has been spent to add richness and interest for those willing to give the car a closer look. I think that this design is an object lesson that “less-is-more” should be taken with a pinch of salt.
There is a fine line between simplicity and banality. A less experienced designer might have been content with simple sculpting, arguing that it was all that was needed. A more nuanced approach has been to work within the confines of the vehicle’s size and price and reduced graphical language to find a parameter where small deviations from the bare minimum have given a lot of life and richness to the design.
I think architects could learn from this as all too often simplicity has led to banality which becomes apparent as time goes by.