Monday, March 12, 2012

Marc Newson

Marc Newson is a pretty big deal.
He's a $1.5 million Lockheed Lounge kind of big deal. I'm amazed by him, not by his designs (although they are amazing) but by the influence he's had over contemporary design and the size of his career, overall. Everything he touches turns futuristic and otherworldly, and that's the same aesthetic that other people imitate. He's designed every manufactured item I can think of, and he's done so with much critical acclaim. However, I can't help but wonder how he feels about his career. After all, the Lockheed Lounge is the work he's best known for, and he created it in 1986. He's created so many other things since then, but that remains the highest-valued and most famed among them.  It's a lovely piece, but I think it's very curious that it remains his best known work.

The Lockheed.

He designed something else though, that I think is more interesting and far more worthy of the fame that the Lockheed has achieved.  Named after his favourite Pantone colour, the Ford 021C is a concept car that Marc designed in 1998-1999.  It was never sold, and widely criticized because it was small and looked like a toy.  I think it's wonderful, and it's a shame that I can't buy one today.  It wasn't what anyone was making thirteen years ago, gas was cheap and SUVs seemed like a good idea.  I'm the target audience for it, under 21 and unlikely to buy a new car, and if I was in a position to do so, I think I would buy one.  

It looks cute and friendly, like something out of a Pixar movie.  It doesn't look like anything else you see on the road today, except maybe a Fiat 500.  Even then, the 500 is pretty uncommon in America and looks like it's trying to be sporty, in it's own way.  There is nothing sporty about the 021C, and that's refreshing.
Several white Fiat 500s near an ancient monument!

I think there is a strange feeling amongst auto designers that cars should look aggressive and mean.  I don't particularly like it.  The best/worst example I can think for this is the Pontiac Aztek, which everyone seems to agree was an awkward, somewhat regrettable car.   It looks like the designers tried to make it look like it was lunging foreward, and it's just not working well.

Pontiac Aztek.  

I'm not saying that the 021C was a perfect design either.  It's a little bit too different to be marketable.  The trunk is a drawer that pulls out from the back of the car.  That feature seems like it could be problematic with heavy objects in the trunk, or with objects that are slightly too tall to slide in the trunk. The doors for the backseat open with the hinges on the rear, which isn't a fundamentally bad feature, but  it's different from the way things are done right now. 

 An open view of the 021C

I rather like the dashboard of the 021C.  It's anthropomorphic and has a very retro feel, both of which aren't the norm in dashboards.  It's one of the details that make the car, showing that Marc designed every little aspect of it.

The dashboard.
Overall, it's a great-looking little car, and it would be nice to see something like this on the road. 
Here's an article from the New York Times, telling a little more about Marc.  It's definitely worth a read.
All the images of the 021C and of the Lockheed Lounge are taken from Marc's official website, linked to at the top of the post.  The Fiat 500 picture is taken from Fiat's website, and the Pontiac Aztek picture is from Wikipedia.

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