Wear Your Fiat Like a Pair of Old Jeans

25 Feb, 2007 By: Cadalyst Staff

London-based architect-turned-vehicle designer Uros Pavasovic has traditionalists scratching their heads.

When the covers came off the Fiat Scratch last month at the 2007 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), the staff panicked. They noticed a number of visible scrapes all around the vehicle's surface. Had the car been damaged during transportation? Was there enough time to have it repainted, they wondered? It was only after careful examination that they realized what appeared to be accidental scars were actually the designer Uros Pavasovic's deliberate aesthetic treatments.

Pavasovic, born in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, believes driving a car should be as comfortable and anxiety-free as slipping into a pair of old blue jeans. "Like clothes, a car inevitably wears out and becomes scratched, so why fight this? Embrace it!" he reasons. Here, Pavasovic discusses the inspiration behind his beloved Fiat Scratch, the role of Autodesk AliasStudio software in his workflow and why he believes the small guys -- independent designers like him -- are better positioned to push the boundaries of vehicle concepts.

How does your architectural training influence your vehicle designs?

Coming from a different background than most car designers simply means that I probably come up with different designs. I am able to look at a vehicle and see not just a car, but a building, a landscape, a person, etc., and I let all those visions influence my work. The Royal College of Art where I completed my MA degree in vehicle design accepts students from many different creative backgrounds, such as architecture, product design, sculpture, painting and also engineering. This mixture of nonautomotive and automotive experience produces unexpected and fresh designs.

What were some of the early Fiat Scratch concepts that were abandoned?

The most important idea, the "scratch happy bumpers," was there from the beginning, and it defined the concept. Formally, however, I explored several design directions.

One direction was the so-called "retro design," which I soon abandoned. It was more important to me to design the car around the fun character of the original Fiat 500, but in a new contemporary design rather than only modernizing the original car's shape.

The next strong conceptual and visual influence was the "bumper car," as its only purpose is fun. Its distinct wraparound rubber bumper creates a safe and protective look without taking away the bumper car's fun character. That was the starting point for the development of the Fiat Scratch form, which resulted in a thick protective wraparound body combined with an airy, lightweight glass dome that gives this small Italian car a sociable character.

Iterations of Uros Pavasovic's Fiat Scratch during the design development phase.

A very interesting design feature is also its LED lights scattered on the body in a non-geometrical order. The inspiration for these unusual lamps came from human freckles. Not only is this a fresh and unusual treatment of the headlights, but also these LEDs can illuminate the corners when the car is turning, and do so without any additional mechanical parts.

How did you use Autodesk AliasStudio? Did you use it in conjunction with other 2D drawing programs (like Adobe Illustrator)? Did you use any other 2D drawing or 3D modeling software products?

Using AliasStudio was essential in the creation of the car. The car had to be entirely digitally designed so that the design and production team that was based in the U.K., Germany and Slovenia could actually build the car. This 3D model was the main communication tool.

I designed the car on paper, starting with sketches, followed by a quick transformation of these into a 3D digital prototype. The digital 3D model gave everyone involved enough information to build the car with very little need for physical presence of the design team on site.

The 2D digital phase was skipped as I jumped directly to 3D from the manual sketches. Adobe Photoshop was used for the 2D rendering. At the early stages of car production, we used AutoCAD for technical drawings and later in the process [Autodesk] 3ds Max was used for 3D renderings and animations for a presentation video that played alongside the car when it was displayed at the North American International Auto Show.

Pavasovic skipped the 2D digital phase and went straight into AliasStudio to create the Fiat Scratch.

What were the most significant design challenges? What were the most interesting design problems to solve? What role did AliasStudio play?

The car is quite minimalist in design (at least in automotive design terms) and defined with only a few lines, so it was imperative to get these lines in perfect proportions and give them attractive curvature and tension. Also, the absence of traditional headlights made the work harder as they would usually disguise the visual faults in the corners of the car where many complex surfaces blend into each other.

AliasStudio software and its interactivity made it possible to quickly create many subtle iterations of the car body shape and thus get as close to perfect proportions as possible.

You compared the Fiat Scratch to a "character-infused pair of old blue jeans." Can you explain?

When thinking about the design concept for the car I observed the current trends with vintage jeans, which were weathered, one-of-a-kind, casual aesthetic showing all signs of fading. Also, perfection seems to be outdated and is there only for the unimaginative and unadventurous, whereas scars tell a story.

It seemed more than obvious to me that this trend should sooner or later be applied to cars. The bumperless Fiat Scratch is painted with layers of different colored paint that, when scratched, create a truly unique exterior.

"Designers will be encouraged to throw away the book," wrote Michelin, on its Design Challenge. Did you deliberately steer clear of certain conventional vehicle design rules when designing the Fiat Scratch? What is the outcome?

The big car companies are forced by the market to be careful and slightly conservative and not to steer away from the current mainstream public expectations of what a car should look like and be used for.

However, I, an independent designer, am not restricted by these limitations and have therefore used the 2007 North American International Auto Show to make a stronger statement. Instead of producing just another show car, I chose to do something more radical and make people rethink if it's really worth worrying about cars as much as we do now. Cars seem to have gone far away from Henry Ford's romantic dream of liberating people and are now enslaving us (traffic jams, accidents, expensive fuel and maintenance costs). Allowing people to not worry about every scratch is my contribution to a future vision of a more relaxed and less stressful driving and car ownership.

Any memorable or funny incidents related to the Fiat Scratch you'd like to share?

Every exterior automotive painter had the same big problem with understanding my instructions to paint the car first and later scratch it. That went so much against their usual work of endlessly sanding the car surfaces to achieve the perfect curvatures, and it took a lot of encouragement from me to make them actually scratch the car.

Intentional design features that look like accidental scratches give each Fiat Scratch unique character.

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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