Looking Back to Look Forward: The Future Of Mobility Explored Through Design


The question of “good design” is complex and multifaceted. Take Charles Eames’ reflection on the subject: “Don’t give us that good design crap,” he retorted. “The real questions are: Does it solve a problem? Is it serviceable? How is it going to look in ten years?”

Embedded in Eames’ answer, underlining his skewering of the question, is the notion of designing in a smart, conscious way. Design should be holistic, considering an object’s past, present, and future much in the way he and Ray Eames approached their ‘Case Study House 8’.

‘House 8’ evolved home design beyond three dimensions, considering mass produced items as a way around wartime shortages of materials while rethinking said materials through technology, leading to innovations like the repurposing pylon, a popular material used for airplanes at the time. Whether intentionally or not, this way of designing placed the environment central as the Eames sought to  create a house in conversation with the meadow surrounding, avoiding felling any trees and repositioning the house to best suit its surroundings. ‘House 8’ is a masterpiece not because of its versatility or aesthetics but because it championed a synergy that yielded a timelessness.



In 2019, notions of the environment, materials, and technology are at the core of design. Nature must become our co-designer; the age-old ghost in the machine pushing us to think smarter and harder about what we bring into the world. and the future of transportation design is no different.

This presents an opportunity for an industry like transportation to think about the planet and how innovation and building elements can be in conversation with each other. Yes, Daimler and Geely are developing new, electric Smart cars in China and Ford is investing millions to learn about greening trucks. Sure, animal free materials like soybeans are taking over Audi and Land Rover while Jaguar is using their old cars to make new ones. And, of course, technology from Fujitsu’s biometric subscription cars to Volvo’s cars that function like trains to the fabled autonomous car are futures coming soon to the present. But can these different areas work together? Can Eames’ thoughts on “good” design be the glue to bring more consciousness to transportation design?


By intersections and overlapping, by considering one aspect of automotive design while being mindful of another, this can be achieved. Simple solutions, for example, may lie in renewable and low carbon energy sources that are emphasized through a car’s design, a touch that can equate safety with environmental consciousness. Cars are eagerly awaiting their ‘House 8’ moment, for automotive Eames to consider the process in more dimensions than three, to think not only about driving in the moment but beyond a vehicle—and person’s—expected life.


These concerns are at the heart of September 2019’s SHIFT automotive, a two-day festival of global insights and ideas seeking to explore harmony in automotive design; a means of having the natural and artificial in constant communication with each other. SHIFT automotive is outlining how this fusion can occur, allowing visitors to experience the intersection between technology and forward thinking ideologies in automotive design. Through various installations—or literal “islands” of thought within the festival—different approaches to the same question of good, smart design will be presented to explore and inspire.

When considering the question of good design, Eames may have asked: “How is it going to look in ten years?”. At SHIFT automotive, the question of what’s next is the foundation, making for an experience that is not about looking at what already exists but pushing us all to consider the future’s future for the automotive.



This feature was created in collaboration with Messe Berlin.

SHIFT automotive takes place on September the 10th and 11th 2019, during IFA at Messe Berlin. You can find tickets here.

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