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Do we still need Advanced Design Studios within the transportation design space?

Author: Martin Groschwald
Los Angeles

I know that the headline is quite provocative but hear me out…it’s not as bad as it sounds, and it comes with some thought. I just got back from Los Angeles and the 2022 edition of its Auto Show. It has been my first time back to the City of Angels since the pandemic and I was very excited to be back, catch up in person with many friends and partners and finally get to meet a few people I have only had the chance to meet digitally so far.

During the pandemic, we have all learned to work in new ways, and our latest KDS study has also shown that this has become very normal for many people. One of the questions I was very curious to find answers to during my LA trip was a quite fundamental one: with working from home/mobile working, flexible work hours etc., do we still need all these advanced studios in the LA area? And if so, why? Could they not just be completely digital and remote?

When I talk about Advanced Design Studio, I mean studios that are not involved in any production projects that are actually finished in that studio (Nissan, Toyota, or Hyundai for example work on specific products for the US market and fully develop them on-site).

Advanced Studios were always intended to bring new ideas and creativity into the main studios. They were supposed to help find new solutions and give a new perspective on issues.

In today’s day and age, we can of course get creativity from almost anywhere on the planet. Do we really need to have fixed locations like Los Angeles, or could we do something that is much more flexible?

What really surprised me during my time in Southern California was the question of “What is the problem?” and “How can we solve it?”. Driving through California, I constantly asked myself the question: What actually are the problems here?

Apart from the traffic jams all over LA and beyond, there didn’t really seem to be any. Size or weight limits? Not really. Limits of fuel consumption? Nope, the bigger the car, the easier it is to get it on the road. EVs? Plenty of them, but it’s not really an issue anymore as there are so many. Public transportation? Yep, an issue but not being resolved. Autonomous cars? The tech industry is taking this into its own hands and even does real-world testing (Waymo).

So, from a pure “purpose” point of view, what is the role of these studios in today’s world? A lot has to do with culture and market knowledge. But again, do we need studios to experience that? Chris Bangle famously ran the project “Deep Blue” as a remote studio/house for some time. Would this not suffice as well for many manufacturers?

We had a revolution of how we work, maybe the revolution of where and why we work is up next. And with it maybe the question of why we need and how we work in an Advanced Studio…

What do you think? Share your thoughts with us.