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Design trends diverge at auto show

By: Eric Czarnik | C&G Newspapers | Published February 14, 2018

METRO DETROIT — Automakers worldwide are continuing to turn their cars and trucks into poetry in motion, and an educator from the College for Creative Studies is taking note.

Paul Snyder, chairperson of the transportation design department at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, gave his opinions and critiques of some of the visuals that the North American International Auto Show in Detroit had to offer during a January press preview day.

Snyder said he couldn’t really pinpoint overriding trends in terms of color or body shape. Instead, automakers tend to pursue looks that best fit the language of their brands.

“A lot of people say that vehicles look so much more alike, but I think that has much more to do with the proportions and the regulatory restraints and the costs it takes to really do something innovative,” he said.

“So that’s why if you want something unique, you have to go to an exotic like Aston Martin or a Jaguar.”

Snyder did note other trends though. He said the auto show celebrated the big internal combustion engine and demonstrated that full-size pickup trucks are alive and well. But he added that there wasn’t a common overriding language on truck contours or shapes.

“The new Ram just came out,” he said. “You can clearly see it connected to the prior generation. It’s very fresh; it’s still very powerful and very strong — I like it very much. 

“But it’s very, very different from the new Silverado that just came out, and Chevy is continuing with their brand language. It’s much more crisp but a little bit more boxy.”

When it comes to his own color analysis, Snyder praised the “gorgeous red paint job” on an Acura RDX prototype. While he said manufacturers are producing “really, really deep and juicy colors that are in three or four coats,” customization is overshadowing strong trends toward any particular hue.

 “Trend forecasting, to me, is a bit old because people are really trying to personalize their vehicles,” he said. 

“And so the manufacturers that have more to offer in terms of series differentiation or options that you can order on a limited-run basis … that’s much more significant to me than whether or not red is in this year.”

That differentiation was seen with the Ram 1500, when Ram spokesman Nick Cappa talked about six different models of that pickup truck, including different styles with Southwestern or off-road themes.

“The idea was to build a truck for every customer,” Cappa said.

One of Snyder’s favorites for artistry was the Infiniti Q Inspiration concept vehicle, which he called extraordinary.

“It’s a new language not only for the sculptural body side, but also the front-end graphics are completely fresh,” he said. “It’s the freshest thing I’ve seen in ages.”

Find out more about the North American International Auto Show by visiting For more information about the College for Creative Studies, visit