The job of a designer is characterised by a love of innovation and detail. Years go by between the first ideas and the model acceptance, years in which the designers work together to incrementally create the definitive vehicle. In a team process, the next generation of a Mercedes-Benz arises from initially competing drafts. The design process is an inherent part of the development process (Mercedes-Benz Development System).
The designers work closely together with the research, engineering and production departments, coordinate vehicle dimensions, material concepts and manufacturing processes, and in so doing also ensure producibility.
It all starts with an idea – and a sketch.
At the beginning of the design process is always an idea from which a sketch is created. On the sketchpad or the computer screen – ideas which previously only existed in the mind of the designer now become visible. The best and highly promising sketches selected from a variety are transcribed in a way which, based on a package, contains all geometric requirements that ensures that the proportions, dimensions and graphics are coherent.
The road to the first prototype.
To assess the actual three-dimensional effect, selected designs are built as clay models in 1:4 scale. The fine tuning is done on the clay model and the powerwall – a huge projection wall that lets the designers view their designs from various angles to analyse them. This makes it possible to envision the car in the correct size and change the geometry, color and texture with one click.
However, to this day the virtual world is still unable to replace true-to-scale modelling. There are always also virtual models of these designs, because each method has its own advantages. After the team has ultimately decided on one variant, the first full-scale prototype is created using scanning and milling machines. All details are created by hand. The result is a deceptively real model that visualizes all characteristic features of the new vehicle.
The interior is formed.
The interior also starts out as a sketch or rendering. A 1:1 clay model allows designers to experience the development of the forms three-dimensionally and to develop them virtually from the inside out until an aesthetically sophisticated sense of space has been created. Several interiors are built to decide which one will be pursued further. For the surfaces, the Color & Trim designers select materials and colours from hundreds of fabric, leather, wood and metal samples. The effect of the touch and feel and the colours are assembled and defined in 1:1 interior mock-ups under "real-life conditions". All control and display elements are usually designed and perfected specifically for the vehicle in question.
The exterior and interior are combined into a model. Like a puzzle, a team of experts assembles the individually manufactured parts by hand into a perfect vehicle with all characteristic features, which is virtually the spitting image of the production vehicles that will be built later.