Sunday, August 2

Deviations from the Daily Drive

Let's face it: sometimes we get bored. It's not anyone's fault, it's just a function of being human. We could be doing the one thing we have always wanted to do, but some day, we'll wake up and say to ourselves, "Hmm, I really should have been a spelunking guide in central Asia" or some similar, wonderfully obtuse and impractical wish.

Fortunately, for those of us that work as professional creatives, there are many companies that recognize the need to variety and encourage their creative staff to do something outside the company's core competency. A car company putting its design staff to the challenge of redesigning a piano, for example.

Yes, a piano!

In a sense, a piano is a bit like a car: it has a body and a frame that must undergo immense stresses (more than 20 tons of force is exerted upon a piano frame). It must perform with delicate maneuverability for Chopin and raw power for Mussorgsky. It is a monstrous object that must be beautiful not only in sound but in appearance. Personally, when I think of these characteristics, I think not of BMW (reminds me of a cello) nor of Mercedes (reminds me of a tuba) but of Audi.

Fitting, then, that Audi tasked its designers to redesign the grand piano (with the assistance of Bosendorfer). Here is the fruit of the designers' labor (care of AutoBlog and Core77):

Personally, I feel that the designers did well in thinking about the essence of what a piano is and used those metaphors to create the foundations of the design. The "piano" gets its name from pianoforte, literally meaning "softly loud", as its invention was a revolution in keyed percussion instruments, allowing the player to use dynamics in their performances. I interpret the exposure of the metal in the "legs" to be the piano's core of strength, while the almost liquid curves of the cover remind me of soft, gentle passages.

Thus, the philosophy of the work seems strong. However, I have a lot of discomfort with the 1980's synthesizer finishing and the car-trunk cover. I suppose the cover was an homage to their roots as automotive designers but it feels rather tacky. The design clearly draws from the Bauhaus school and in my opinion, "modernizing" Bauhaus is always risky business. The same curve is used to connect every line, which is sort of whimsical but also somewhat dull. The philosophical underpinnings reappear when the piano is in its playing position; it converts from its placid closed form to a form that suggests power and is visually engaging.

Overall, I would have to say that the core ideas are strong, the synthesis of car design and piano design is interesting, but it's not something I would want in my house (and certainly not for €100,000). Just as important, however, is the fact that Audi would embrace such a challenge. As long as they are stretching their creative selves, though they may not have a future in piano design, they will always be on the leading edge of automotive design. It's important to realize that, as creatives, if you do exactly the same thing every day, your design will fall into habit, just as any other activity. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life.

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