FLUID PRECISION

A chat with the designers behind the next Lexus concept car

We’re right in the middle of a great time—auto show season. And this week, at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Lexus just revealed another concept vehicle—the LF-LC coupe.

This intriguing project, which began, design-wise, in August 2010, was entrusted to Lexus’ Calty design studio, the same group that brought you the CT Hybrid’s concept and many others. There’s a talented team behind this vehicle, and two of its key designers, Edward Lee, senior creative designer for the exterior, and Ben Chang, senior designer for the interior, were more than happy to share some concept-creation insights with Lexus fans:

Lexus: We know that Calty is pretty familiar with the Lexus concept work, but Edward, weren’t you also one of the LF-Ch designers?

Edward: That’s correct, I was the interior designer for the LF-Ch, which became the CT. This time I designed the exterior of the LF-LC coupe.

Tell us about the project’s objectives—what’s been the overall design mission?

Edward: Basically, the goal was to design a luxury sport coupe that shows Lexus’ future L-finesse design language. We also aimed to spark strong interest in a new emotional and expressive Lexus design.

This being a new concept vehicle, did you take any design cues from current Lexus production models?

Edward: As far as cues go, we integrated a new interpretation of the spindle grill—we wanted to be consistent there but refine the evolving design identity. But as far as the rest of the car, we were challenged to be as original as possible, so although we implemented the spindle grille, everything else is brand new, and we wanted to execute something absolutely fresh.

Ben: The same goes for the interior. The contrast in the design language is completely new, sort of a new design philosophy.

With the early CT prototype, being a hybrid, the design team took some inspiration from natural forms. What would you say are your inspirations for this new vehicle?

Edward: We also drew from natural forms for this car, but what’s completely new is that we took a totally different approach with the proportions, and even the structure and the architecture of the car, which really shows that natural-form language we’re going for. Before we even started the car’s design, we took thin pieces of acrylic and bent them over different shapes to create these really interesting surfaces from one big surface.

We then took the same approach when designing the car’s exterior—it really feels like it’s designed from one piece of material, but you also have these sharp, precise lines that control the surface direction, tension, and dynamics. The surfaces flow freely within the lines—we call this “fluid precision.”

Lexus fans will now get a good look at the exterior, mostly via photos, but what are some intriguing details that we may not notice at first but should look for?

Ben: For the interior, there’s this unique feature with the center display. We have two 12.3-inch screens that are bonded together and face the driver and the front passenger. It’s executed so you feel like you’re seeing a really huge screen instead of two, and it’s like a beautiful sculpture.

Edward: As for the exterior, I’d like to draw focus first to the bold proportion of the car, then the flowing surfaces. It’s a completely new surface execution that is both expressive and precise. Finally, one area that highlights our intent is the front corner.

If you look at the headlamp areas, there are these Lexus brand identity “L” shapes, which are the daytime running lights. They draw your eyes into the three main lamps, then get washed out slowly as you descend into the fog lamps. This is “motion with technology”—an expressiveness intended to really provoke emotion when people look at this area of the car.

If a Lexus owner—somebody who knows Lexus vehicles well—were to sit down in the concept car driver’s seat for the first time, which interior design elements do you think he or she would be most struck by?

Ben: Well, with the interior, we wanted to do everything with a modern approach, but in an even more artistic way. So when a Lexus driver sits down in the car, they’re going to notice how artful the cabin feels. It’s got a hand-made look, like a master craftsman put it together—but it’s all, of course, supported by the latest technology.

There’s lots of beautiful materials, too—the leather, the suede, the brushed metal trim. We used those materials not in a traditional arrangement; instead we created something futuristic, fresh, and modern.

Can you tell us how the design has evolved—how and where did the car’s look change the most during the process?

Edward: As far as the exterior goes, we started with what you might consider a more elegant approach to the vehicle, but as we advanced forward, we applied a concept called “avant-garde beauty”—a bolder direction with bigger-stroked shapes. We still maintained the beauty aspect of the vehicle, but we really tried to make breakthroughs in the futuristic, technological, and modern sense. The car comes across as both artistic and technologically advanced.

Are there any aspects of this car that you’re personally most proud of?

Ben: This may sound kind of strange, but I’m actually very proud of the exterior, even though I was the interior designer. It turned out amazing. This car’s exterior made me feel very connected to the whole vehicle as I designed the interior.

Edward: Not to just give the ball back to Ben, but a lot inspirational energy was drawn from the interior design. And I have to say, I’m really proud of the team—all the clay modelers, the CAD support, everybody. How we feel really matters with these concept projects. It’s a passion we have, and I really believe that this passion will be evident when this car is revealed.

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[1] Prototype vehicle shown.