Going beyond the tangible, beyond the logistics of the shape of sheet metal, the feel of fabrics and even the elegance of technology, transportation design students from ArtCenter
College of Design in Southern California were given an assignment that was, in its simplest terms: tell me a meaningful story.
With the relationship between Lincoln and the college firmly in place, Lincoln global design director Kemal Curic imagined a project that in many ways flipped the script – by requiring one.
Four teams of transportation design students were assigned the challenge, the first of which was being teamed with fellow students of varying disciplines, including film students, entertainment designers, illustrators and animators. The virtual mission was to imagine not only Lincoln vehicles of 2040 and beyond, but the world in which those vehicles would live – even the lives of the people who would drive them.
“ArtCenter is known for great vehicle design, and it’s in the heart of Hollywood,” said Jordan Meadows, global strategic design specialist for Lincoln, and assistant professor at ArtCenter. “More than just the vehicles themselves, we were looking for that great narrative development, that rich storytelling. It’s so important to understand the future ecosystem in which a concept vehicle will live.”
Each of the four concepts and stories included the development of a short film. In more traditional times, such films would have been presented to Ford and Lincoln executives in-person, but pandemic restrictions forced a change in those plans as well. Students, instructors and Ford and Lincoln executives, such as Jim Farley, Joy Falotico, Hau Thai-Tang, Moray Callum, Michael Sprague and Curic, came together on a Zoom call for an elaborate virtual storytelling session.
The vehicles and the stories they drove
Each concept was guided by the Lincoln promise of Quiet Flight – with the goal of creating the ultimate “beautiful gliding human sanctuary.” To ensure teams stayed true to the broader Lincoln vision, each vehicle had to conform to the company’s CASE acronym of being connected, autonomous, shared and electric.
To ensure diversity in the conceptual showroom, Meadows required four vehicle types be represented – a two-passenger, a four-passenger, a four-passenger with elevated ride height, and a six-passenger vehicle.
Collectively, the four concepts embody a wide range of futuristic, luxurious Lincoln vehicles. From a monitor on the ArtCenter College of Design campus in Pasadena, to dozens of other monitors across the country, the animated stories came to life.
- The Lincoln Glider sedan, taking cues from classic Zephyr and Continental models, is the inspiration for a short film, “Now You Drive,” which opens with Dominic in the driver’s seat of a futuristic two-seater. The 36-year-old Lincoln designer heads into the city to pick up his father, Dolan, who is paralyzed. After storing his dad’s wheelchair in a dedicated slot in the car, Dominic says, “Dad, now you drive.” As the vehicle’s gas and brake pedals disappear into the firewall, Dolan marvels at a car smart enough to take over some of the driving duties for him – allowing him to get behind the wheel again for the first time in years.
- In “Anniversary,” a four-passenger Lincoln vehicle leverages its digital technology to enable its passengers to connect the present and the past. In celebration of their 30th wedding anniversary, Julianne and Greg set out to revisit some favorite spots from their youth. As they reminisce about the moments that bind them and re-explore the path of their relationship, their Lincoln sedan is able to access digital images of the past and display their fond memories on the dashboard.
- The future of the family SUV is envisioned in “Amongst the Stars,” with tech advances that give passengers access to features such as touch-screen windows. As astronaut Claire Boron prepares to take her first steps in space, she recalls her first close experience with the stars on a family trip to White Sands National Park. Riding in a four-seat Lincoln, she gazes through the windows and moonroof and first tastes the excitement that has come to shape her life as an explorer of the unknown.
- The film “Ensemble” imagines next-level autonomous driving, putting a group of musical artists in the cabin of a six-passenger luxury cruiser that more closely resembles a well-appointed living room. Ahead of their opening show, the six musicians find sanctuary as they glide through a bustling, fast-paced city in a self-driving vehicle that enables them to luxuriate in peace and comfort as they get ready to perform.
“The students’ various visions of how Lincoln and our Quiet Flight product DNA might look 20 years from now were inspiring,” said Falotico, president, the Lincoln Motor Company. “Their concepts bring to life our core tenets of Beauty, Human, Gliding and Sanctuary in such an experiential way and clearly show how each vehicle plays a central role in people’s daily lives.”
Across the board, each film struck a chord with the Ford executives, both in terms of the concept vehicles that were showcased and the stories in which they played pivotal roles.
“I was really impressed with how cross-disciplined the teams were, the narratives were very compelling,” said Thai-Tang, chief product platform and operations officer. “The teams really thought beyond the product and delivered experiences.”
Jim Farley, chief executive officer, Ford Motor Company, applauded the project for achieving its objective in underscoring that vehicles are about so much more than the materials and mechanisms that go into building them.
“I just love the fact these teams are pushing us as a leadership team to get back to the basics of brand experience and differentiation,” he said. “Thank you for putting humans, not the technology, first.”