Presentation of the manuscript Mejia, J.R., Hultink, E.J., Pasman, G., Stappers, P.J. (2016). Concept Cars as a design-led futures technique. Proceedings of the 23rd Innovation and product development management conference, Glasgow.
Presentation Concept Cars as a design-led futures technique
CONCEPT CARS AS A DESIGN-LED
Ricardo Mejia Sarmiento, Erik Jan Hultink, Gert Pasman, and Pieter Jan Stappers
1. Futures Studies techniques (situation & complication)
2. The Design-led Futures techniques (opportunity)
3. The study (methods)
4. Our claims (discussion)
5. Take away message
Innovation forces organizations to think
about the future, which is far from easy.
Because they need to
be aware of the changes in
- the business environment
- the behaviors of customers, competitors,
(Van der Duin, 2006)
The techniques guiding those explorations are named futures studies, which
Hines (2016) describes as modes of thinking, mapping and influencing the
Making plans and communicating
Learning from this experience
Identifying opportunities and risks
These techniques help companies
We used the Three Approaches to Making
Decisions by Mintzberg & Westley (2001) to map
the Futures Studies.
Thinking first, which is a verbal approach that
relies on facts.
Seeing first that is visual and based on ideas.
Doing first, which is visceral and based on
THREE APPROACHES TO MAKING DECISIONS
(Mintzberg & Westley, 2001)
From short-term (in the small circle) to long-term
(in the large circle).
(Eisenhart & Brown, 1997)
They are thinking first -verbal- approaches that
relies on facts.
MANAGERIAL FUTURES TECHNIQUES
Technology road-mapping is “a process to think and
analyze the market, product, and technology conditions [to]
elaborate on a plan” (Simonse, Buijs and Hultink, 2015).
Albright and Kappel (2003)
Future Scenarios are “scenarios that describe consistent
and plausible futures for the company” (Van Notten,
techniques have some limitations
- Top-down processes
- Involve only top-managers
- Resource and time-consuming
- Complex and abstract outcomes
- Difficult to communicate and
- Intuitive and action oriented.
- Have a strong emphasis on communication.
- Integrate the Three approaches to making
decisions (Sanders & Stappers, 2012).
DESIGN-LED FUTURES TECHNIQUES
Design Fictions is a technique to develop “micro futures-
studies [that focus] on the everyday life, its short-term
evolutions, and the standard objects or services that might
fill these possible futures” (Girardin, 2015)
This Concept Car was defined as “the first car built by a
mass manufacturer for the sole purpose of determining the
public's reaction to the new ideas” (Edsall, 2003).
It turned the company from an engineering-oriented
organization into a design-oriented one.
Buick Y-Job, designed in 1938 by Harley Earl.
Although Concept Cars are broadly recognized
as an interesting phenomenon, little academic
work has been conducted on them.
Innovation Management &
CONCEPT CARS AS
- Concept Cars create a brand identity within the
company, and outside they enhance the brand
image (Roscam Abbing, 2010).
- Concept Cars present and visualize the
company’s visions of future design and technology
trends (Backman and Börjesson, 2006).
- Concept Cars establish coherent and unified
design outputs of the different ideas and products
lines (Evans, 2011).
CONCEPT CARS, THE
- The process of designing a Concept Car is much
shorter that a commercial car (Berlitz and Huhn,
- It focuses on communication. The company
presents the Concept Car at a motor show to the
media: newspapers, TV, and radio (Lv & Lu, 2012),
experts and customers (Berlitz & Huhn, 2005),
and the general public.
This paper aims to add to the literature on
Innovation Management by uncovering the
key features that distinguish Concept Cars as
a futures technique.
Te n s e m i - s t r u c t u r e d
interviews with experts in
Purpose, Outcomes, and
Observations at the 85th
and Accessories in Geneva.
A multiple-case analysis to
compare three prototypical
examples of the different
types of Concept Cars.
Purpose, Outcomes, and
Citröen-Lacoste Concept Car by Citröen and Lacoste, 2010
Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion by Daimler AG, 2015
More than beautiful show cars, Concept Cars are used to study, map, and envision -an
image of- the future.
This vision moves from the future back to the present and supports companies* in
making decisions and mapping innovation.
* Automotive manufacturers
Car design agencies
Managerial futures techniques are confidential maps for the future of innovation,
which follow a thinking-first process and end in abstract outcome that targets
focus on (1) innovation and communication,
following (2) a design-led process
and ending in (3) an open, striking and experienceable outcome.
Concept Cars increase the innovation capabilities:
- Companies foresee the future exploring a plausible
and preferable future.
- Companies experiment with technologies and explore
- Companies share a concrete image of the future that is
easy to understand for a broad audience*.
- Stimulates conversations that generate ideas about
the company’s future at different levels**.
- Different people, inside and outside the company,
align their agendas.
*Internal (workers, & suppliers) &
External (media & general public).
**Company’s strategy, its products, etc.
Concept Cars focus on innovation & communication
A hands-on technique that embrace thinking, seeing, and
doing approaches to making decisions.
- [Research] Designers investigate and analyze context
- [Visual synthesis] Designers make sketches and
illustrations to produce ideas about the concept and the
- [Prototyping] Designers make prototypes at different
scales and resolutions, sharing the idea with others.
- [Storytelling] Designers create a narrative to
communicate the artifact through videos and other
All these activities are necessary to experiment
simultaneously with technology and styling.
Concept Cars follow a design-led process
CONCEPT CARS & ALTERNATIVE FUTURES
THE FUTURE CONE ADAPTED BY VOROS (2001) FROM HENCHEY (1978)
SHORT-TERM CONCEPT CARS
Are made to announce and incorporate modifications into specific commercial
vehicles, which are launched one year after the concepts are presented. The concepts
examine probable futures, extrapolating the current trends and knowledge into a new
MEDIUM-TERM CONCEPT CARS
Are designed to inspire the addition of new categories of automobiles, which could be
developed between five to ten years after the concepts are presented. These concepts
push the boundaries between the probable and the plausible future, incorporating
current knowledge and present and new trends.
LONG-TERM CONCEPT CARS (VISION CONCEPTS)
Are produced to experiment with cars that are built from scratch, exploring at least
fifteen years ahead. These concepts propose new styling, ahead from the lines of the
current production vehicles, and investigate novel technologies, even some of them
that are not necessarily proved. They are linked to the preferable future. It is selected
based on the values of the brand and its strategic projections.
Concept Cars are “tangible and materialized futures” that
are easy to understand for the majority of people.
The artifacts are embodied by:
- Full-size prototypes that enable people to experience
the car as real as possible.
- Supporting materials (texts, visuals, and videos) that
present the interaction between users and the car in a
These -physical and narrative- manifestations of a fake
-futuristic- vehicle, are designed to attract and evoke
emotions in diverse people.
It is a resource intensive technique
(team, money, and time).
It presents a singular outcome,
hiding the opportunities offered by
TAKE AWAY MESSAGE
Innovation managers can use
Concept Cars as an alternative futures technique or as a ‘vehicle’ to complement other futures method.
Concept Cars can strengthen the innovation in diverse companies regardless of whether they are in other
branches of the industry or whether they are in B2B or B2C businesses.
- It is a design-led futures technique that incorporate visual synthesis, prototyping, and storytelling.
- It ends in a concrete artifact presented as a tangible future through physical and narrative manifestations.
We will further investigate their design process to explore the way to use
Concept Cars in other branches of the industry.