What was the best class you ever took at design school? No matter how cool it was, I've got one that'll give it a run for its money: ME397 - Design Restoration, a recent addition to the Design Theory & Methodology series of courses at Stanford University. Taught by mechanical engineering professor Martin Steinert and PhD candidate Greg Kress this past Spring, the course's mission was simple: take a 1962 Cadillac Deville that's been sitting idle for decades and restore it.
While it might sound like Kress (the car's owner) is simply getting free student grease monkey labor, the course—which was comprised of students from design, engineering, fine arts, and even computer science—has a design education agenda:
The class will revolve around restoring this 1962 Cadillac DeVille sedan. Manufactured at the height of the American auto industry, in an era before computers and global outsourcing, the Cadillac sedan represented the pinnacle of American luxury and engineering, and was envied the world over.
We will consider questions such as:
- What defines a "classic" car? What makes a product classic?
- What makes a "luxury" product? How has the notion of luxury changed over time?
- What does the design of the car say about American identity? How has this identity changed over time, and how is it expressed now?
- Who was the user then, and why did it appeal to them? What about it appeals to us now?
- How does the car appear from the mechanic's perspective?
- How does the engineering of the machine influence the design of the car, and vise[sic]-versa?
"What really attracted me to this class was exploring the car not only as a mechanical object but as a piece of design," design major Alex Gamburg told The Stanford Report.