All jokes aside, the Tesla Cybertruck has racked up roughly 187,000 orders since its launch last week. (Truth be told, my wife and I are discussing whether we'll add ourselves to the order list, but I'll get into that in another entry.) And now a design detail that we'd have preferred to hear during the launch presentation has come to light. From Musk himself:
That freaking explains a lot, and I wish Musk had stated that up front! It may not matter to consumers, but I have to think the average designer will evaluate an object differently when they learn that its aesthetics are partially a result of its manufacturing process. As initially presented, the all-flat-planes Cybertruck appeared to be the product of whimsy and/or a desire to shock.
However, Musk's explanation does not mean that I think the designers got the Cybertruck right. It doesn't look finished to me. A talented designer can do a lot with straight lines, and I think that having the roof come to a pointy peak is an aesthetic mistake, although I realize that's subjective. To have the rear roofline simply be an angled straight line from that peak to the top of the tailgate doesn't look daring to me, it looks lazy.
And anti-functional. Earlier versions of the Honda Ridgeline and the now-defunct Chevy Avalanche featured really dumb obstructions on the sides of the bed, which prevented users from loading or unloading things from the side. To a non-truck-user, that may not sound like a big deal. But it's a huge deal, if you're using the truck for actual work. And that's independent of the setting.
Earlier-generation Honda Ridgeline
Discontinued Chevy Avalanche
In an urban environment, tight parallel parking spaces mean you may only be able to access the bed from the sidewalk. In a more natural environment like our farm, the location of sheds relative to trees, natural features or angle changes in terrain, again means that you cannot always neatly back up to wherever you're attempting to load and unload from. Being able to climb up into the bed and easily hand or toss things over the side reduces labor.
I'd be shocked if I learned that Tesla conducted in-person interviews with real truck owners, like we see General Motors doing, and if those truck owners all clamored to have obstructive, angled sidewalls. Which tells me one of two things may be true:
1) The Cybertruck is not designed for existing truck owners who use their trucks for actual work. Or,
2) The designers don't give a damn if their aesthetic preferences reduce functionality and increase hassle.
I can at least forgive the first one, at least in America, where people like big things and feel that buying particular objects, independent of function, makes them special. I hate that instinct, but that instinct is what is currently driving our economy. The baseline comfort of our American existences, relative to parts of the world that live with real daily suffering, is based on our economy and this shitty ideal that we all have to treat with.
The second thing I find less forgivable. Designers are supposed to know better, and to be aware of the power of multiplication. A designer who spends dozens or hundreds of hours on a minor detail that, say, makes a tool easier to use, has created thousands or millions of hours of time for the people who buy that tool.
Designers are capable of creating wealth--not just of money, but of time and joy. Every detail you sweat can create thousands of hours of satisfaction and smiles, or frowns of frustration at mindless tasks that have to be repeated to compensate for poor design.
Tesla's a new company yet, so perhaps I'm demanding too much of the upstart. I'm already in awe of what the disruptive Musk has been able to accomplish in such a short time, so perhaps it's unreasonable for me to hope that designing in a bubble would yield 100% positive results.
And yes, you're probably wondering why my wife and I are considering ordering a Cybertruck. I'll have to get into that in a separate entry, and we'll see if my logic makes any sense or not.
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