Design Paradigms in Car History

PhD Thesis


Dowlen, C (2017). Design Paradigms in Car History. PhD Thesis London South Bank University Engineering: Mechanical and Design and Business: Business and Enterprise
AuthorsDowlen, C
TypePhD Thesis
Abstract

The purpose of this research into Design Paradigms in Car History is to evaluate how production car design has changed over the last hundred and twenty-five years or so, using numerical analyses of specific cars, which act as exemplars. This evaluation should lead to a better understanding of car design history and how car designers think. Design thinking can be evidenced from how products have changed over the course of time. Design paradigms have been used to produce a structured analysis of these products (cars) to develop a more holistic understanding of design history than may be available from a purely narrative approach. The research sought to answer some basic questions, including what are design paradigms, when did specific ones appear, and when, why and how quickly did they change? A positivist, quantitative analysis was carried out, analysing over 500 cars from 1878 to 2013 for layout and form design, using a categorical principal components analysis. Timelines and maps were produced identifying paradigms, changes and timescales. A complementary qualitative approach was taken, interviewing car experts – historians, designers, industry leaders and enthusiasts – to identify their constructs on car history and design. Methods used included affinity diagrams and a novel use of repertory grids. Car design paradigms were identified from static layout variables, from about 1904 to 1934, from the mid-1970s onwards, and less pronounced from the late 1930s to the 1980s. These show tight clustering of features. Stepwise changes tend to occur between paradigms. Form changes more smoothly, but still indicates likely dates and paradigmatic thinking. Constructivist analysis identified further wide-ranging paradigms, including societal changes, technology, political and economics. The main conclusion of this research was that design paradigms not only exist, but they can also be measured and this measurement can improve historical understanding. This finding will benefit not only those interested in cars and their history, e.g.museum curators and those training future designers, but also other researchers, who could use a combination of both analytical and constructivist processes, in particular repertory grids, to develop their subject thinking and understanding of historical processes.

Year2017
PublisherLondon South Bank University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.18744/PUB.001125
Publication dates
Print21 Feb 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited15 Aug 2017
Completed01 Feb 2017
EditorsAndrews, D and Warwick, J
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