A New Approach to Vehicle Concept Generation: A Statistics-Based Method for Creating Innovative Product Forms


When creating vehicle concepts, designers often follow a common methodology. Initial sketches center around the flow of the vehicle, focusing first on curves that sweep from front to back. As the design progresses through the development stages these expressive curves are constrained into specific vehicle characteristics. By looking at vehicles in their final form much can be learned about how to create new vehicle concepts. For example, vehicle characteristics like the hood, bottom of the side windows, and trunk would be grouped together and represented in the initial concept by a belt line that sweeps the whole of the vehicle from front to rear. Experience, training, and human intuition are used by designers to understand how to represent the vehicle characteristics in initial concepts. The initial representation drives the vehicle towards its final form. In this work we introduce a new method for vehicle concept creation based on a statistical analysis of similarities and differences in a vehicle class. Representative chunking of vehicle characteristics is determined through a statistical analysis of existing vehicles, not through human intuition. A sample of existing coupe vehicles is gathered. Each vehicle is decomposed into 22 vehicle characteristics, e.g. headlights. A minimum number of four-control-point Bezier curves that sufficiently capture the form of the characteristic are used. Through principal component analysis the control points, and thereby the curves, that differentiate the most between vehicles are chunked together. These statistically derived curve chunks, often unintuitive and non-obvious, but effective, are used as the foundation for creating new vehicle concepts. A traditional conceptualization methodology limits the designer's exploration of the concept space by introducing curves in the same order. The method discussed here, based upon statistical chunking of curves, encourages the designer to deviate from tradition and thereby explore more of the design space. Additionally, since the curve chunks are based upon their influence on a sample set of designs, the designer is guaranteed to consider the most influential curves and their impact on conceptualization. In the method, the designer chooses a curve chunk and introduces the curves to the concept. Based upon which curves have already been drawn, the designer picks a new chuck and adds more curves to the concept. Thus, a concept flows from chunk to chunk until all the statistically derived curves have been introduced. The designer then fills in the rest of the curves and adds details as seen fit.

Meeting Name

16th International Conference on Engineering Design, ICED07 (2007: Aug. 28-30, Paris, France)


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Curve Chunking; Principal Component Analysis; Product Design; Shape Relationships

Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


File Type





© 2007 The Design Society, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

30 Aug 2007

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