UNIMO Extras: Design

How a problem becomes a starting point for creating a new object

Creating a new element and its integration into a production model existing interior is a challenge and an opportunity to test one' s skill. UNIMO Extras designer Pavel Amelishko talks about the main stages of creating an armrest for Tesla Model X.

Pavel Amelishko is a designer of UNIMO Extras. A graduate of the Faculty of Social and Cultural Communications of the Belarusian State University in Communicative Design. Over three years in the profession. He worked on projects of various complexity, including the development of exterior and interior design of a passenger car.

How has the work on a new project for the company started?

A new project often comes to solve a certain problem. In our case, the starting point came from the Tesla Model X owner. Our first customer is traveling by car as a passenger. The car is also often used for business meetings on the go, so the most comfortable version of the car with a 6-seater interior configuration was chosen. The problem was in the absence of an armrest between the two central row seats. Due to this, the overall comfort level was compromised. We can say that Model X is a fashionable accessory, when using one you have to sacrifice some habits. But this do not mean that the car cannot be improved.

We can say that Model X is a fashionable accessory, when using one you have to sacrifice some habits

How the solution to a non-standard problem is found?

Our next step was to determine what is required and what is achievable. In addition to solving the main problem — the lack of an armrest — it was necessary to pay attention to a number of related issues. Adding extra features to the armrest makes ride on Model X more enjoyable. For example, passengers in the central row have no storage spaces due to special door opening mechanisms. So the decision was made to add a bottle holder to the armrest stand.

We also equip the armrest with wireless charging feature — this option is now a trend in the automotive industry. Its absence in the Model X series can be explained by the launch of the model in 2015. In addition, the charging tray is used as a place where you can store your smartphone during a trip. In the standard Model X interior there is no such option for passengers of the central row.

What is the peculiarity of integrating a new object into a completed environment?

Of course, the design itself changes the human environment. However, it does not solve purely aesthetical problems. It is possible to create something that does not correspond to the general direction of the car interior, but fits into it as an art object. Also there is no need to strictly follow the customer's opinion — he will like the good design anyway. It is important to remember one of the principles of Dieter Rams — former Braun chief designer:"Good design is as little design as possible".

"Good design is as little design as possible"

There is a concept of tuning — visual enhancements, but a concept of design stands separately. It must always have technical and technological background. The design is also intended for mass production, as in our case it is not a single copy. That's why we chose the sweet spot for the project — functional equipment, which a person needs and which does not attract extra attention because of its excessiveness. Tesla Model X has been produced for several years and this model is well known by customers. We managed to fill the empty space in such a way that the new element of the interior does not look extrinsic, but makes you feel that it was meant to be here.

Main design stages

After defining a technical task, the work on a draft design began. It wasn't developed in a vacuum. After all, when creating a new product it is necessary to focus on the technological possibilities of production, availability of quality materials at contractors and the resulting cost of the product. In this way a sketch design is different from just a creative abstract draft. So the main question appears not "What to do?", but "How to do it?".

The armrest should be ergonomically designed to fit a user. That's why it's important to determine all the dimensions of the object in the cabin. Initially, all measurements were obtained not in a computer model, but by placing a dimensional model in the interior of the car. The dimensions were selected according to the defined anchor points. For example, the armrests on door panels were used as reference — the height of the central armrest should correspond to their height in order for passengers to sit comfortably.

After the main measurements were taken, the car's overall layout and interior were 3D-scanned. Modeling the armrest on the computer in the available dimensions allowed to make a model of polyurethane foam, which was already visually close to the final design. It is important to note that during all these stages, the Model X interior has been carefully studied to ensure that the final product perfectly matches it.

It is important to note that during all these stages, the Model X interior has been carefully studied to ensure that the final product perfectly matches it

Why did the armrest get exactly this look?

Despite its exterior simplicity, the armrest is quite a complex object. It is easier to consider it as a combination of several basic elements: cushion, stand and base. During the development stage, we aimed to fill the object with the minimum number of details. Another important task is to hide all the screws.

The padding on the armrest cushion was quite simple in development, because it repeats the trim of the original interior. Its tapered shape at the front edge makes it easier for passengers to access bottles in holders. The security requirements should not be ignored as well. The armrest has stiffened ribs, but its contact with passengers is minimized.

The stand of special shape defines the main styling of the armrest. It is made of anodized aluminum. It is a durable material that looks clean and can be anodized in different colors. The potential of this material can be fully revealed through the company's production process. The bend on the stand is made not only for aesthetic purposes, but also for practical reasons — it is more convenient to reach bottle holders.

The appearance of bottle holders is made similar to cup holders on the third row of Model X seats. This allowed saturating the armrest with elements that are already present in the interior to make it look organic. The same purpose is served by the decorative insert, which is matched to each trim version of the Model X interior. It can be made of carbon, various wood types and other materials as desired by the customer.

How to install an armrest?

The answer to this question is very important. Оn the one hand we are dealing with a factory-made vehicle. On the other hand, we intend to create a mass-produced component rather than an individual one. Here we relied on one of the approaches in Scandinavian design — a customer should be able to assemble and install an armrest by himself. This is not a necessary but quite an important task for me, as a professional designer.

Here we relied on one of the approaches in Scandinavian design — a customer should be able to assemble and install an armrest by himself

Another objective was to preserve the integrity of the cabin, as well as retain free feet space for the third-row passengers. That is why the armrest is mounted in a place designed by the manufacturer. As a result, the installation process is quite simple, requires no special skills and takes minimal time.