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How To Ruin A Good Design

September 17, 2011 by Matt

2007 Acura TSX

The first rule of car design should be: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Nothing aggravates me more than to see a clean, crisp, classically-tailored design spoiled by the injection of a dose of fussiness for the sake of “updating.” The Acura TSX is a prime example of how designers—and the marketers that influence them—can ruin an excellent shape for no other reason than it’s due for a redesign.

Examine the lines of the first-generation car, shown at top. Observe how pleasingly coherent and tucked-in the shapes are. Look how well the headlights and grille interrelate. Notice that the designers didn’t feel they had to torture the clean taillight parallelograms just to “make them more interesting.” Their restraint allowed the car’s proportions to come to the fore, and in the process created quite a timeless shape.

2012 Acura TSX

Now study the second-generation TSX. The overall size and proportions haven’t changed, but lines are tweaked seemingly just for the sake of changing them. Among other things, the front wheel arches acquire a flat flare that doesn’t really echo anything else on the car. Instead of looking trim and styled, the car looks decorated, with little chrome bits and trinkets like the grille tacked on. It loses the substance of the first-generation car in favor of ephemeral fashion. It’s very much an inferior design.

The failure of the TSX redesign should serve as a cautionary tale to car designers: If your clean, understated, elegant car is due for an update, figure out the elements that made it successful in the first place, and for heaven’s sake, don’t tamper with those.

Filed under: Acura, Aesthetics

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