Phil Patton

Design Watch Members of the Museum had a preview of the 2010 New York International Automobile Show this week. Phil Patton led the group – he’s the design critic and author who knows lots about whatever moves you and writes the Wheels blog for NYTimes.com. As he guided us from one example to the next, he talked about the trends that are affecting the design of cars. The most obvious recurring theme was to strive for fuel economy at an accessible price, where the whole industry is struggling to make improvements. He started with the electric Nissan Leaf, boasting zero emissions and a hundred mile range between charges at a price point of $25,280, after the tax payer has chipped in a rebate of $7,500. You can see immediately how aerodynamics has affected the shape of even a small car like this, with flattened windscreen, smooth shapes and a cutoff vane above the rear window. When you look at the front from low down it seems to smile, rather like the TATA Nano that is on view at the Cooper-Hewitt. Phil explained how the science of airflow has led to flowing forms to minimize resistance, with tiny details adjusted to try to fight off the turbulent devils. He pointed to the Infiniti concept car where the flowing forms are exaggerated to the level of throw back to another Batmobile, and to the Chevrolet Cruze where there was a tiny blade projecting an inch or two below the front wheel cowling, positioned to steer the air past the wheel with the minimum of disturbance

Robin Givhan

Last evening Robin Givhan, the Style Editor for the Washington Post, was here to moderate “Voices in American Fashion,” a conversation with past National Design Award Winners Francisco Costa (2009), Maria Cornejo (2006) and Yeohlee Teng (2004) and about their work and the role of fashion in contemporary culture, just in time for the audience to see their work featured in the Design USA: Contemporary Innovation show before it closes on Sunday. Robin has a wonderful way of drawing people out in conversation, with probing questions balanced by wit and enriched by her deep knowledge of fashion design. The discussion was very wide ranging, but the most striking consensus was about flowing forms. All three designers agreed that there is a movement for designs to flatter and follow feminine curves, celebrating the mature woman as well as the teenager who reminds you of Twiggy. Long live the flow!

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