“Design is so much more than appearance”3/11/21
The new Volvo 9700 DD is designed for maximum flexibility and comfort. Just like Volvo’s other coach models, three key concepts have shown the way throughout the design process: care, credibility and evolution. Dan Frykholm, Head of Design at Volvo Buses, explains why.
In recent years Volvo Buses has launched several new coach models for the European and Mexican markets. The Volvo 9000 series, spearheaded by the premium Volvo 9900, has received a lot of attention for its expressive designs. Now the Volvo 9700 DD comes in a new, four-metre-high version, adapted for European markets.
What is the difference between designing a double-decker and a regular coach?
“All our coach models have a friendly yet determined expression. A coach should look comfortable; it should radiate expertise and promise a great journey. But design is so much more than appearance. For us at Volvo, it’s about starting with the user to create a whole from various factors. What is seen on the surface reflects the product’s features and qualities.
For us at Volvo, design is about starting with the user to create a whole from various factors. What is seen on the surface reflects the product’s features and qualities.
In a double-decker, there needs to be room for more passengers, which results in lower ceilings on each floor. It therefore becomes very important to still have a sense of space and openness inside. The Volvo 9700 DD is very high from the outside, and we have worked to bring down the visual centre of gravity. When you look at it, it should feel agile, stable and safe.”
How do you go about designing a new bus?
“It is a step-by-step, iterative process with many areas of expertise involved. In the beginning, it is often ordered chaos. There is a lot of information to relate to and there are many technical demands and legal and practical limitations we have to accept. But as a creative designer, you know that there are good ideas in the chaos and uncertainty. This is something you have to engage in and master.
“In Volvo Buses’ design strategy, we have three key concepts – care, credibility and evolution – which show the direction we want to move in and which we always have in front of us when we work, whether it’s an exterior, an interior, a software driver interface or a mobile app. To provide a solid and credible overall picture, all products must represent and be experienced as Volvo.”
How do you convey care, credibility and evolution in a bus design?
“Care is the best and finest thing we have at Volvo. It stands for everything that is human and is a symbol for safety, ergonomics and the environment. Care reflects how we see the user, such as the driver’s working environment and passengers’ travel experiences. But it is also about sustainability, and it is important to choose solutions and materials that are beneficial in the long run.
“Credibility means that we start with the product's purpose and function. Our task is to create something that feels genuine and credible, to make the user act intuitively and believe in what they see and experience.
If our design gives the drivers a sense of confidence and control, they focus on the rights things and their driving improves. In a similar way, we want passengers to feel that they will get a fantastic travel experience. This isn’t just about comfortable seats; it is also about atmosphere.
“The driver’s seat is crucial. The driver is the most important person on board and they are an ambassador for their company and also for Volvo Buses. We have to give the driver the best possible workplace. If our design gives drivers a sense of confidence and control, they focus on the right things and their driving improves. In a similar way, we want passengers to feel that they will get a fantastic travel experience. This isn’t just about comfortable seats; it is also about atmosphere. As a passenger, you should quickly get a good overview, understand how everything works and experience a cohesive interior.
“Evolution has to do with our history and our legacy. Volvo is a sustainable and enduring brand that has always been very innovative. This should also be reflected in the design. We want customers to feel that we know what we are doing and that we are there for them. It is a source of trust that develops over time.”
Volvo is a global brand. How do you create a bus design that works all over the world?
“By always having a common human thread in our design and our expressions, our products become relatable globally. At the same time, you must respect that what is perceived as the right design may differ between markets. We stick to our Scandinavian design as a foundation but also accommodate local adaptations. If you can see that it is a Volvo, that is good, but what’s most important is that you experience the values that Volvo stands for.”