#22: Gilles Vidal, design director, Peugeot
Retro design is about trying to find the flavour, the taste or the flair of an iconic thing, but for relevant, modern reasons. But what does modern mean? Most people think it means being turned towards the future, but it actually means bringing correct answers in your own time. So, if people are responding positively to vintage or retro stuff, then it’s correct, it’s a modern thing to do.
Truth is, I don’t actually consider the e-Legend to be retro design. We wanted to recognise the silhouette of the 504 Coupe and some details as well, but it’s not trying to be the old car, there’s a futuristic form language. The interior uses vintage materials, of course, like the colourful velvet and the brass, but nothing in terms of shapes, architecture or graphics – except perhaps the shape of the seats – is trying to be retro.
There’s no denying that retro is a strong trend at the moment, though. Historically you see more of it at moments of panic or when there’s uncertainty about where the world is going. Think back 10 to 15 years, to the comeback of the Camaro, Charger and Challenger. It was a moment of crisis in the automotive industry and all of a sudden we see a mass remake of muscle cars, to relive the golden era of the US and resurrect the American dream.
These days there’s an economic war going on in the world, plus uncertainty about energy and autonomous driving. We as designers have a very enthusiastic vision of what comes next, but it’s a scary time… probably why for the last two to three years we’ve seen this trend emerging strongly again.
You’ll see a lot of futuristic concepts around, with a sciencefiction kind of outlook, but doesn’t science fiction always predict a very dark future where humanity has to solve something to save its own existence? With the e-Legend we decided to avoid all that and propose a more enthusiastic future. We chose to say that autonomous driving is something positive – it will increase safety and give you your time back – but we needed to give autonomy the shape of something optimistic and vibrant. Honestly, we picked the 504 Coupe because it’s the 50th anniversary of that car, but the core idea was to express that the future will not be boring, and it will not be scary. In French we call it contre-pied, wrong-footing you, doing the opposite of what you expect.
I think when EV and autonomy are properly established, there will be many trends co-existing in the automotive landscape. Humans are fond of diversity. You will see super-futuristic pods, you will see normal-looking cars, you will see vintage and retro models, all with the latest technology inside. Vintage and retro will always be a thing because people don’t want to lose memories of the past, and love remembering the good times.
There is also a trend towards reviving and preserving analogue things, which is why, even in the 3008, we stuck with piano-key-style toggle switches, and big bits of wood right next to touchscreens, to get this balance between digital and analogue. Of course, the e-Legend pushes that to the extremes, but you see this juxtaposition everywhere. In our homes we have more and more connected objects, yet we still buy vintage furniture. When the world is moving too fast in one direction, you find a way to balance it with something else.
“You see more ‘retro’ at moments of panic or when there’s uncertainty about where the world is going”