FRANK Stephenson, the influential designer of cars including the reborn Mini and the McLaren P1, has released a video in which he critiques the design of the Tesla Cybertruck.
In a ten-minute long review of the polarising pick-up truck’s design, posted to his eponymous YouTube channel, the 61-year old said that his largest concern is “how dated it’s going to feel in a very short time span”.
Stephenson compared the design of the Cybertruck to the graphics on the first PlayStation, which were lauded for their realism when they first appeared in the mid-nineties but look undeniably primitive when compared with those on the recently released PlayStation 5.
He called the Cybertruck a “low-poly rendering” (a method of making 3D graphics using only a small number of polygon building blocks) but says that the silhouette “has the potential to be extremely beautiful”. He also admits that the design is one of the most “pivotal” and “important” in history.
Continuing the analogy, Stephenson pointed out that video game designers have spent decades making the graphics of games more similar to those found in the natural world and said that he believes car designers need to follow the same example — especially electric vehicles, the main purpose of which is to be more environmentally-friendly than their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts.
Instead, the Cybertruck positions itself against nature, Stephenson argues, with protection from the outside world being one of its headline features (including dent-proof panelling and bulletproof glass). These features, said Stephenson, “reveal the insecurity of this design, and the paranoid future that it seems to be capitalising on.”
Stephenson’s design ethos centres around the idea of “biomimicry”, which argues that the most aesthetically pleasing and durable designs are ones that use proportions found in nature — a convincing argument, considering the longevity of some of his own designs, which include the new-shape Fiat 500 and the Maserati MC12, alongside the aforementioned McLaren P1 and Mini.
In order to demonstrate the issues with the Cybertruck’s design, he compared it to two other concepts — one past, and one recent. The first is the Citroën Karin, a concept from 1980 which adopted a similarly idiosyncratic triangular shape to the Cybertruck.
However, the Karin has a “sensuality and appreciation of form” that makes it look more futuristic than the Cybertruck, despite being 40 years old.
“In these two versions of the future, I want to live in the timeline where the Karin exists,” said Stephenson.
The second concept he compared it to is an electric Buick concept notable for its sculpted panels, low roofline and sloped windscreen, which the designer thinks makes the Cybertruck look “repulsive” by comparison thanks to its nature-inspired silhouette.
Cybertruck will inspire future designers — for the worse
Although Stephenson said in the video that he had been “collecting [his] thoughts” and “calming [himself] down” for the 12 months since Elon Musk unveiled the Cybertruck, this is not the first time he has let his disdain towards the design be known.
When asked about it during an interview with Driving.co.uk in May, he told us: “Don’t get me started on the Cybertruck… It’s gonna ruin my day. It’s just designed with straight edges. I mean, that’s as basic as you can design something.
“The problem is, young designers will think it’s cool and they’ll start using that as an inspiration to design other stuff. And then in 10 years’ time, or 20 years, we’ll start seeing cars that are influenced by young designers who love that thing. And then we’ll be living in a world of aggressive, hard-edged, basic design.
“There’s no sensitivity to that design at all. It’s too extremely simplified, I think, for me. Anybody could design a car like that… We’ve all probably designed a Cybertruck before we’ve got to five or 10 years old.”
After reading about how the designer of the McLaren P1 criticised the design of the Tesla Cybertruck, you might want to read about his eight recommendations for cars under £5,000.