written by:
June 10, 2014
The Rewind in our July/August 2014 issue examines the Eero Saarinen–designed Styling Dome at GM's Warren, Michigan, Technical Center. On our tour of the campus, we had the rare opportunity to for a behind-the-scenes look inside pattern studio, which is located in a nearby building. There, skilled craftspeople translate designers' ideas to see if they can be replicated on a production line—an important part of the manufacturing process. Though the assembly line and mechanized production reins supreme in the automotive industry, the hands and eyes of woodworkers and upholsterers, among others, are indispensable.
GM Technical Center Pattern Making Steering Wheel Sewer

The automotive design process at General Motors involves countelss talented people from ideation to production. After designers come up with ideas for interior and exterior styling—think: the shape of seats, the contouring of a console, the overall look and feel of a cabin—craftspeople create life-sized prototypes at the Interiors and Exteriors Studio. They evaluate the design to see if it's something that can be produced on a large scale given the tools and machinery that's readily available. Even the most minute stitch.

1 / 9
GM technical center prototyping process leather steering wheel

For example, a designer specifies a certain stitch pattern. A sewer then creates the same pattern by hand giving feedback on reproducability. If it's too complex, he or she will offer feedback to the designer; the designer then takes another stab at the stitch's look. The back and forth happens until the detail is refined and meets the aesthetic standards and manufacturing capabilities at GM.

2 / 9
GM Technical Center Prototyping

Seating is a large component of car interiors and evaluated on comfort, looks, and functionality. Very specific compositions of foam exist underneath the surface. The different densities create the support and comfort that's needed to make quick trips around town and long road trips equally enjoyable. Here's an example of the different foams in a seat.

3 / 9
GM Technical Center Prototyping

The seatmaker sculpts a form out out of the foam. The more dense foam offers rigid support while the less dense sections conform more to a driver's body.

4 / 9
GM Technical Center Prototyping

Here are some of the seat patterns for the various parts. Unlike a lounge chair or sofa found in your living room, this chair is made from many separate components, each positioned to optimize the piece.

5 / 9
Gm Technical Center Seat Prototype

After the foam configutation is set, the seat is upholstered and assembled.

6 / 9
leather samples at GM technical center

The color, texture, and grain of a piece of leather is taken into account for upholstering an interior. Each car GM produces needs to be consistent and uniform in look and customization options. For example, if a buyer sees a caramel leather in a showroom car and wants it in their own, it needs to look the same. The studio makes sure that tanneries will be able to provide the right shade for a piece of leather and will be able to reproduce that on a large scale.

7 / 9
GM Technical Center Veneers

Natural wood trim—as opposed to laminate—is gaining steam in luxury car interiors. Various veneers are stores in a carefully monitored humidor before they're applied to models for armrests or dashboard and door details.

8 / 9
GM Tech Center Patternmaking

Here's an example of all various wood accents one might see within a car. After the shape is contoured and refined by the designers and woodworkers—the same way as the steering wheel stitch is—it's then ok'd for production.

This is just a glimpse of what goes into three components and similar processes occur for other parts.

9 / 9
GM Technical Center Pattern Making Steering Wheel Sewer

The automotive design process at General Motors involves countelss talented people from ideation to production. After designers come up with ideas for interior and exterior styling—think: the shape of seats, the contouring of a console, the overall look and feel of a cabin—craftspeople create life-sized prototypes at the Interiors and Exteriors Studio. They evaluate the design to see if it's something that can be produced on a large scale given the tools and machinery that's readily available. Even the most minute stitch.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016