It’s all about the details

One of the most famous quotes about design was made by Charles Eames “The details are not the details. They make the design.” And Mercedes-Benz invited me and some other bloggers to Munich in order to show us how they are reaching their design by adding all the details you can experience through the four senses: see, touch, smell, and listen. Of course, taste is also another sense and you know that I like tasting, especially good food! But more about tasting later within this blog post. At first I would like to describe what I learned about details and design when we passed the different stages in the Senses Workshop of Mercedes.

To touch

Above you see a tiny little detail you would rarely see from a normal angle. It is a door opener. During the stage “touch” we experienced that materials not always feel the way you think they are. This door opener looked really light but it was massive and really heavy. On the inside it had this tiny little detail engraved: a Mercedes star. I like things like that. When will you actually be able to see that this detail exists? Very rarely, but it exists and when I see it, it makes me happy, just because someone thought about putting a tiny Mercedes star into the back of this door opener. It is more than just putting your name on a thing. It makes a tiny little part – a door opener – of a huge technological thing – the car – very special. When you sit in a premium car, you want to feel like your sitting in a premium car, so everything has to be taken care of. The seats, the handles and especially the steering wheel, it should feel comfortable for a very long time. Something not quite perfect, like the stitching on the inside of the steering wheel, can be very important when you sit in a car for hours.

To see

The same applies to the other senses, for example seeing. When you sit in your car and your instruments are not organized the right way, you feel disoriented the first time. When I went to the Motor Show in Frankfurt, I took a seat in almost every car I passed by, I want to experience the way the car pleases me. You sit down, close the door, try to make yourself comfortable and then you look around “What do I have here?”. The control panel of the media system is now the most complex system within a car. It is interesting how the different car manufacturers worked on the problem that you still need to operate such a complex system while driving.

To listen

One of the most impressive things was the workshop for the sense listening. When you sit in a car you hear many different sounds: the street, the engine, the media system, every button you press, and sometimes even the windshield wiper. But I never thought about that a sound expert sits inside the car and tests every single possible sound for every single model. When you change one noise in a car you experience every other sound completely different. So, if Mercedes decides to produce the same C-Class with this and that engine, they need to make new sound testings. And they make these sound testings in such a giant room you can see on the picture above. The room is completely silent and when you test one noise you can only hear this one noise. Sometimes sound designer also need to invent noises, like the sound the indicator makes inside a car. Normally, you couldn’t hear that ticking sound but they needed to develop a sound that symbolizes the ticking of that little light bulb, turning on and off.

To smell

Another impressive thing was the smelling part. Usually you can only regulate the smell of a car by choosing the right materials and components. But in an unique car like the Maybach, Daimler wanted to create something brand new: a scent just developed for the Maybach. After nine months of cooperating with perfume experts, developing and testing scents, they created two fragrances. But the car and the scent vaporizer were also build in a way that the Maybach won’t smell like the fragrance when you decide to switch the scent after driving the car for two years.

To taste

During the workshop we also had a little lunch break, where I experienced my first molecular food. I wrote about this topic a while ago and I can still say that it is not really my kind of food. It was great to see that you have the impression that something tastes different only because you change the consistency or the way it looks. For example the orange little balls on the picture above are melon caviar. It had nothing to do with fish, it was only fruit. But after the workshop we went to the Wiesn – the October Fest in Munich. And we had a great time with delicious German beer (Sorry, but I need to. The beer in Sweden is ok, but nothing compared to good German beer). And we had potato dumplings, mashed potato, gravy, and a lot of meat: sausages, chicken, and most important sucking-pig. Now, THAT is the food I love! Take a look at Jean’s food report: molecularOctoberfest.


Sometimes you take technology for granted. But especially design is something you don’t realize in every situation. And that is a good thing. Good design should work, it should make using technology easier. For example such a complex technological system like the car: you should sit down, start the engine and be able to drive the car (if you have a driving license). And it is very important that the design pleases every four senses (see, hear, smell, touch) and work perfectly together. Here is another quote by Charles Eames, which comes straight to the point: “Eventually, everything connects […] the quality of the connections is the key to quality per se”.

If you understand German be sure to read Philipp’s blog post about the workshop at Studio 5555 (or the English version via the help of google translate).

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It’s all about the details