Christophe Dubosc and Benoist Fleury share a passion for automotive lighting design. Christophe, head of design in Valeo’s Visibility Systems Business Group, and Benoist, product marketing director in the same Business Group, have the same goal: to offer automakers high-performance lighting that creates a strong brand identity.
“Like the eyes of people, forward and rear lighting form an essential part of a vehicle's personality."
- What part does style play in the design of automotive lighting systems?
C.D. I work with the research and development teams, liaising closely with researchers and optical engineers. Our aim is to design lighting systems that combine visual appeal, innovation and performance.
- In terms of design, how do lighting systems differ from other automotive systems?
C.D. Lighting systems convey the vehicle’s personality. Studies (Oliver Wyman) show that lighting accounts for a quarter of consumers’ appreciation of a vehicle. They can also convey emotions: headlamps can look like “smiling” eyes, or on the contrary, can have a determined expression, depending on whether they are combined with a fun type of car or a serious sports car.
B.F. Also, in an international market that is increasingly competitive, automakers are looking for ways to stand out. Front and rear lighting can portray the brand identity, and some vehicles are immediately identifiable, even at a great distance.
- How has innovation changed the way you work?
C.D. In the past, technologies available only allowed us to use the light available to meet legal requirements as best we could. Today, with LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes), we have truly revolutionary technology available to us for the first time. In terms of style and compactness, LEDs are opening up new opportunities in design. Using this technology, our teams are able to create lighting with hitherto unrivalled performances, and at prices that meet the specifications of automakers. With these resources, we can create more compact lighting and obtain more illumination in order to shape and enhance the vehicle’s personality.
B.F. LEDs are five times more efficient than halogens and twice as efficient as xenon. For the same price, this power opens up new creative opportunities. At the same time, with these new technologies, lighting has developed similar renewal cycles as computing. Every six months, a new generation of LEDs appears that performs better than the last. This acceleration stimulates our creativity.
- What impact do economic criteria have on your work?
B.F. The greater the budget allocated, the more leeway designers have to create a strong, original look. Some automakers consider lighting systems to be strategic, because they convey their brand image, and so they allocate resources to match these ambitions. This places more value on our work.
- Is your creativity hampered by economic, technical or regulatory constraints?
C.D. On the contrary, these constraints are a source of innovation. They require us to find intelligent solutions. All automotive designers are in the same situation. The challenge is to resolve this equation by being increasingly relevant.
- How do you work with automakers?
C.D. We invite our customers to come and work with us in creative workshops. At these workshops we design a product in real time on computer. Customers go away with 3D visuals of products we have designed during the session. At Valeo, we do the equivalent of couture work for a product that is then mass produced.
B.F. We don’t wait for invitations to tender before meeting people from the automakers. The personal relations built up through these meetings are one of Valeo's strengths.
- What trends do you expect to see emerge in the years ahead?
C.D/B.F. At the last Paris Motor Show, it became very clear that interior lighting was in a really poor state. Yet cabin lighting offers massive opportunities for automakers to differentiate themselves. It enhances the design, the space and the materials. We can imagine many possible applications. The automobile interior could light up as the driver approaches. The door handle could be lit up by a line of colored light. The design of the dashboard could be enhanced by special lighting... The vehicle’s personality will become more pronounced.
A qualified engineering, Christophe Dubosc is also a graduate of L'Institut Supérieur de Design de Valenciennes, one of France’s leading design schools. As the Head of Design in Valeo’s Visibility Systems Business Group, he designs automotive lighting and anticipates the styles of the future.
After more than 15 years spent with the Research and Development teams in the lighting systems and driving assistance fields, Benoist Fleury is now Director of Product Marketing for the Lighting Systems Product Group.