Designer and artist Joey Ruiter has been playing with the aesthetics of vehicles and transportation for a long time. His futuristic, brutally minimal take on vehicles ranging from snowmobiles to motorcycles to bikes to dune buggies are already radical re-imaginings of transport, and now he’s set his austere, potent eye on street cars with his latest work, Consumer.
Consumer is a car, in the sense that it’s based on a conventional automotive platform, has four wheels, and is a machine designed to haul your ass around the paved surfaces of the earth. That’s about where the similarities to most cars ends.
The fundamental design of the Consumer is about distillation down to the absolute basics of form, with an approach taken that deliberately avoids as many conventions of automotive design as possible.
For example, since most auto designers start their designs with the wheels, Ruiter deliberately ignores the wheels as a design element, hiding them almost entirely under the body.
The body itself is an unadorned, matte-black low trapezoidal volume, sort of reminiscent of sliding a Pink Pearl eraser over a desk and pretending it’s a car when you were bored in school.
The front of the Consumer is dominated by a large two-way mirror that both reflects back the environment around it and hides the three bright bands of LEDs behind it. The mirror is angled down enough not to blind other drivers with their own headlights, and is bordered by an air intake duct for the front-mounted engine.
As far as the name goes, Ruiter told Motor1
The overall design gesture, Ruiter says, “consumes everything,” light, darkness, air, and space.
Consumer evokes a lot of different ideas, almost none of which are related to traditional car design. It feels like a Donald Judd sculpture that you can drive, or perhaps what a race of very logical and austere (and wind-tolerant) aliens would develop for their Basic Ground Transport Unit.
It feels as though it comes from the future, but not necessarily a utopian future. A competent, powerful future, sure, but I’m not sure one that’s entirely happy, or even concerned with the concept of happiness.
It’s presence is undeniable, and I’m really quite fascinated by it, mostly because it’s so rare to see an entirely clean-sheet approach to auto design.
Ruiter doesn’t have contempt for traditional automotive design: his website features his lovely Porsche 911 and a clapdoor Lincoln continental he modified, and they’re both pretty stunning, in their own way.
But, as much as I love auto design, I think it’s incredibly valuable to occasionally see takes on the fundamental idea of the car that are as removed as possible from what we find comfortable and familiar.
Consumer manages to do that, consuming not just light/dark, air/space, but also our own, established notions of what a car is.