The Inspiration Behind the S90

Consumers know that Volvo is a leader in Scandinavian automotive design, but where do Volvo’s designers look when they want to be inspired?

byThe Foundry at Time Inc.|
The Inspiration Behind the S90

“Boxy suaveness.” That’s the phrase J.D. Power chose in applauding the Volvo S90’s Scandinavian-inspired design. Thomas Ingenlath, Volvo’s Senior Vice President, Design, finds the description “very good.” It’s great to be recognized, because even the smallest details matter to Ingenlath’s designers, who seek inspiration from sources ranging from Scandinavian interior design to a Swedish concert hall.

Understated Elegance

“The influences of Scandinavian design on the exterior are strong,” Ingenlath says. “Clear lines and graphics, elegant curves and surfaces show an expression of understatement.” The design of the S90 is not loud, but subtle and graceful, he adds. “Sensual shapes were — in the tradition of Scandinavian design — an important qualifier, and we cherish this tradition with the exterior of the new S90.”

Diamond-cut Surfaces

To continue this design theme, many of the driver controls in the S90 have a unique metal finish and diamond-cut touch surfaces. “We wanted to create touch points that let our customer know we were committed to the highest level of craftsmanship,” says Tisha Johnson, Senior Director, Design. “We had been looking at patterns on crystal and glass from Sweden,” she adds, noting that “it was natural to bring the diamond-cut motif into these other elements of the interior.”

Home-design Influences

Natural materials like open pore wood play a key role in the S90’s interior, just as it is often used in furniture and interior design in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. “We used a light wood called ‘Linear Walnut’ to express our connection to Scandinavian design,” says Johnson. Ingenlath concurs stating, “The Scandinavian style of our interiors is a hallmark of the recent Volvo design story.”

Sound Planning

For its Premium Sound system created with Swedish audio-software specialists Dirac Research and the British high-end audio company Bowers & Wilkins, Volvo designers meticulously positioned 19 speakers throughout the vehicle. “We believe that the music will sound as if it were being played in a live venue,” says Volvo’s Jonatan Ewald, Audio Attribute Leader. “We have the speakers placed high in the doors and the center speaker is above the dashboard for unprecedented clarity and a crystal-clear treble.” The designers also made sure the vehicle itself was designed for top sound quality. “To minimize any degradation to the speaker performance, the speaker grilles have been made as transparent as possible and the doors have gone through extensive computer modeling to make sure they perform as loudspeaker boxes,” he adds.

Concert-hall Experience

Gothenburg, on the south west coast of Sweden, is Volvo’s home town. The city is also home to the famed Gothenburg Concert Hall, where the Swedish National Orchestra performs. Its large wooden panels “are a classic piece of Gothenburg architecture, and the acoustics are amazing,” Ewald notes, adding that Volvo went to great lengths to capture the acoustic elements of the hall when designing the sound system. “The Gothenburg Concert Hall is a special environment, and we saw an opportunity to deliver a bit of it to each of our customers,” adds Johnson. “We simply wanted to share an exquisite part of the Swedish experience.”