How do we make the new brand lettering float? And what do theatre spotlights have to do with the new LED headlights of Setra coaches? All the answers from Stefan Handt, Head of Design at Daimler Buses.
“Design is no accident”
Fascinating insights into the new design of Setra coaches.
It’s a door placed in an inconspicuous location, right at the back of the bus and coach testing area: but this gateway to the holy of holies at Daimler Buses is usually hermetically sealed – not everyone can come in. Today, however, it’s open. Upstairs, designers are working on the buses and coaches of tomorrow. We meet Stefan Handt in a conference room on the ground floor. Next to us the bus models, hidden under covers, wait to be revealed.
A new family appearance.
Today, we want to talk to Stefan Handt about design. And, particularly, about the design of the next generation of Setra TopClass and ComfortClass coaches. We are interested in how he gets his ideas and what aspects are important to his work. “Design is no accident”, begins Handt. “Certainly not the design of a bus or coach. It comes about through the interplay of what is already there and is well known, and innovative design elements. Recognisability creates trust. The new, by contrast, is thrilling, stimulating and desirable.”
The best example: the front design. At first glance it is classic Setra: at the second, new, exciting details become more apparent. The Setra brand lettering has now been executed in three-dimensional, brilliant chrome. It almost seems to float above the black front panel. Strips in chrome (TopClass) and matt silver (ComfortClass) frame the area. To the sides, they transition into signal lights combining the indicators, daytime running lights and side marker lights. “This is a symmetrical component,” Handt explains. “The element is the same on the left and the right. This makes it more sustainable to produce, as we save tooling costs.” At the same time it reduces the number of parts, pleasing customers, as replacement parts provision is made easier. “Good design can also be affordable,” Handt grins, pleased.
Headlights like theatrical spotlights.
We leave the studio and approach the vehicle. The Setra TopClass greets its designer in the shimmering shade of “Denim Metallic”. Handt points to the artistically designed Kässbohrer brand plaque, embedded like a gem into the front panel. “It emphasises the pedigree and tradition of the Setra brand,” the head designer asserts. The headlight housing underscores the exclusivity of the brand. Though externally identical to its predecessors, this new version is now set on the inside in black chrome. The design of yet stronger LED lamps (standard in the TopClass, optional in the ComfortClass) “is similar to theatrical spotlights or the sun visor of a high-quality camera lens,” Handt says, indicating a few inspirations.
Design at its best.
The Setra brand has always used special elements when designing its buses and coaches. “We are continuing this tradition in the next generation of the TopClass and ComfortClass,” Handt underlines. For example with the new character element on the sides. Painstakingly brought out in three dimensions, it also has the Setra lettering. The shape of the character element “underlines the dynamics and aerodynamics” of Setra coaches. It increases the sense of value and takes up where the legendary “La Linea” of Setra coaches left off, while further developing this iconic design feature. Here too, connoisseurs can discover fine differentiations: matt silver for the ComfortClass, brilliant chrome for the TopClass.
“The character element underlines the dynamics and aerodynamics of Setra coaches.”
Underlining the claim to premium quality.
Overall, the new generation of Setra coaches stands out for the equally careful and skilful way its development has been driven forward. The clear, modern appearance is striking and self-confident. But one thing is very important to Stefan Handt: “the new design should not make previous Setras look old.” “Nor should it ever lose its modernity and attractiveness at any time during the lifespan of the bus.” This also ensures value retention, another brand characteristic of Setra. And more generally, communicating brand values was very important to Handt in designing the next-generation TopClass and ComfortClass. “The premium quality asserted by Setra is highlighted to an even greater extent here.”
An interior with style.
This becomes even clearer in the interior. The designer accompanies us as we step aboard the TopClass. “Here, we have created the appearance of more space through transparency, Stefan Handt explains. Looking at the new separating walls shows us what he means: generous transparent inserts in tinted satin glass with integrated brand lettering at the top create transparency throughout the passenger compartment, appear to extend the space and “have a more classy appearance”. There are no more hard separations here; separate sections are indicated with a gentle touch. The result is an even more airy passenger compartment, ensuring an incomparable sense of space.
And there’s also a new colour concept for the interior. Fittings and cladding under the windows are now in black throughout, meaning “the exterior and interior are harmonious, like they have been made in one piece,” the designer explains. A further advantage: “the textiles now have more space to breathe.” Against the dark background, the colourful seat upholstery, at Setra often individually designed with great care, pops out.
“We have created a sense of expansiveness through transparency.”
We leave the coach. As if saying goodbye, the bus flashes its indicators once, then the doors close. We return to the design studio. Our talk turns back to the design of the frontage. Does the Setra bus family have more members? Yes! The double-decker also receives the same family resemblance, with indicators in orange. Then, the head designer briefly lifts the covers from a further model – but that is another story.
Fancy more design? You can find further details about the Setra TopClass vehicle design here.
Want to discover more? Here, you can find the vehicle design of the Setra ComfortClass.