Home » The Widened Tech Honeycomb Will Be The Visual Car Cliché Of The 2020s

The Widened Tech Honeycomb Will Be The Visual Car Cliché Of The 2020s

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Like many of you, I have been greedily and perhaps a little jealously looking at the pictures and videos our boy David Tracy has been sending back from Frankfurt, where he’s at the German Most Fantastich Automowagen Uhf Der Yearenshalussen or whatever they call that event. He’s been driving some fascinating cars we simply don’t get here in America, and while I was looking at one of the pictures of a lineup, something caught my attention. Something oddly familiar. Something I think we need to discuss. Something I call the Widened Tech Honeycomb. Or maybe just “techxagon.”

Here was the picture that triggered these thoughts:

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Chinacars1

Specifically, I noticed a detail on the charming-looking and vaguely Porsche-inspired Ora Punk Cat, the blue one there on the right. This was the detail:

Ora Detail

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See that pattern? That widened honeycomb pattern? It feels like a pattern I’ve been seeing a lot lately, especially as a grille mesh pattern. It feels like a pattern that’s having a moment, and I think the fact that it’s showing up here, on a car that barely has any grille area (though the little grille it does have, down low, has this pattern too) not even on a grille, just molded into the plastic of the bumper cover, is significant.

I looked at the same picture and noticed it shows up on other cars there, too:

Chinacars2

And then this got all of the visual pattern-association parts of my brain firing, which made me realize that the VW Group is very fond of this sort of pattern recently, as it shows up in grilles and lighting design and air intakes all over the lineup:

Vwgroup

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…and then this started me thinking about other carmakers that have been employing widened, more high-tech-looking sorts of honeycomb patterns, and I realized hey, Honda and Hyundai and Kia and Nissan have been at this, too:

Hondahyundaikianissan

And you know what? So have Ford and Chrysler and Chevy and Subaru!

Chevyfordsubaruchrysler

I’m sure there’s more, too. And yes, for some, like the Mustang, there’s some historical precedent to the honeycomb, but the widened, more techy-feeling tone is all early-to-mid-2020s, if you ask me.

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Sometimes it’s not quite a honeycomb-hexagon, sometimes these veer into diamond patterns, but I think they’re all of a family.

I think this may be the defining pattern of the first half of the 2020s. I feel like we’re on the verge of moving into more linear-type of grille meshes, more directional and flowing, like what you see on the Cadillac Lyriq and this MG5, which has both a lower grille with the Widened Tech Honeycomb and a more linear upper grille:

Mg Lyriq

 

So, this is my prediction: when it comes to the early 2020s, this Widened Tech Honeycomb will be the iconic visual that defines the era. When we have whatever the hell we’re going to call the Radwood of the 2020s in the 2060s or whenever (TikTokWood? Midwood? Bussinwood?) this is the pattern that will be the background of the signs and art, like the grids and sunsets are for Radwood.

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Okay. Glad that’s settled.

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Myk El
Myk El
10 months ago

The 2004-06 Pontiac GTO has a hex grill (and scoops for the 05-06 where those came standard). I rather like it.

Jdesigner
Jdesigner
10 months ago

I would like to suggest it started from the designer Daniel Simon (https://danielsimon.com/) You know, the one that created the cars in TRON, the space craft in Oblivion, and designer at Singer Porsche just to name a few, yeah that guy. Since I was in college I remember seeing his work and talking with other students about his signature circle diamond “trademark” that he snuck into just about all of his designs. From there I would like to believe other designers like myself saw it and evolved it into something of their own as a lot of us look up to him. Thus the “techxagontal” period of patterns began!

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
10 months ago
Reply to  Jdesigner

So… I’m an industrial designer, and like everyone in my school had his book, Cosmic Motors. And I know what you’re getting at, but what he did was not a large grill of hex patterns, he would just put a little pattern of it, 2 across, then under that, 3 across, then under that, 2 across, and I’d say it was usually just circles, but could sometimes be hexes. That was his trademark. That little symbol.

NGL I’ve designed a fair amount of stuff at this point and if you go into any dentists office and lift up the chargers for the UV curing wants, you may see some patterns on the venting influenced by Daniel and his book because I shamelessly ripped it off.

Matthew Smith
Matthew Smith
10 months ago

Why can’t automakers create plainly good-looking cars anymore? Its all just too damn much “excitement!”

VanGuy
VanGuy
10 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Smith

To their credit, with aerodynamics leaning so far to optimization (and thus so similar between brands for the respective segments), I feel like changing visual patterns, light arrangements, etc. is some of the only ways they can differentiate them.

Driving at night is more interesting as I get older as the taillight patterns get more varied and exciting (lack of amber turn signals not withstanding).

Torch, I wish I remembered what vehicle it was, but at some point I saw a newish car with its turn signal on (from behind), and it was amber, but the red taillight and brake light on the same side turns off while the turn signal is on. Hated that. Amber turn signal = good but they went the extra mile to make it just a little worse

Like, I don’t even like that DRLs turn off when turn signals are in use (even when they’re separate diodes) but that’s comparatively reasonable to switching off a brake light to use amber turn signals, the whole point is to keep all three brake lights visible while turn signal is in use!

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
10 months ago

Midwood. This era is mid as hell, and that’s being generous. It should be called Midwood.

Last edited 10 months ago by Stef Schrader
Mike Smith
Mike Smith
10 months ago

Agreed, but I’d argue that the ‘floating C pillar’ thing that Nissan (I think?) did first and then everybody else bandwagon’d on to is going to end up aging like fine milk. They’re the padded roof / opera window combo of this decade.

Turkina
Turkina
10 months ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

My 1st gen Toyota Matrix laughs at your “Floating Roof” design. And so does my grandparents’ 1995 Sable (recently gone to the NPR donation bin in the sky).

Paul Brogger
Paul Brogger
10 months ago

Without yet reading, I love “techxagon’.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
10 months ago

This and the goofy headlight shapes (uses latest generation Golf as visual aid) are how QAnon followers signal to each other.

Erik Waiss
Erik Waiss
10 months ago

I mean, as long as I like the car, I’ll drive hexagons and pixels until I’m cold in the ground…

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
10 months ago

ME WANT HONEYCOMB

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
10 months ago

Do they still make Honeycomb cereal?? Man, I gotta get me some now…
Honeycomb’s big, yeah yeah yeah, it’s not small, no, no, no…

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
10 months ago
Reply to  Dar Khorse

Ah, another classic commercial.

A quick search tells me that Honeycomb does still exist, but I haven’t had it in probably 20 years? It’s a good one though, strikes a cereal balance of being sweet but not basically being a dessert (looking at you, delicious Cinnamon Toast Crunch).

Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
10 months ago

I always assumed Lamborghini’s use of the techxagon was because they had so much left over from VW’s.

Anders
Anders
10 months ago

That ID. Buzz hexagon grille with a large gaping hole in the middle for the large, high gloss black sensor, is such an eyesore. Once seen, it cannot be unseen.

Vc-10
Vc-10
10 months ago
Reply to  Anders

They should have hidden it in the badge like the Golf, or in a ‘sensor panel’ like the ID.3 has. It’s not a good look.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
10 months ago
Reply to  Anders

It’s the soul patch.

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
10 months ago

Remember when we all thought Killer Bees were going to spread throughout North America and eliminate the human race? That didn’t really pan out, did it?

Well, consider this phase two of the attack. Killer Bees have figured out how to cluster themselves in a way that takes the human form. These Killer Bee replicants have infiltrated the deepest layers of automotive design departments and incorporated the honeycomb structures into car designs. Once all cars contain the honeycomb feature, various Killer Bee queens will lay eggs in these structures, spreading Killer Bees throughout the world to eventually conquer mankind.

I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
10 months ago

VW is dropping hexagons–the restyled ID.3 and ID.4 have more traditional bumpers.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
10 months ago

And buttons and knobs, reportedly.

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
10 months ago

My 2002 beetle turbo S had it. Had to remove the front fascia to replace the radiator, two days later totaled by an SUV running red.

Highland Green Miata
Highland Green Miata
10 months ago

My 2008 Miata’s “mouth” pattern is all hexagons. Not elongated, but hexagons nevertheless.

Last edited 10 months ago by Highland Green Miata
Dalton
Dalton
10 months ago

Hexagons are just the most efficient shape! The bees know it, we know it!

Goof
Goof
10 months ago
Reply to  Dalton

I came for the CGP Grey reference…

Between this and the cat articles, I think we can all say The Autopian has, “made it’ after all.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  Dalton

For many materials, this is true from a structural standpoint. F1 cars use carbon fiber honeycomb monocoques with integrated safety cells for good reason. In the case of the cars shown above, it is being wasted on the styling zeitgeist dujour.

Steve Lee
Steve Lee
10 months ago

Mini has been using the hexagons as well: https://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/7E4AAOSwflFjtxd4/s-l1600.jpg

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
10 months ago

I’m surprised that Torch doesn’t mention the 1st gen refresh (I think 2009 or 2010) Ford Fusion’s taillights here!

ES
ES
10 months ago

2063’s most plagiarized dissertation at CCS-CCAD: The Eschatology of the Techxagon: A Generation of Designers Memorialize the Last Honey Bee, and Herald the Harrowing of Exxon.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago

I wish the automakers would stop giving us over-stylized BS like this and just focus on a design formula whose primary mission is to give us a combination of efficiency, performance, and operating cost reduction already(at least within the context of the vehicle’s use case). Forget brand identity. Forget conforming to the styling zeitgeist dujour. A good design should NEVER go out of style. This honeycomb BS is IMO ugly and intended to go out of style quickly. It won’t be around in 10 years, garaunteed.

History shows us that the most cherished designs stay timeless and don’t go out of style, and generally are no-bullshit designs. There’s no oversized grilles or fake scoops and vents, nothing is added just for the hell of it, and there’s generally nothing extraneous at all. Consider the Jaguar D-Type, the Lotus Elite, the Alfa Romeo Disco Volante coupe and Tipo 33 Stradale, the Citroen DS and SM, the Porsche 356 and 550 or even 917, the Ferrari 250 GTO, the Mercedes 300 SL gullwing. Many of these are considered works of automotive art, when aesthetics was typically not even their primary goal. In fact, for these cars, aesthetics was often a complete and total afterthought. FUNCTION was their primary design purpose, and the aesthetics came into things on their own. These designs tend to invoke indescribable feelings in the reptilian brain, to such an extent that they never get boring decades after production has totally ceased. You could use these designs today, and they’d still work. You could probably use these designs a century from now, and they’d still work. And THAT is what automakers should be doing, to keep costs down, to assure old cars always have replacement parts by producing the same parts for the new models decades later, to make old cars easily/cheaply restorable and new cars cheaply/easily repairable if they get wrecked, instead of disposable commodities intended to constantly be replaced, on a loan issued at interest.

But no, it’s always about extracting money from people. Car prices are in a sort of upward death spiral as a result, and it will grow ever more worse as resources dwindle. Eventually things will come full circle, and most cars will only be owned and operated by rich people, and we’d all be worse off for it.

One of the things I like about Tesla is that to a limited extent, they buck the zeitgeist. Their Model 3 and Model S largely remain unchanged, AND they still look great. People still buy them. If they mostly leave them unchanged, in the long run, parts will become ubiquitous and cheap as a result. I don’t like that Tesla’s products are tech-laden, over-complicated, and generally unrepairable, but that applies to virtually everything else sold today as well, and unlike most of the rest of the industry, Tesla are doing at least some things right and are generally more forward-thinking regarding the end-life of the vehicle produced, regardless of what you think of Melon.

JC 06Z33
JC 06Z33
10 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

One of the things I’ve always thought is that shapes age much better than details. To the point where I prefer a distinct LACK of details on my cars, as long as they are beautifully-shaped. I suppose that’s basically what you said when you want “no-bullshit designs”, as all of the cars in your list are curvy and voluptuous.

That’s one of the reasons I decided my first (and still current) toy out of college 15 years ago would be the lowly 350z. It’s a pretty boring jelly bean, honestly. But with a few touches like a rear wiper delete, antenna delete, and better-fitting wheels, you’re left with a simple but timeless design that still gets compliments.

Some other cars that are on my short list for this same reason would be an A110, a 987 Cayman S, or a Jaguar XK. I don’t need a thousand vents or the front of my car to look like a Christmas tree at night.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  JC 06Z33

Pretty much what I was getting at. A great shape for a car built to resist planned obsolescence would have extremely slippery aerodynamics as well. For a sports car, consider the Panhard CD Peogeot 66C. It had a drag coefficient of only 0.13, and weighed in at about 1,500 lbs. This Cd value is on the order of university-built solar-powered cars, and it is very difficult to improve upon for a road-going vehicle. If you put an LS1 V8 engine into something like that, it would likely exceed 50 mpg on the highway as long as you kept your foot out of it, and due to the car’s low mass, 30+ mpg city should also be doable. Or with a VW TDI engine, approach or exceed 100 mpg, like Casey Putch’s Omega sports car can do. Or as an EV, only need about 70 Wh/mile to do 70 mph on the highway, much like the similarly slippery Aptera.

And it would still look beautiful, half a century later. You could keep producing the same car, over and over and over, making upgrades not as marketing dictates, but as technology advances, and share a large swathe of parts between old and new models. Bonus points if the vehicle is modular, so that the old cars can have installed newer/improved/upgraded components as old parts wear out or as the owner decides they want an upgrade, completely bypassing any need to buy a new car altogether.

This way, a car built 50 years ago could still be used as a daily, AND be reliable and economical.

It’s stupid, wasteful, and pathetic that no one is doing this. It’s always about the next quarterly report, and little else.

The 350Z you chose is an excellent pick aesthetically. I’m not a fan of them being so heavy, but of the choices available of the time period, it is IMO among the best, and it lends itself well to being cleaned up. It’s aero isn’t horrible either. Cd value was 0.29, which you’ve probably improved it slightly deleting the rear wiper. The engine is also very robust, as are the mechanicals of the car.

I really like the 1st generation Cayman from a design standpoint as well. It is such a clean and elegant design that will never get ugly. Cd value of only 0.29 as well. The generations that came afterward ruined it by adding more bullshit. The car should have been improved by adjusting its proportions and adding minor details to make it more slippery(instead of looking more aggressive). It could be significantly more slippery, without detracting from what it is.

Last edited 10 months ago by Toecutter
ADDvanced
ADDvanced
10 months ago
Reply to  JC 06Z33

Proportions matter most. Most cars have shit proportions.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Most cars are built on platforms appropriate for producing CUVs/SUVs and other trucklets. This greatly limits design possibilities. Modern cars with good proportions are a small list, but among them, I would include the Tesla Model 3, the Alfa Romeo 4C, the Mazda MX5, BMW i8, Porsche Cayman and Taycan, among others. Some of them are a bit large, and might be able to be shrunk a bit to scale.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
10 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

If you think the 300SL gullwing was a feat of function and engineering, not design, man…. you are so far off base. Same with the rest of things you mentioned. There are famous TEAMS of industrial designers behind all those cars. They were also designed to look good, by these industrial designers, before we had impact bumpers, pedestrian crash requirements, MPG requirements, etc etc etc. Basically design was a lot less restrained.

Today, with safety requirements, efficiency/cafe stuff, ped impact, we get a lot of cars that have BAD PROPORTIONS and they try to hide it with creases and textures and random lines, but the proportions are bad and it’s just a game of trying to add enough distraction that people won’t notice.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

I stand corrected. The safety requirements and CAFE do restrict design choices greatly, but trying to hide bad proportions with creases/textures/random lines more often than not doesn’t work, as evidenced by the abominations shown in this article. One problem is that regulations keep changing, which makes consistency over the decades difficult, and we could do with reduced regulatory burdens. Trying to have 0 automotive deaths is a fools errand, and cars got reasonably safe in the 1980s and 1990s to where deaths reduced dramatically from the 1960s. I personally think modern designs would look a lot better cleaned up and more rounded. The Tesla Model 3 avoids most of this and looks fresh today, even though it’s an aging design. It has a clean and simple look to it, which plays well into drag reduction strategies.

Some modern cars have decent, even beautiful proportions, but still end up with all of this extraneous crap to make them as ostentatious as possible. Modern cars have Sagrada Familia Cathedral levels of baroque in them, and it makes them IMO hideous, and quickly obsolete when the next body style comes out with revisions that look totally different on the same set of proportions.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
10 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Yup. Simplicity ages best. Business never ages well. This is why MkIV VW golfs/GTIs still look great, and the 5th, 6th gens look awful. 7th gen was clean and minimal and a great design, but 8th gen is a huge step backwards.

Arch Duke Maxyenko
Arch Duke Maxyenko
10 months ago

It started in the late 90’s with Ford using it on the grilles for the Crown Vic police interceptors and then other Ford trucks and SUVs, then it became Lamborghini’s theme with the introduction of the Sesto Elemento using the Carbon molecular shape and incorporating Hexagons fuckin everywhere. Once Lambo said it was cool then everyone decided to copy their homework.

Also the radwood of the 2020’s will be just called MOOD

Last edited 10 months ago by Arch Duke Maxyenko
Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago

The Sesto Elemento, while IMO very ugly, was the first Lambo to interest me since the Miura, simply because weight was a major design consideration. Most Lambos have been 2-ton pigs, no matter how much “weight saving” carbon fiber they’ve been plastered with. The Sesto Elemento bucked the trend of growing ever heavier, at least.

Aesthetically, like Gandini’s Countach that sparked the angular design language, I hate it. But if it was for sale, it is one of very few Lambos I’d ever consider owning, if I could afford one at least.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
10 months ago

Hyundai had those details everywhere until the latest MY, and Donkerwolcke was at vw/lambo before. Coincidence? Probably.

OnlyFlans
OnlyFlans
10 months ago

This is a much better alternative to the worst design trend of the 2010’s: the dreaded “floating roof” (as I place my hand gently on the shoulders of Nissan and Lexus designers and tell them it’s time to move on).

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