Initial reactions to the Cybertruck have been… mixed? Passionate? The truck is one of the most unique, brutalist, and futuristic designs of any truck to go into production and reactions to it are a good opportunity to examine a few design concepts, or rather the ways in which people react to design.
New things are always met with skepticism and or derision
To do something new and original is almost synonymous WITH RECEIVIN G criticism, derision, and often even anger. People are, fundamentally, resistant to change, therefore to create something new flies directly in the face of human evolution, it’s perhaps even worse if you are trying to iterate on an existing concept. This is precisely why logo redesigns are always so controversial. In the case of the Cybertruck, we all have a set Idea of how a truck should look: the Cybertruck does not look like this. One twitter user said “my four year old drew this”. Quite right, children often draw bizarrely and misshapen versions of everyday objects largely because their conception of how things ought to be, say a truck, is not quite as strong. For adults to do this it takes a bit more work, a bit more bravery to stand against the inevitable onslaught of negative feedback.
Design is largely what you pour into it
I saw a tweet the other day, something to the effect of, “The Cybertruck proves that Elon Musk could quite literally crap on a plate and Tesla fanboys would line up to buy it”. Perhaps a rather mean spirited take, but still not entirely wrong. Fans of Tesla will have a predisposition to like the Cybertruck. As someone who the above user would label a “Tesla fanboy” I have very strong associations with the Tesla company. For me Tesla represents an innovative technology company that entered the market with an extremely ambitious moonshot goal: become a major auto manufacturer, the first US based one in 80+ years, in order to hasten the global transition from fossil fuels. This is really quite a laughable goal, and yet Elon Musk and the team at Tesla have largely made it, and continue to make it happen. Because of my personal feelings about the environment, transportation, and this mission I’m a huge fan of and believer in Tesla. But that’s just me, for others Tesla may represent a reckless company that plays fast and loose with regulations and pushes autonomous vehicle technology forward at a dangerous and untested pace. For some Tesla may represent the Silicon Valley, “technology can solve everything”, over hyped, over promised, over worked bro culture. Those opinions and ideas will largely inform their perception of any new product Tesla releases regardless of how objectively good or bad the design is. There is objectivity in design, but it’s not nearly as important as we make it out to be. Knowing nothing about vehicle design I can’t say if the Cybertruck is objectively good or bad, but lets take logo design for a moment. There are some “best practices” in logo design: logos should work at any size from a favicon in your web browser to the side of a semi truck, logos should work as well in black and white as they do in color, generally the lower polygon count (ie simple shapes) the better. These are some objective rules that can help determine if a logo is “good” or “bad” from a design perspective, although it’s a lot more nuanced than that. Objectively the Nike swoosh may be the best designed logo of all time; however, for me it represents sweatshops and corporate greed. So I’m pouring a lot of my personal bias into that swoosh as is everyone who looks at it.
In 10 years all trucks will look like the Cybertruck or it will be forgotten
This is the natural conclusion of any revolutionary design. It either becomes so popular, joined by so many copycats that the design becomes ubiquitous, or it fades and is quickly replaced by another new and revolutionary design that proves to be more palatable with more broad appeal. Either way it’s worth celebrating the risk taken.