Design Vs. Reliability

By Jack Newcombe

August 9, 2012 4 min read

Move over, Facebook and Twitter. Pinterest is the new craze in social media.

Social networking juggernaut Facebook's mission is "to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected." Twitter takes a different approach to social networking and claims to be "a real-time information network that connects you to the latest stories, ideas, opinions and news about what you find interesting."

On the other hand, the fresh-faced Pinterest "lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web." Share beautiful things. That's it. One of the hottest startups today just focuses on sharing beautiful things. That's how important design and aesthetics are to us; they can be the exact reason venture capitalists pour money into a startup.

When it comes to cars, there are two countries that are known for their designing beautiful automobiles that are Pinterest-worthy: Italy and Germany.

Some of the more famous Italian manufacturers in the U.S. are Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati. Even the names sound expensive. In fact, the minimum purchase price for a new Maserati, the lowest of the three, is more than $100,000. Unless you're playing defensive back for the Dallas Cowboys or starring in a new series on The CW, odds are you can't afford one of these Italian dream machines.

Germany produces high-end cars that similarly focus on design, but its automakers have done a better job of penetrating the U.S. market by making relatively more affordable cars. Three of the major players are Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Audi's A3 ($27,270), BMW's 128i coupe ($31,200) and Mercedes' C250 ($35,350) are fairly priced cars, considering the amount of design and elegance that goes into each model. They are truly beautiful things.

The knock on German cars is that they break down all the time. Some joke that BMW actually stands for "big money waster" or that owning an Audi is like the gift that keeps on giving (to Audi's maintenance department). In fact, BMW actually offers free maintenance for this exact reason. The BMW Maintenance Program covers "all factory-recommended maintenance at no charge for the first four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first, as well as specific items that require replacement due to normal wear and tear."

But there are other countries that produce good cars. Specifically, Japan is a global leader in automobile production. Unlike their German and Italian competitors, Japanese automobile manufacturers are not known for their design but rather known for their reliability. Most notably, Lexus (Toyota) and Acura (Honda) are considered luxury brands in the automotive world. The Acura TSX ($30,020) and the Lexus IS 250 ($33,795) are good examples of luxury cars that are affordably priced and known for rarely having to be serviced.

The reality is that the beauty of German cars and the reliability of Japanese cars are subjective concepts. German cars are reliable enough that people can drive them every day, and Japanese cars are good-looking enough that people are proud when they pull up to the valet.

However, the validity of the stigmas doesn't really matter, because true or not, they force any car buyer to think about what is more important, beauty or reliability.

This concept is not unique to cars. Architects deal with this on a daily basis, trying to maximize the functionality of a space while making it their own. A painting doesn't need to be functional, but an elegant watch that falls off your wrist and shatters is useless, even if it's the most beautiful watch in the world. Walking the line between design and function is every designer's task. If it is done right, it is considered genius and may even get its own board on Pinterest.

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