Audi Design’s secret project: creation of the A7 Sportback inspires advertising
It is one of the most unusual genesis stories in the Audi model family. The A7 Sportback was a design team’s dream project that originated without an order and without a requirements specification – and literally seduced the Board of Management. The creators of the advertising campaign launched as part of the market introduction in late October also took their inspiration from the free creativity behind the luxury-class coupe. Here, too, the story starts with nothing more than a blank sheet of paper.
It sounds like a secret project when the Head of Audi Design, Stefan Sielaff, talks about the birth of the A7 Sportback. In a studio atmosphere, a group of ten designers tried their hands at creating an automotive dream: a gran turismo as a four-door coupe. The idea came from Walter de Silva, today Head of VW Group Design. He wanted to borrow from the Audi 100 S Coupe to create the most unadulterated, purist concept ever. The radical thing about this project is that the company had not placed an order for such a model. No engineer had defined the technical foundation, nobody described the positioning for Marketing. The Audi A7 was created without coordinates, without a requirements specification. In the beginning there was nothing but the line.
“We had the Audi Coupé from the 1960s in front of us – and got crazy. The dynamic window line, the truncated rear end. The silhouette was finished quickly,” says Sielaff. “We experimented for a while, searching for the ideal proportions. Then it clicked.” The A7 Sportback was put down onto paper in an extremely short time, “from an idea and a just a single draft.”
The interior designers filled the draft by De Silva, Sielaff and Jorge Diaz with life: thoroughly sporty, yet elegant, with all the comfort that distinguishes a gran turismo. “We were so convinced of our product that we decided to go all in,” says Sielaff. “With the finished concept under our arms, we marched into the office of the Board of Management – without an appointment. We felt that the model was so radically beautiful that it would seduce them.”
The idea was spot on. The Board of Management was thrilled. And was willing to follow an unusual course of action. It left the script up to the designers. The technical development engineers worked on suitable concepts while the production experts checked the feasibility of the design. The first draft design was “so powerful,” however, “that it remained virtually unchanged throughout the entire process,” explains Sielaff. “We hardly even touched the concept again.” The designers’ dream had to wait its turn to be implemented, however. It would be four years before the time was right for adding it to the Ingolstadt car maker’s model lineup. Before that, it breathed life into its little brother in the B segment. Inspired by the A7 Sportback, the Audi A5 Coupé and the Audi A5 Sportback were launched on the market in 2007 and 2009, respectively.
The birth story of the A7 Sportback was so unusual that it also found its way into the advertising. Lothar Korn, Head of Marketing Communications at AUDI AG, turned to Audi Design at the very start of the communications planning process. “At the briefing meeting with the advertising agency, one of the advertising people spontaneously asked how the A7 ended up being so beautiful. And one of the designers answered that nothing stirs the creative juices like a blank sheet of paper,” says Korn. “With one sentence we had the idea for our spot.” The campaign, which was created in collaboration with the London advertising agency bbh, celebrates the moment of creative inspiration, which in the case of the A7 really did start with a blank sheet of paper. In this case a flash of inspiration was also all the communicators needed. “The concept idea for the Paper Liberation spot is the most spontaneous one we have ever implemented,” says Korn.
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