There are secrets and then there are secrets. Having been in the car business for over a decade, I can tell you that vehicle manufacturers are some of the most secretive types in the entire world. When they're working on a new vehicle, they keep their lips sealed; even spouses of employees can't get a peek at what's coming in the future. It's like state secrets.
In fact, I've been around parts of GM's famously guarded design building where, if you're lucky enough to get access, you're almost certain to get a shake down for your camera, mobile phone or any other type of device that might be used to capture an image. You sign waivers, promise you won't squeel and eventually you're led to parts of a secret lair where the future of the company is being forged out of metal, clay and a few hundred million computer simulations.
With that in mind we were surprised to see Volvo unlock the door on its next flagship mid-size sedan, the new S60, and give a peek to a plain-clothed citizen. After all, the new sedan won't launch until next year in Europe. The interloper, an artist named Esref Armagan, was given access and invited not only to run his hands over the new vehicle, but paint a picture of it and release it to Facebook.
There's one additional thing you should know about Armagan.
He's been blind since birth.
The Turkish artist uses his hands to "see" his way around the car. In fact, Armagan has become famous for his sense of perspective such that he's been the study of some interesting research projects. The Discovery Channel and Toronto University filmed the artist in one of his creations and marveled at his ability to visualize a perspective in a way that allowed him to create a realistic portrayal. He's painted everything from buildings to U.S. president Bill Clinton.
"I promise I won't look," Armagan said with a smile. "It was an [honor] for me to be asked to do this and I take it as a confirmation of my ability as an artist."
It was even a greater feat when one considers that the artist never painted a car before. His first viewing of the Volvo came months ago at the company's Goteburg, Sweden headquarters. Armagan met Volvo's head designer, Peter Horbury, and had a walkaround of the new metal.
"I'm proud of the new Volvo S60," Horbury said. "It has a much more dynamic and sculpted form than any previous Volvo - it's a very emotive form. That's why this feels like such an exciting project - introducing our forthcoming model to someone as unusual as a blind artist."
The project used an interesting collaboration of the artist and the brand's fans on the internet. While Armagan painted, fans of Volvo on Facebook requested he reveal specific parts of the car. Eventually the entire painting, including the above video, revealed his view of the new S60.
Since then, Volvo released early images of the vehicle which is remarkably similar. Considering that I can barely draw a car with two eyes, I'm dumbfounded at how Armagan can do what he does with none. It's a tribute to his artistry and we applaud Volvo for taking a creative and inspired approach to the launch of a new vehicle.
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