I'm here to announce a new trend in taillight design, so hold on.
Last night at The Scarlet Bulb, the Southeast's fifth most popular taillight-themed pub, things started to go peculiar. “Something's happening,” mumbled the old alcoholic next to me, a humiliated OEM taillight designer. Unsuspectingly, a woman sat down beside him. A jerk, but right. “It's happening.” Worse, I agreed with them. It's time to talk about what's going on with taillight design.
Aside from the fact that most bars and restaurants have banned me from discussing vehicle lighting, one of the reasons I hang out in taillight bars is to be ready to spot upcoming taillight trends in their early stages, before they become mainstream.
And I believe we've arrived in taillight design, with a new trend emerging: the technosquiggle.
It's been brewing for a while, thanks to new LED design freedoms and improved plastic light diffuser techniques.
Essentially a simple, calligraphic squiggle, but with curves replaced by more geometric, angled lines that lend a high-tech look, derived from (I believe) the way metal traces look on a computer.
New BMW 2-Series and Lotus Emira are two recent examples:
The BMW lights have “three-dimensional sculpting,” which means the technosquiggle is extruded from the plastic housing, above the turn indicator and reverse lamp chambers, which nestle in the technosquiggle tail/brake lamp recesses.
A simple squiggle that looks like a slightly straightened paper clip or the Egyptian feather hieroglyph, rotated sideways, is Lotus' approach.
So often and on so many different cars from all over the world that I think we can call it a trend.
Carmakers have been alluding to strong lighting design with terminology like “lighting signature,” but it's worth noting that there aren't many clusters of orbs, grids of lights, or broad flat expanses of color in these new “lighting signatures,” but there are a lot of thin, sweeping linear patterns.
The 2016 Toyota Prius redesign, which I felt had a terribly overdone design language I was calling Cybaroque, and included taillights that looked like this:
I never liked them, but I believe they are the first widespread example of a technosquiggle taillight design.
It exists. It's happening, and it's good to acknowledge it.
Could this be our generation's Altezza taillights, a modern take on the 1980s and 1990s Solo cup-type brushy squiggle?
Maybe? Maybe. Too early to tell. For now, I'm just happy to watch a movement take off and see how far it goes.