One design approach, many options

Date: 2018


  • Industrial Design
  • User Experience Design

With “Mother design”, standardisation and choice go hand-in-hand

Partners: Hitachi Rail

Helping train operators to differentiate

In the UK, the rolling stock market is characterised by a large number of train operating companies (TOCs), each with their own brands and business models, and all keen to offer high levels of comfort and quality. In the UK, Hitachi has standardised the exterior design of its AT-Series trains to make its business more efficient by sharing common elements such as extruded body sections.

However, different train operating companies want interior customisation to support their business model and reflect their brand. How can we offer the design choice that customer’s want, while still maintaining competitive lead times, efficient manufacturing and without raising costs?

Easy, efficient customisation

To answer this challenge, Hitachi’s designers developed a modular and repeatable approach to the exterior design of trains that we call “Mother Design” and we are now applying this approach to train interiors. Mother Design aims to reduce delivery time and customisation costs while retaining the Hitachi trademarks of comfort, increased capacity and reduced noise. It starts with the rolling stock itself: the AT-series is manufactured to be easy to customise, with standard furniture and materials that can be customised quickly and efficiently.

What is Mother Design?

Mother Design is a modular and repeatable approach to the exterior design of trains. As a first step, we developed a common styling concept generated from “4 curves and 1 straight line”. Then, we applied this to all our standardised train series, from commuter models to very high-speed trains. To create a clear Hitachi visual identity, we designed essential exterior design elements such as headlights and windows using a minimum number of lines. This styling concept gives our trains a simple and sophisticated appearance that can be easily customised to fit a customer’s brand image.

See it before it’s built

Customers can also use a design configurator, which includes virtual reality (VR) visualisation, to explore different interior designs without the need for sales or engineering resources to become involved. VR is a powerful way to demonstrate the AT platform’s potential and show the effects of branding and engineering modifications before mock-ups are built. We developed the tool by looking at the potential needs of all the different stakeholders: train operating companies, engineers, salespeople, passengers and train staff.

Lower costs, higher impact

The Mother Design approach will reduce lead times during both the bidding and engineering phases. Its influence on rolling stock exteriors has already played a part in Hitachi’s successful bids in the UK and the interior configurator is ready to be used in future bids.

Labs Involved

Design Lab

Contact Lab

Mobility System Lab

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The Team

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