GMC LIFE

ILLUMINATING DESIGN: THE ART BEHIND GMC'S SIGNATURE LIGHTING

ILLUMINATING DESIGN: THE ART BEHIND GMC'S SIGNATURE LIGHTING

From C-shaped signature lighting to sculpted lens work within, GMC’s exterior lighting is as much an art form and testament to precision engineering as the vehicle itself.

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From roof rails to rocker sills, from grille to gate - and everything in between, every GMC is designed to be a holistic design that expresses precision. But if any one particular element were to best reflect the GMC’s attention to artistic detail and craftsmanship, it might just be exterior lighting.

"Automotive lamps used to be an afterthought,” says Addam Ebel, GMC Lighting Studio Design Lead. “That couldn’t be further from the truth today. Creating these lamps is an artform – a process of precision that mirrors the level of execution expected throughout a GMC.”

    Decades ago, headlamps and tail lamps were usually simple, fixed forms that vehicle shapes had to be designed around. Today, they’re an integral part of the initial design process for a GMC truck or SUV and play a significant role in shaping the exterior surfacing. The Terrain, with its dramatic headlamps sculpted around the illuminated C-shaped signature lighting, is a perfect example of this synergy.

    “Our lighting design team is now involved with projects at a very advanced stage,” says Ebel. “We work in close collaboration with our colleagues in the exterior and interior design studios once a project is a ‘go.’"

    The lamps themselves are almost miniaturized multimedia art installations, a mixture of sculpted and machined elements, jeweled lenses, projectors, and advanced technology. While GMC’s C-shaped lighting helps provide an identifiable element from hundreds of feet away, designers craft plenty of precise, intricate detail within the lamps themselves, providing an element of delight when inspected up close.

    “Just like our exterior or interior design teams, we create inspiration boards that help guide our thought process,” Ebel says. “Designers tend to find inspiration in everything around us, from tiny, precision-crafted products to large-scale architectural installations. These forms can be mechanical, or voluptuous and ornamental, like a piece of hand-crafted jewelry. These images help us set a mood of what we’re after, and often influence the shape and detail found in the finished product."

    Even once a design direction has been determined, there’s still a lot of work to do before releasing it to the world. Lighting designers work closely with their colleagues on the engineering side to ensure the light patterns produced not only look good, but also perform to a professional grade.

    “Years ago, when lamps generally had a simple, smooth lens surface and a basic reflector behind it, it was pretty straightforward – but as lamps have grown to be a big part of a vehicle’s exterior design, we’ve moved to lenses that are often creased, curved or faceted,” says Ebel.  

    “That’s why we work closely and constantly with engineering to hone our designs. They’ll take a detailed computer model of our design and run computer simulations to see what sort of light patterns we can expect in real-world conditions. They feed that information back to us, and we in turn refine our surfaces to ensure the lamps perform as expected while still looking great."

    Those changes and refinements can be incredibly precise. “We might get feedback that we need to change a subtle texture on an internal surface or move the fillet on an outer lens surface by half a millimeter,” Ebel notes. “From start to finish, you may not see a lot of drastic change, but our team is constantly refining the smallest of details.”  

    Although models like the GMC Acadia and the GMC Terrain have helped advance GMC’s lighting designs, there’s still more interesting work to come in the years ahead – much like the Sierra.

    “We’re always looking at and working with new technologies and looking at ways we can further elevate our craft,” says Ebel. “But whatever we produce further down the road, it will be at a level beyond the high standards GMC has already established today.”

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