Information on the mechanization of agriculture, gardening, components and multifunctionality.

When design marries efficiency

One eye for beauty and the other for construction requirements: major brands embrace aesthetics. Design, linked to the functionality of the tractor, has become an increasingly important purchasing driver

by Roberto Buonaora
March - April 2023 | Back

Beautiful and possible. The tractor of the 2000s cannot do without aesthetics. Aesthetics not as an end in itself, but linked to the tractor’s functionality. With solutions that on the one hand appeal to the eye, and on the other meet the user's operational requirements.

And to those who object that attention to aesthetics is a whim of the few, one can reply that by now all manufacturers have internal sections expressly dedicated to style and design or important collaborations with top architects and design studios.

A few years ago, in 1957, the Castiglioni brothers, Achille and Pier Giacomo, started from the tractor, or rather from inside the cab, from the seat, to create one of the cult objects in the design of the economic boom years, the Mezzadro Stool.

The years went by, the situation turned upside down and gradually farm machinery became the focus of attention for designers. Thus corners and rectangular shapes have given way to rounded, tapered lines. Traditional lights are gradually disappearing and LEDs are becoming predominant.

And the cab, both inside and out, becomes almost a trademark: the shaping of the load-bearing glass and the 'nose' of the tractor are a sign of recognisability that matches the interior, where the designers' game is played on the multifunctional armrests and the evolution and stylisation of the computer equipment.

Add to this what we might call functional creativity. That is, trying to fit all the beauty of a tractor into limited spaces without making the machine lose efficiency.

The last few years have been significant. One thinks of the design effort in the specialised sector to adapt engines to the stringent emission regulations, without abnormally increasing the size of the machines and, it goes without saying, without diminishing their manoeuvrability and functionality.

And the challenges continue as the electrification process continues at a fast pace and, with different timing and solutions, all manufacturers are developing ad hoc machines. Perhaps, as the head of Argo Tractors' Style and Design Centre, Fabio Leonardi, recalled some time ago, "it is clear that the automotive world is moving towards electrification, which I don't think is yet mature for the tractor as a whole. But some functions are already electrified: in the case of our Rex 4 Electra axle, cab suspension and gearbox management".

Beyond electrification, all the groups are investing in design, looking at the trends of the car that gives it its name and 'adapting' them to the agricultural world. As the tough task of the designer in this sector is to adapt to more limited investments, often dimensions that hamper the development of an idea, and always keeping in mind that the first guideline is the functionality of the product.

And so the world market leader, John Deere, has for many years had a collaboration with the Californian BMW Designworks studio that has found its fullest expression in the 8R tractor and the X9 combine harvester.

To understand the link between manufacturer and designer, the words of Deere's management suffice: "Designworks did not just design a product. It intentionally developed an industrial design language for Deere agricultural equipment. The industrial design language is essentially a guide to unifying design principles - from form to graphics to materials - that will help unify the development of future John Deere solutions. The design applied to the 8R is a turning point: it took several years and several tractor archetypes to arrive at a single design language. That will lead the way."

In addition to their ties with Pininfarina (see the dedicated box), New Holland and Cnh Industrial have long had a collaboration with Ied, the Institute of European Design in Turin, and just a few weeks ago the designs for futuristic coffee harvesting machines created by Ied designers were unveiled. Proposals aimed at deconstructing technical machinery of considerable size to adapt them to smaller plantations. Not a simple styling operation on existing machinery, but a research and definition of innovative layouts and technical solutions, as well as intelligent propulsions and materials with a lower environmental impact.

A niche, no doubt. But further proof of attention to the combination of aesthetics and functionality.

And more. It is impossible not to mention the close relationship between the Sdf group and Giorgetto Giugiaro's Italdesign.

A close relationship since the 1990s that led to the design of the Antares, but which ten years ago, in 2013, found its acme with the Deutz-Fahr 7250 TTV, 'Tractor of the Year' of that year, a 238 hp in which - in the words of the Trattori magazine, organiser of the award - "the touch of Giugiaro is immediately noticeable when admiring the beautiful one-piece bonnet. The design of the rear end, where the new LED light clusters stand out, is remarkable. Italdesign's interventions also addressed the interior, making it more spacious, with even better visibility".

And while we are on the subject, we mustremember that it is precisely the Tractor of the Year that has rewarded the tractors with the best design since 1998. A section that has been dominated over the years by the SDF group, with the various Deutz, Lamborghini and Same brands, but where another brand that has pioneered tractor design and customisation, Valtra, has also found its place.

In addition to the prizes collected over the years (see also box) Valtra was the first to offer user-choice colours and probably went beyond the real development possibilities of the tractor itself at that time.

It was 2011 when the Ant concept, an articulated tractor resembling the shape of an ant, came out of the Finnish factories. So 'beautiful' that it remained ... an exercise in style.

Back in Italy, a few years ago Lombardy-based Bcs, pressing the button of functionality, took the Sky Jump out of its concept tractor guise and put it into production. An atypical tractor characterised by a dual configuration - rubber tyred front end and rubber tracked rear end - capable of giving the machine the same manoeuvrability as a classic tractor, and the same stability and traction as a tracked one. A hybrid set-up, with a bold design, which on the one hand reduces the effect of soil compaction, and on the other optimises operator comfort.

The closing remark is for Antonio Carraro, who has been looking at aesthetics for a long time (it is no coincidence that one of the most frequently used slogans of the Campodarsego-based company is 'the most beautiful tractor in the world'...). But for the near future - and we go back to electrification - the Atena project is developing the new full electric esp tractor in collaboration with Ecothea, a start-up of the Turin Polytechnic specialising in the design of electrified propulsion systems for the off-highway. Where - and we close the circle - designers have no small say.

Compasso d'Oro, agricultural machines in the limelight

In 2022, amidst the chairs, anti-covid masks, futuristic greenhouses and prehensile mechanical arms awarded at the XXVII edition of the Compasso d'Oro, currently the most important industrial design competition in the world, a 'green lightning' emerged from the world of agricultural mechanisation.

The prize was awarded to Merlo's innovative E-Worker (design by Porta, Felici and Contessini, Bessone, Viglietti and Lopez), a telehandler powered 100% by electric batteries. A small machine that respects the environment, able to combine aesthetics and functionality, thanks to its remarkable manoeuvrability in tight spaces combined with reduced operating costs, which are higher in similar models equipped with diesel-powered thermal engines.

Now it's time for the new edition. FederUnacoma and ADI, the Association for Industrial Design, will work together again this year for the ADI Design Index selections. It is a selection of the best Italian design put into production and belonging to any product category, and allows access to the selections for the Compasso d'Oro whose next edition will take place in 2024.

The selection covers all fields of design and innovation: in addition to aesthetic canons, functional design, materials, components, services, research for the company, with a focus on the environmental sustainability of the project.

The agricultural mechanisation sector therefore now has a further opportunity to enhance its product design: companies can therefore participate in the selection for the ADI Design Index, proposing a project/product that they deem worthy of being highlighted.

The Straddle Tractor Concept, the future as seen by New Holland

Pininfarina's hand once again hits the mark. The Straddle Tractor Concept, a co-production of New Holland Agriculture and Pininfarina, won the gold medal at the German Award Design 2023 in the Excellent Product Design category.

The German Design Award is a prestigious award presented by the German Design Council, the German agency for trade marks and design.

Previewed at Sitevi 2021, the Straddle Tractor Concept is a concept specifically designed to meet the needs of narrow vineyards, with rows less than one and a half metres wide, often on steep slopes and small plots. In these conditions, harvesting is done by hand and most of the maintenance work on the vines is done with tractors that literally 'straddle' the rows.

The futuristic design developed by Pininfarina combines safety, comfort and technology: it is inspired by the shape of a Champagne goblet, tall, wide at the top and tapered at the bottom, as a tribute to the excellent winegrowers of regions such as Champagne, Médoc and Burgundy.

The all-glass cab offers the operator visibility to the vineyards and all around and is tilted in the direction of travel, adding dynamism to the whole.

Overall, the vehicle's exterior is characterised by flowing, dynamic car-inspired lines. The open chassis gives it a sporty look.

The interior is accessible through the large single door and features a swivel seat. The use of briarwood contributes to the luxurious feel of the cabin and again links to the customers' business by recalling the wood of wine barrels.

In line with New Holland Agriculture's long-standing and ever-growing commitment to all aspects of sustainable agriculture and the brand's Clean Energy Leader strategy, the concept was created already prepared for electric drive, for a future in which machines will be powered by alternative energies.

Valtra receives Red Dot Design

It is a known fact that Valtra is one of the most aesthetically conscious brands. It was the first, more than 20 years ago, to promote 'customisation' of the tractor colour, which can be chosen by the customer at the time of purchase.

A focus on aesthetics and design that has continued into the first two decades of the 2000s. It is against this backdrop that the Red Dot Design Award 2022, in the Red Dot Product Design award, was won by the latest Valtra tractor series, the fifth-generation N Series. The Red Dot is one of the world's most prestigious design competitions.

The award was achieved thanks to the introduction of a number of new features such as the digital display on the front pillar that offers a completely new view for the user compared to previous controls. The new N Series tractors are also packed with safety-enhancing improvements, such as the new LED daytime running lights.

The fifth-generation N Series was unveiled in 2021 and was designed on the basis of the award-winning fourth generation and customer feedback.


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