Sandra Sturmat speaks
Becoming ID.

Lighting design: how personality is created

Becoming ID.

Lighting design: how personality is created

The ID.3 is the first Volkswagen that can open its eyes and look at drivers with a friendly face. This was made possible by a completely new and unmistakable light signature. But it’s best to see it for yourself.

What effects does light have on the emotional impact of a vehicle? It can emotionalise, and it can create bonds with people. This makes interaction with the machine easier because it appears more natural. Sandra Sturmat, lighting designer at Volkswagen, is jointly responsible for the lighting design of the ID.3. An interview!

What inspired you the most when developing the ID. family?

At about the same time as the ID.3 project was launched, the company expressed the desire for new exterior lighting content. A small team was formed relatively quickly and focuses on ambient lighting and lighting effects on the exterior. 

We have grown together as a team during the project and Exterior Lighting Effects” has also grown with the ID. family has grown. We can now look back on a remarkable team effort: ID. specific light content and effects which will be a true novelty on the market, an unmistakable signature light which is part of the new brand image along with numerous show cars and series projects incorporating our ideas. None of this would have been possible without the amazing and strong women who have plunged into this new task with me and helped to shape products, processes and the entire topic with their personalities, ideas and dedication. That is why the creation of this fantastic team is my personal highlight.

At what point did you realise that electric mobility is about to make a breakthrough for everyone?

Like probably many people who have never driven an electrically powered vehicle before, I had no idea what the driving experience would be like. Accordingly I did not expect anything special at first. That changed suddenly when I had the chance to drive an e‑Golf for the first time: I was so surprised and thrilled by the direct acceleration and the silent gliding that it immediately made me grin. It already felt so much like the future and really fascinated me. I did not want to get out of the car again because it was so much fun. 

That was an e‑Golf, a vehicle with a classic MQB design. The design of the ID.3 truly lives up to that futuristic sense that the electric drive provides: with a design that is specially geared toward a modular platform (MEB) and – in my opinion – wonderful new features that definitely ignite the emotional spark.

I`m always touched by how light can create an emotional connection between person and vehicle.
Sandra Sturmat
Exterior lights
Volkswagen Design

In detail: which technology do you find most fascinating in the new ID.3

As a lighting designer, I’m naturally a little biased: I’m terribly proud of the lighting design on the exterior, which makes the ID.3 approachable and human. When I approach the vehicle, it wakes up, “opens its eyes” and looks at me. I have experienced this greeting countless times during testing or while working on the timing in the light tunnel, yet the way an emotional relationship suddenly arises between a human and a vehicle moves me every time. This effect requires powerful technology in sensors, headlights and with Keyless Access (the keyless locking and starting system). In addition, the control system and programming are highly complex to ensure that the vehicle looks in the right direction with the right timing.

I am just as enthusiastic about the ID. Light, which our interior colleagues have designed. The very first contact is also immediately human. You no longer feel as though you are interacting with a machine. Instead, the light feedback is truly designed to be so intuitive and emotional that you think you are communicating with a living being.

What was the biggest challenge you faced over the entire course of the project?

For me, the greatest challenge but at the same time the greatest opportunity that the ID.3 project created was the fact that we were allowed to design a completely new type of vehicle – without a predecessor and initially without a framework and very few conditions. This allowed us to approach this project freely and in a highly creative way – at times that was a daunting task but also the dream of any designer. This makes us all part of a completely new product family, a new era for the Volkswagen brand.


What will you take away from this project personally?

As a designer I have a lot of memories of an intense time: many exciting moments and also many moments of friction with others – but these were ultimately important and necessary to achieve this amazing result. Happy moments when something succeeded, moments full of disappointment when a great idea could not be implemented. And also emotions from a very special design process that has shaped the product and the brand as well as the team. In the end, I am proud that I had the opportunity to participate and be part of this.

From a human perspective, a sense of hope remains. Hope that the ID.3 and the reorientation of the brand will win people over and that Volkswagen has taken the step in the right direction. Hope that the necessary infrastructure will quickly be created both politically and in terms of urban development to make electric mobility truly accessible to everyone. And, above all, the hope that people and the environment will benefit from this new mobility.

What significance does the use of light have in your private life? Have you fitted your entire living room at home with optical fibre elements and LED strips?

Not just the living room! I actually have more lamps at home than I can use at the same time. Friends sometimes tease me about my “lamp exhibition” – but, in the end, I “need” them all because I combine different light sources depending on the situation. I am uncomfortable if the lighting does not match my mood.

But they are not LED strips, I am more interested in the classics. From old Putzler crystal lamps, which hung in my parents’ home, to the timeless Artemide Tolomeo. And admittedly: Although all plug sockets are occupied, the next light is already on my wish list: a Luceplan Hope, a dream of refraction effects and reflections. Light has always been a passion of mine, both professionally and privately. Naturally, my lighting concept at home is never finished and I am constantly improving and developing it.

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