Why the Rivian R3 may feel 'more human' than the Tesla Cybertruck

Why the Rivian R3 may feel 'more human' than the Tesla Cybertruck
  • The design of the Rivian R3 offers a warmer vision of the future than Tesla's Cybertruck, Figma's CEO said.

  • Dylan Field suggested that designers are moving from "cyberpunk" to a "solarpunk" aesthetic.

  • Field is far from the first person to criticize the Cybertruck's idiosyncratic appearance.

There are two electric cars that people have been buzzing about recently: the Rivian R3 and the Cybertruck.

But their respective design languages, both featuring a futuristic look, vary greatly.

The CEO of design-software company Figma has a theory as to why that is — the Rivian R3 may represent a shift toward a warm, "solarpunk" design aesthetic in response to the sharp-edged "cyberpunk" vibes found in Tesla's Cybertruck.

That's how Figma CEO Dylan Field described the new Rivian R3 electric crossover on The Verge's Decoder podcast, in an interview at SXSW. He said the R3 reflects a "vision of the future" that is "more human" and less "dystopian" than the Cybertruck.

"It's sort of modern, but it's modern in a sense of it's blended into the environment more rather than trying to stand out as a piece of technology or a piece of architecture," he said, referring to the solarpunk aesthetic.

The Cybertruck is basically all sharp lines and angles — you won't see many curves.SUZANNE CORDEIRO/Getty Images

"I think solarpunk's pretty cool," he continued. "It's more of this optimistic vision of the future, and I like the idea of that, whether that's what is happening or not. Maybe I'm a little bit projecting my own wishes and desires for what I want to see, but yeah, I'm hopeful," he said.

Field — whose company, Figma, develops collaborative graphic design software — suggested that designers are starting to lean away from cyberpunk aesthetics in favor of solarpunk: "I think we're going more in that direction."

The Rivian R3X pictured with bike storage.
The Rivian R3X pictured with bikes mounted to it.Rivian

"Cyberpunk is dystopia, everything's metal and concrete and low poly. It's kind of depressing, but it's also got that edge to it," he said. "Whereas solarpunk is more natural, the architecture is blending with the environment."

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment on Field's remarks.

Rivian, for its part, hasn't said that it designed the R3 with a solarpunk aesthetic in mind. The precise definition of solarpunk is also somewhat fuzzy. Like cyberpunk, it's a notion that emerged from sci-fi literature. Solarpunk often touches on utopian themes involving the embrace of the natural world.

The Cybertruck's distinctive look has been polarizing, to say the least, since it was first announced.

"The aesthetic messaging there is it's kind of a big fuck you to everybody," said one industry expert last year. "And I think that's the point that they're trying to make, especially to Detroit pickup trucks and everybody who would buy one."

For his part, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been enthusiastic about the vehicle, calling it "apocalypse-proof."

His biographer, Walter Isaacson, revealed that Musk vetoed more curvy or conventional designs for the Cybertruck. He posted a photo of a design board from Tesla that showed some earlier concepts.

Isaacson shared a photo with some early designs ideas for the Cybertruck in the background.
Isaacson shared a photo with some early designs ideas for the Cybertruck in the background.Walter Isaacson on Twitter

"'Let's be bold,' he said. 'Let's surprise people,'" Isaacson wrote of Musk's comments on the Cybertruck design.

Getting that unique look of the Cybertruck out of the concept phase and into reality hasn't been easy, though. Musk said last year that the angular, stainless steel design has come with its own production challenges.

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