For a single brand, Chevrolet has an exceptionally wide portfolio of vehicles. There are Chevy trucks (including pickups and SUVs), sedans, crossovers and sports cars, many of them entirely different from any of the others – for example, nobody is going to have trouble distinguishing a Silverado from a Corvette. The challenge for the designers is to maintain some form of design consistency – otherwise known as a family design language – across the range.
Chevy has done this in several ways. The one we’re looking at today concerns the tail lights. At first glance, the Bow Tie brand’s lights differ greatly from one model to another, but there is one common element: a horizontal line becoming vertical as it reaches the edge of the body. Although there may be more than one line, and the process may be repeated within a single line, the general feature is always present on modern Chevy vehicles.
Take, for instance, the 2019 Chevy Malibu and 2019 Chevy Blazer: both feature very similar tail light designs. The horizontal-to-vertical transition occurs twice in each case – once on the tail light within the trunk (Malibu) or liftgate (Blazer), and then again on the tail light insert on the main body structure.
The 2021 Chevy Equinox has a different treatment, where the horizontal line is more obviously split in two, and each part does not become vertical until after it had left the liftgate.
The 2020 Chevy Corvette has a more complex tail light design. The division occurs twice within the tail light, and in every transition there are two horizontal lines, one of which stops while the one below it rises up and almost doubles back on itself. This does not occur on the Malibu, Blazer or Equinox, but all four models use the same transition from horizontal to vertical.
More variations on the theme can be found in Chevy trucks. The tail lights of the 2021 Chevy Tahoe SUV and the 2019 Chevy Silverado 1500 pickup – both built on the same body-on-frame T1 platform – do not at first seem related, but the principle remains the same. On the Silverado, the horizontal lines are very short and very widely spaced. They then become vertical (and much longer) after making two 45-degree turns.
By comparison, the change of direction on the 2021 Tahoe is much more abrupt. Chevrolet designers have also acted almost playfully here by mounting the vertical sections inboard, in contrast to the other models. It’s as if they have emphasized the brand’s characteristic styling feature by presenting its exact opposite.
This may seem trivial, but there is a parallel in music: for more than a century, composers have presented a theme and then re-presented it backwards, or upside-down, or both. The material seems different to a casual listener, but unity is preserved. And if it works in a piece of music, why should it not work on Chevy trucks?