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I'm working on translating the following text, which is an excerpt from an interview with a car designer:

What’s interesting to me is not just the way car design has changed in the last 24 years, but how my role has changed too. In the past it was much simpler. Packaging and hardware were really the domain of engineering, and designers tended to wrap clothes around what was already a given. Go back another 20 years even, and the role of the designer was very much that of a stylist in its purest form. You were given a set of hardpoints, joined the dots, and tried to make it look pretty.

I'm not sure what the bolded text/word actually mean.

In this context, I guess "clothes" means "piece of cloth for cleaning or covering something" but I'm not sure how it can be used in a car design.

I assume hardpoints are those parts of an aeroplane where you charge military arsenal and dots are, well, dots.

  • Both phrases "hardpoints" and "joined the dots" are literal: There are fixed points around which the "car body design" ("exterior design") flows ("clothing" is a fine metaphor). Joining these fixed points, the design can take a creative shape. – Kris Dec 15 '17 at 7:44
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Clothes is a metaphor for the carbody: an external covering enveloping the mechanical interior just as clothes are draped on the underlying human body.

Hardpoints are literal: fixed ('hard') geometric coordinates ('points') defining the spatial extremities of the engineers' design. The body designer's job was to 'join the dots'—that is, to determine pretty three-dimensional curves passing through those points.

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“Clothes” does not mean “cloth,” but rather, an externally visible surface that has little to do with the underlying substance.

“Joined the dots” appears to be a reference to the children's game of “connect the dots,” in which a puzzle-maker lays out a set of dots (sometimes numbered), and the puzzle-solver has to draw lines between them to reveal a figure.  (Identifying constellations, like the Zodiac figures, from groups of stars is an example of this.)  “You were given a set of hardpoints” means that the engineer specified the design of the car to a high degree of precision, leaving the designer / stylist very little flexibility in terms of what he could add as an outer layer, or otherwise customize.

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    Hardpoints are provisions in the frame for mounting the bodywork. In general engineering parlance, A hardpoint is a location designed to mount something and transfer the something's loads to the frame. – Phil Sweet Sep 16 '17 at 14:09

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