Paths Of Glory

The most visual social media network, Instagram, provides car designers with the perfect platform to present their work. Or themselves. 

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Nothing Can Keep Gordenstagram Down

In a sense, Harley Earl was too early (no pun intended). If he’d waited three quarters of a century before pursuing his career as chief designer and PR innovator, he wouldn’t have needed lavish GM roadshows and the likes to showcase the fruit of his and his underlings’ labour. He could just sign up with Instagram instead.

For those unacquainted with this particular platform, it may be worthwhile to learn that Instagram is all about pictures. Those who join post pictures, mostly accompanied by comments, depicting whatever tickles their fancy. Which makes this the perfect online outlet for those preoccupied with matters of visual appearance.

Walter de‘ Silva (@walterdesilvacars)

Proving that reputations are hard to shake off even in the digital realm, former VAG chief designer (now penning shoes and consulting EDAG), Walter de’ Silva, remains very keen indeed to take credit whenever he feels it’s due. Hence his propensity to post renders of recently launched VAG products, accompanied by the line ‘Design token brand chief designer and Walter De Silva – token VAG brand design studio‘.

An inveterate double poster, de’ Silva also betrays certain grandstanding tendencies by uploading photos of his great past achievements, sketches supposedly depicting his creative process (‘my sketches, my life…’), as well as quite a few portrait photos of himself. And some snapshots from his travels.

This combination of the grand and the mundane, the private and the pompous has so far attracted no more than 1,508 followers. Let’s hope his Instagram isn’t his life…

Mitja Borkert (@mitjaborkert)

Thumbs up for Lamborghini! Plenty of erect digits and even more abundant enthusiasm for his employer have garnered Lamborghini chief designer, Mitja Borkert, some 26,600 followers. He arguably overuses the commercial pilot’s favourite gesture and seems to spend more time with Marcello Gandini than the latter’s grandchildren, but it’s obvious that the Raging Bull is a labour of love for the former Porsche stylist.

Hopefully, he’ll employ his noteworthy drawing skills on behalf of more interesting products than the just unveiled Urus SUV (which was done under his predecessor, Filippo Perini) in the future.

Flavio Manzoni (@flaviomanzoni)

Despite his output as Ferrari chief designer not being terribly impressive, Flavio Manzoni’s Instagram account seems to betray genuine artistic skill and some intellectual scope.

There are, for starters, surprisingly few shots of Ferrari PR events, but plenty of (highly impressive) sketches and paintings instead. Say about him what you like, but Manzoni certainly knows how to wield pen and brush.

Looking past the few ‘me and a celebrity’ snapshots, one isn’t limited to just delve into Manzoni’s treasure trove of sketches and prototype snapshots, but also appreciate his eye when it comes to architecture (he’s, after all, trained in the craft) and the finer details of classic car design and modern art.

Manzoni’s ever so slightly scattershot, but ultimately highly impressive Instagram account is currently of interest to some 5,776 followers.

Frank Stephenson (@frank_stephenson)

Designer of the first Mini developed under BMW, as well was former Fiat and McLaren styling boss, Frank Stephenson, seems to have used some of the freedom that comes with his having become a freelancer to feed his Instagram account.

Despite describing himself as ‘DESIGN DISRUPTOR of Vehicles&Products CREATIVE USER of the Principles of Biomimicry&Emotional Design INTERNATIONAL SPEAKER on Innovation&Inspiration’, Stephenson’s profile could be mistaken for that of a regular car  enthusiast and avid traveller, rather than an industry professional.

Considerably more gifted a photographer than most of of his peers (albeit with a tendency to over-saturate his pictures), Stephenson seems to keenly document his overall lifestyle, rather than his professional life.

This approach, though more about savoir vivre than disruptive creativity,  seems to tickle the fancy of no less than 14,500 Instagram users.

Gilles Vidal (@gillesvidal_official)

The ‘_official’ part in the name of the Peugeot chief designer’s account should be noted, for Monsieur Vidal’s Instagram profile is as corporate as they come. So one can expect plenty of renders, official press photos and sketches, but no holiday destination tipps, kitty photos or even Gilles Vidal with some minor celebrity. Or one of his thumbs pointing upward.

Still, this sober approach has proven to be good enough to entice no less than 36,300 followers.

Ralph Gilles (@ralphgilles)

Ralph Gilles is a pro. Not only due his Netflix fame, courtesy of an episode of the streaming platform’s Abstrakt series devoted to him, FCA’s chief designer can justifiably be described as very savvy when it comes to his media coverage.

It therefore hardly comes as a surprise that Gilles’ Instagram profile is thoroughly entertaining. Next to the car stuff, one will find the odd pizza joint recommendation or Mr & Mrs Gilles dressed up for Halloween. And when it comes to the car stuff, Ralph appears good-natured and enthusiastic, praising the competition when it’s due and giving his staff plenty of credit. And there’s also a photo of him with the Cookie Monster.

Ralph Gilles Instagram profile feels like that of a mate who just happens to be a car designer. With almost 50,000 followers to boot.

Ian Callum (@iscallum)

Despite the appearance of the odd press photo (and his rather high public profile), Jaguar chief designer, Ian Callum’s Instagram account isn’t a very ‘corporate’ affair. He doesn’t share pasta recipes or photos of his morning cuppa, but the odd snapshot from his travels across the globe, not to mention pictures from the past, which, on occasion, even include photos of previously unknown prototypes. The typical ‘me with a celebrity’ photos also crop up, but by and large, Callum On Instagram must be described as a low-key affair, as appreciated by a humble 1,670 followers.

Gorden Wagener (@gorden.wagener)

The Gorden isn’t one to do things by halves, hence the usual hyperbole apply on Instagram, too: 196k followers! Video Advent Calendar! Moving Talking Picturegram!

Gorden Wagener’s profile makes all of his peers’ attempts at an Instagram profile seem amateurish in comparison. He posts videos of him and his colleagues frolicking around a Tischfußball, ’cause Stuttgart Untertürkheim can be just as ironically casual/casually ironic as Berlin-Friedrichshain or Palo Alto, you know? He guides filmed tours through his workplace (which seem to have been edited by an intern whose keenness to serve Gorden far exceeds his talents) and talks directly to his disciples in a code only they fully understand. For Gordenspeak® would sound like English with a strong German accent to us regular folks, if it wasn’t interspersed with what sounds like a clumsy attempt at an ‘murican accent’. How very hot & cool.

Or, in mariia_podlipska1’s inimitable words: ‘World like Mercedes, no World are Mercedes (W are M) – such inspired, unpredictable & perfect. World in which all details are magic…’

So true.


All photos (c) Instagram

The author of this piece runs an obscure motoring site of his own, as well as an Instagram account, of course. 

Author: Christopher Butt

car design critic // runs // contributes to The Road Rat magazine // writes a column for Octane France //

2 thoughts on “Paths Of Glory”

  1. Gordenspeak®: The logical outcome of spending too much time around personal taxation and identity-equality activist, Lewis Hamilton.

  2. The lifestyle and Frank are one. This guy is the real deal in a world of shiny chief designers surfing the waves of talent that ebb and flow in the studios.
    He talks the talk and SWAGGERS!
    I’ll never forget Frank demolishing a breakfast batch purchased in the “Street” at Gaydon in the English Patient days (Thanks Bernhardt, you old wag! Who says that Germans have no sense of humour? Schadenfreude von Bayern Munchen..) egg drips in the keyboard and all, before getting rid of an expensive suit jacket like it came from Primark and strapping on the BIGGEST knife since Crocodile Dundee put the shits up the boys in the hood to go and mark up the R50 clay..
    Good memories!

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