Role Call

A woman’s place is in the… Design Studio.

Image: The author

Even now, well into the 21st century, the automotive industry and its related fields employ and attract more men than they do women, and the styling studios are no exception. There certainly has been a noticeable influx of women in the design departments over the past few decades: Anne Asensio, Marcy Fisher, Juliane Blasi and Michelle Christensen being a few latterday examples.

Wind back the clock some 90 years however and it was a different environment – and not just within the car industry. It took a determined and strong-willed woman to overcome the prejudice, condescendence, resistance and occasionally, outright hostility she would often confront if she dared enter an arena hitherto considered to be the sole domain of men.

Some of the women presented herein might appear a tad overdressed in period photographs, but it is important to Continue reading “Role Call”

Niels van Roij – in Conversation

Today, we talk to freelance car designer and coachbuilder, Niels van Roij.

(c) nielsvanroij.com

Very graciously, automotive designer, Niels van Roij allowed me an hour of his time to indulge upon subjects such as tailor-made suits, music and of course, the modern coach-built motor car.

Like so many car enthusiasts, the passion begins at an early age. For this author, Matchbox cars and their exaggerated engine and tyre sounds. For Niels however, the pencil and paper called from around the age of four. His mother has kept some of these youthful outpourings though it’s doubtful his infant designs would have bearing on today’s products for reasons discussed later.

Andrew Miles: What the first car that made you Continue reading “Niels van Roij – in Conversation”

In Memoriam – Aldo Brovarone

We salute a departed master of form.

Brovarone’s magnum opus. Prototype Dino 206 GT. Image: stylepark

In an ideal world, the deserving always rise to the top. In such a environment a young stylist might perhaps serve his time, building up a body of work before branching out on his own, culminating with his name atop the doorway of a stand-alone carrozziere. Instead, the name of Aldo Brovarone, who departed the surly bonds of earth in mid-October, remains (outside of enthusiast automotive circles at least) largely unheralded.

Life has never been fair, and despite Brovarone being one of the very best of his era, the reasons for his low-key passing owe as much to the nature of the man as they do to the depth of auto-design apprehension that existed amid the contemporary motoring media.

Should we therefore view Brovarone as simply another in a long line of stylistic talents who mortified their egos to Continue reading “In Memoriam – Aldo Brovarone”

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Spain may not be famous for coachbuilders the way their colleagues to the North and on the opposite side of the Mediterranean are, but that is not to say there were none.

Dodge Serra (c) Autopista es

Pedro Serra Vidal (1926-2017) was born into the automobile business. His father owned a large automotive workshop and coachbuilding business in Barcelona, where the young Serra Vidal learned the trade and gathered the necessary experience.

His talent quickly became obvious and he would go on to Continue reading “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”

Yellow Car-ster

A lemon squeezy concept from Mladá Boleslav. 

All images (c) Škoda storyboard.com

A recent piece of mine mentioned Škoda having a sense of fun with their ghost car prototype from their EGV department. Then I found this. Škoda does have an odd way of giving names to their vehicles; the journalists of the car world (and occasionally those outside it) make mirth mightily with these monikers. There’s no point in naming these magazines or authors as we try to avoid such trivia at Driven to Write. My position is to Continue reading “Yellow Car-ster”

The Problem With Design Academies

Matteo Licata presents an acerbic critique of how automotive design is being taught. 

Not a car…  (c) BMW Group

Looking back at my ten-year stint as a designer and my various collaborations with academies, I’ve come to realize just how much has gone wrong in how the discipline is taught. Have you tried to Google “Behance Car Design Sketch” lately? Please open a new tab and do it. Look carefully at these sketches: do you see realistic, well-detailed wheels, can you see any suspension clearance? Do you see a usable glass area? I bet you don’t. Continue reading “The Problem With Design Academies”

The Riffs of Goodbye

As Jaguar’s Wayne Burgess hefts his amp and packs his guitar case, we ask, is his departure part of a broader trend?

Wayne Burgess
(c) thegoodhub.com

Something is afoot within the European motor industry and in particular, amidst the more creative end of the spectrum. What began as a slow drip is becoming a steady flow as more and more senior design staff depart from secure, well remunerated positions at established carmakers in favour of (for the most part), Chinese upstarts or indeed, start-ups.

Two years ago, it was former BMW and MINI design chief, Anders Warming, who for a comparatively short period re-emerged to Continue reading “The Riffs of Goodbye”

In China They Eat Dogs

Chris Bangle has returned to car design, but isn’t back.

chris-bangle-reds-13
Yes. This is an Automobile. photo (c) CNET

The most influential car designer of the past two decades has returned to the automotive realm. His message is more radical than ever – but his audience is an altogether different one than in the past. We needn’t listen to what he has to say, for we are not his audience anymore. Continue reading “In China They Eat Dogs”

Theme: Glamour – Car Designers

There’s nothing like spending weeks at meetings to discuss technical issues of draft angles, paint finishes and packaging requirements. Car design isn’t all glamour.

Malcolm Ward of Opel explains a design detail: opelpost.com
Malcolm Ward of Opel explains a design detail: opelpost.com

But it has that too. Car designers get to see and shape the future, travel to car shows in nice cities and Detroit and wear striking shirts as well. Like the performing arts, car design mixes episodes of gruelling tedium with bursts of flamboyant style. Creativity is really about doing something very boring for a very long time so that someone else gets a nice visual surprise. The shirts, car shows and interviews are a payoff for all the drudgery that is required up to the point the project is revealed.  Continue reading “Theme: Glamour – Car Designers”

Theme : Concepts – Small Is Beautiful

The 1983 Opel Junior concept marked a new, friendlier frontier in small car design. Its impact was to be lasting. 

opel-junior-05

The 1983 (is it really that old?) Opel Junior was one of the stars of that year’s IAA at Frankfurt, where it debuted. Small and really rather perfectly formed, the little Opel was the work of a team of designers at Opel’s Rüsselsheim styling centre, under the direction of Hideo Kodama. Alongside Kodama was Gert Hildebrand and neophyte, Chris Bangle, who it’s said, was responsible for the concept’s modular interior.  Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Small Is Beautiful”

A Question of Form

Has Centro Stile Fiat ever produced a design of lasting significance?

centro stile alfa romeo
Centro Stile Alfa Romeo (as was).

This is the question I found myself asking following a recent Driven to Write piece on Lorenzo Ramaciotti – (which I urge you to read). Because like many, I held firm to the view that Turin’s fabled carrozzerie were responsible for every design worthy of note. On the other hand, memory can sometimes prove a faulty co-driver, so I did what any self-respecting autophile would do at this point and revisited the Fiat group’s styling back catalogue in a quest for answers. So what I offer here is a list of significant Fiats of the last 50 years and who is believed responsible for their styling.  Continue reading “A Question of Form”