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Jaguar Design Director Ian Callum has an alternate take on autonomous car design!

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Simplicity is key

Last month, Jaguar launched the five-seat E-Pace compact SUV. Positioned as the brand’s most playful model ever, it also saw the brand focusing on a whole new demographic, the aspiring, tech-savvy young. At the launch event, I also had the honor of chatting with Ian Callum, Director of Design at Jaguar. From the designs he sent to Jaguar at age 14 to his personal 1932 American Hot Rod and being a reluctant SUV designer, this is Ian Callum at his candid best.  

Simplicity is key

Last month, Jaguar launched the five-seat E-Pace compact SUV. Positioned as the brand’s most playful model ever, it also saw the brand focusing on a whole new demographic, the aspiring, tech-savvy young. At the launch event, I also had the honor of chatting with Ian Callum, Director of Design at Jaguar. From the designs he sent to Jaguar at age 14 to his personal 1932 American Hot Rod and being a reluctant SUV designer, this is Ian Callum at his candid best.  

You sent your first design to Jaguar at 14. What inspired your early interest in cars? Or was it more an interest on the mechanical side of things?

I have always wanted to be a car designer and my first designs were actually created before the age of five. I always had a fundamental interest in both engineering and the aesthetic in equal values.

What was your dream car growing up, and what would you say it is now?

jcrop-previewI had many dream cars when I was growing up. I loved the Ferrari 250 SWB, the Jaguar E-type and even at a young age I loved American hot rods.  I still love these cars with the same passion and the same values as I did then.

What is the most fun design project you have been part of? Over the years, since you started your career, I’m sure there have been design disappointments, elements in a production car that you would have loved to change if you had the option…

The most fun project that came to fruition was the Jaguar F-TYPE, as it was a true successor to the E-type.  I felt very privileged to be part of the team that created that car and it has moved the brand on hugely since it was launched.   Another fun project which unfortunately did not see the light of day was the C-X75, Jaguar’s hybrid supercar which was capable of enormous speeds and developed with the highest level of technology you can imagine.  Just five were built.

How integral is simplicity to you as a designer? How important is it to maintain a sense of the past to be included with the latest in tech, ever larger touchscreens included?

Simplicity to me is hugely important as it clarifies what you are trying to say.  However, things that are created to look and feel or even sound simple are often the most complicated and take a long time to get right.

The sense of the past in design is important because a brand’s values are based on its heritage and you can’t – and indeed shouldn’t – change these overnight.  But technology has to be at the forefront of any new product, whether this is touchscreens, connectivity, aerodynamics features or indeed anything else to aid efficiency, because the priorities of a car will change as the world moves forward.

jcrop-previewHow do you think the era of autonomous cars will have an impact on car design trends?

Initially autonomy will mean very little other than the control systems of the car will have choice and options. The first stages are crash avoidance and safety, which we already have in many cars.

The next step is the ability to let the car drive itself, with the driver operating from a driving point of view and a non-driving point of view. So various components may move away to allow the driver to have more space for other activities.  But the overall make-up of the car won’t change that much because in its default form it’s still a driving car.

The following stage will be, inevitably, that some cars will have full autonomy and therefore require no driver at any time. But I still think this is going to be quite a way off.  When it happens, we will be designing spaces for four or five people almost in the way you would design a living environment, where they are comfortable and able to do things that you wouldn’t normally do in a conventional car today. The features that will be offered to the occupants will become much more abundant, for example with entertainment – in effect becoming a mobile living room.

However, we have to bear in mind that people will still need to be strapped in and secure, so the idea of designing a vehicle offering free range of mobility inside is very unlikely.

Anil George
Avid follower of all things tech. In between his quest for the ultimate gizmo, Anil fiddles with light meters, collects rare books and feeds his fetish for Jap horror movies. As Managing Editor of T3 Middle East for the GCC, Anil oversees content direction across print and digital. He was a CES 2017 Innovation Awards Judge, reprising his role as an Innovation Awards Judge at CES 2015 and 2016. Reach him at: editor@t3me.com.
@anildotgeorge