We were excited to have Julian Thomson, Director of Advanced Digital Design for Jaguar, speak recently at PSFK CONFERENCE LONDON. Julian’s forward-thinking design concepts have helped realign the brand’s classically-styled designs with ones that are more intelligent, innovative and imaginative. Julian’s work explores how classic style can inform advanced design concepts and he is the responsible for the concept car that Jaguar’s new F-Type is based on.
Can you tell us a little about your role as Director of Advanced Digital Design?
It’s my job to look at the design of all of our white space products. That’s currently designing cars we want to manufacture post‑2017, and up to around 2025. I study all of those concepts and discuss them with the engineers and marketing teams about where we might want the brand to go, what would be the most appropriate product, and how we may actually arrive at a design.
When we think of Jaguar, it conjures some very specific brand values. How do those values translate into design?
Our design values are not confined to a specific shape, mold or alignment. It’s more about trying to grow an emotional connection from the past and place it in a modern context. The next step is to communicate that connection in the language of design.
When we see a person buying a Jaguar, we see them as someone who is buying into a brand with history and a set of values, all of which revolves around beautiful cars that are both innovative and spirited.
In the marketplace, what we are really trying to do is differentiate our offering. There is something special about a customer connecting with a car on an emotional level. That’s very important to Jaguar.
In a way, you’re adapting classic style to meet modern consumer needs. What is the challenge?
In the past, we’ve been famous for producing some fantastic two‑seat sports cars.
For example, the F‑type carries on that lineage, but not in a way where we just try to just redress it and reinvent it in some pastiche way. We want to capture the spirit of the original two‑seat Jaguar, but in a modern context. That has been our thought for years.
The problem really is ‑ for example, when Jaguar did the E‑type back in the day – the type of competition and investment needed to produce these cars really wasn’t there. You could do things with a small team of guys working in a workshop and come up with some great concepts.
Our operation is one of the biggest in the world, but when you’re faced with multi-billion pound investments and timetables of five years and perhaps, 6,000 people involved, it’s difficult to create that same sense of artistry, inspiration and spontaneity. The most difficult part of our jobs is achieving that same level of innovation with a much bigger team and much bigger risk. The question becomes, how do you retain that creativity and spontaneity against such huge numbers of investments in time and people?
Can you give us a hint about the types of innovation you’re considering now?
We’re trying to work through that now. The conclusion we’ve reached is that in terms of how a Jaguar interfaces with the rest of the world, we’re a bit more predictive. We’re a bit understated, but we know, in a very quiet, subtle manner, exactly what our driver or our customer wants.
It’s almost like having a concierge or a butler, in terms of how we connect our car and the customer to the outside world. We are working on a mix of blending luxurious features with the lifestyle of the consumer in a much more subtle and predictive manner.
If you were to imagine an optimistic future based on your work, what would that look like?
One day, driving in a vehicle will almost be like having a concierge or a butler in terms of how we connect our car and the customer to the outside world. Our cars will provide a mix of luxurious features that blends with the lifestyle of the owner in a much more subtle and predictive manner.
For more ideas and inspiration, please join us on November 1st at PSFK CONFERENCE SAN FRANCISCO 2012 bringing together a diverse and stimulating line up of thought leaders, business innovators and future forward creators who will provide a day full of inspiration and actionable insights.