This talk was part of PSFK Conference London 2012

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Julian Thomson, Head of Jaguar Advanced Design, has no shortage of professional experience or talent — he has worked for many notable automotive companies, including Ford, Lotus, BMW, Volkswagon and Audi, among others. At PSFK CONFERENCE LONDON, Thomson did, however, cite a lack of innovation within his field. In the past eight years, he has worked to overcome static design and helped rebuild the company by looking to their heritage and values for innovative inspiration.

Thomson addressed the ever-present concern of maintaining a company’s image and retaining vigor, while working within a modern context. How should companies do this? Most importantly, he says, by first creating a design language and challenging design cues. Companies like Jaguar are constantly looking at what makes cars beautiful (proportions, surfaces, shapes, continuous lines) – creating these emotional connections are important,  but it’s the ability to make the car engaging and interactive that attracts customer and industry attention.

Jaguar devotes a lot of time and money to their designers, who are given many opportunities to explore and create concepts. This includes an unhampered design process, material and electronic resources and an annual project which allows them to create working concept cars. This keeps the designs fresh and relevant and oftentimes, the department will incorporate mock-ups into the production line.

Some highlights from the talk:

  • Emotional connections between the producer and the consumer are what companies should strive for.
  • Design cues are meant to be challenged; create a new language to express new ideas.
  • Each car model takes 4-5 years to develop, employing 5,000+ engineers.
  • By making true-to-size models, designers are able to better experience the vehicle.
  • Don’t squelch the creativity of designers – encourage it and provide platforms for individual innovation.