Designers are always living in the future. Entering our design building you have to fast forward your watch to the year 2025 at least. There’s also a different time zone in every design studio we have around the globe. Future-oriented projects are a great driver for our designers and I think it’s extremely important to provide the sort of environment that is inspiring to our team.
After all, it’s such a cool job – I mean it’s not much different to when we were little boys in the sandbox, playing with toy cars. It’s kind of the same now. We’re creating and building our toys, but they’re just a little bigger and of course more serious. Especially as time goes on and things change even faster.
Change and innovation are crucial keywords. Yes, it’s still a car, but that will change in the future. All brands are affected by this phenomenon – we will not just sell cars, but a holistic experience. Customers will have the option to have a rental-type agreement, and whenever you need it a new black Mercedes-Benz limousine will come autonomously to your front door. The whole ecosystem will be online, and we will have to think about everything that goes along with that. That’s a change that will happen in our business very soon.
Our design philosophy is about Sensual Purity. One of the questions I’m often asked by designers is: What’s most important to you when someone applies to the Mercedes-Benz Design team? We have a very definite idea about this: the most important thing is still the quality of their design work, having their own style, and their ability to connect to the whole company, from engineer to salesperson. People should really understand the brand from past to present, and come up with attractive ideas for the future.
Crucially, I see Mercedes-Benz not just as a car company. Of course we do sell cars, but I see and always have seen Mercedes-Benz as an international luxury brand – this is what we are selling.
We have a great design philosophy that we developed over years and years – Sensual Purity, with its poles of ‘hot and cool’ – and we keep on developing it. Design brings the brand to life. Design is definitely building the brand. I think our design has a very holistic approach that no longer only applies to the products; it applies to the whole world around it.
Together with our marketing colleagues, designers shape the brand, the products and all new digital content. It can build the brands and make them successful – or unsuccessful if you fail. That’s another kind of pressure we have now – failure would cause more than just a bit of bad coverage. The leverage we have acquired in the last few years is because we delivered. We helped make a turnaround possible that, at the time, nobody thought was possible, and we generated a
high value for the company.
We really changed the brand from a traditional brand to a modern luxury brand. The strength of our philosophy is that through different interpretations, the different luxury worlds of individual brand and their products can be created.
For Mercedes-Benz a world of modern luxury is created and for Mercedes-Maybach an experience of ultimate luxury. Mercedes-AMG represents the world of performance luxury and the new brand EQ embodies the world of progressive luxury.
Of course, other cars have four wheels, too, and they probably do everything just as well for their owners, which is to take you from A to B. But people are willing to spend more money on our cars because they fall in love. It’s not only a rational decision due to our standards in comfort, safety and reliability; it’s much more. We are luring them. We create that desire, and desire is something very human, because people love beautiful things. And everything we do is intelligent and beautiful at the same time. Now and in the future, Mercedes-Benz delivers high-end technology and the best design. People are the key to it all.
So what type of person fits in well in design? All types. The more diverse the better. All nationalities, and all characters, which is why we have a great diversity and variety in the design department worldwide. It’s like a big family – this is what I like in our organisation. And most of the people we have hired, including myself, have stayed a long time with us and the brand.
We spend a lot of time together in our lives, a lot of time at work. I really enjoy it. Our organisation is that good because everybody is in the right place according to their profile and talents.
This is why the design machine is working so well right now, like a high-performance F1 engine at high revs. We get a lot of applications, because designers see the amount of freedom we have, and the amount of influence and trust we have as a design organisation within our company. That of course enables us to do special projects, to do really crazy things like the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet, which makes designers happy. Our advanced design show cars seem almost like movie cars, but they are real cars, and we are actually able to build them.
As a designer you have to create fantasy, so we often get inspired by the film industry. Recently I was very excited that the film industry was inspired by us this time, and our Mercedes-Benz AMG Vision Gran Turismo became the car for a superhero in Justice League.
These cars are not just an inspiration for the design team, they enrich our employees all over the world. I think it’s crucial that you are able to have fun, because when you try to force things and you are under pressure you will not perform naturally. However, in my opinion, a certain pressure is always good – actually it’s my job as chief design officer to always keep pushing to the limits, yet to inspire and motivate people.
This interview is from our Car Design Review 5, a beautifully-produced 200-page book published this Spring and containing the past year’s finest concept and production cars, plus trend reports, an in-depth feature on our lifetime achievement award winner, industry legend Wayne Cherry, and interviews with many of the world’s foremost designers. If you’d like more details or the chance to purchase your own copy, go here.