Coventry, June 1, 2000 - Jaguar today officially opened the Geoff Lawson Studio dedicated to the exploration of advanced design concepts which could emerge as the Jaguars of the future. The Geoff Lawson Studio, named in memory of Jaguar’s Director of Styling who died last year, is located alongside the main Design Studio at Jaguar’s Engineering Centre at Whitley in Coventry. The Geoff Lawson Studio is under the direction of Julian Thomson, who joined Jaguar in January to head the newly created Advanced Design department. Julian reports to Ian Callum, Jaguar’s Director of Design, who is in charge of the company’s overall design strategy.“The aim of the Advanced Design department is to investigate the far reaching future of Jaguar design in terms of form, language, proportions and structures,” said Callum. “The brief of Julian Thomson and his team is to look at new design concepts and market niches which, far though removed from the Jaguars of today or even tomorrow, could be the realities of Jaguar’s long term future.”
Thomson, who is thirty eight, came to Jaguar from the Volkswagen Group Design Centre in Barcelona, where he was Chief Designer. Previously he was at Lotus, and led the design team that created the Elise sports car. He sees the role of the Geoff Lawson Studio very clearly. “Our job,” is to say “What if?”
The Geoff Lawson Studio, covering 1,080 square metres, features three surface plates, each with two measuring towers. These capture mathematical data from the clay properties from which electronic master surfaces are produced. This information is used to determine engineering feasibility and can be transmitted to the company’s 5-axis C.N.C. milling machines for rapid reproduction of models of any scale.
The building can house a maximum of thirty employees with support facilities including conference room and workshop, protected by a state-of-the-art security system. The viewing garden, which includes a turntable, is situated at the rear of the studio. At the end of this year, the studio facilities will be expanded to include a dedicated paint facility.
Initially, the studio will house a staff of fifteen with an average age of mid to late twenties, with around half recruited from within Jaguar. Most of the incoming staff have experience in the studios of major manufacturers in other parts of the world. Jaguar took a conscious decision to situate the Geoff Lawson Studio in Coventry at the heart of the company’s Design and Engineering Centre to achieve what Julian Thomson calls “ultimately a synergy between engineering and art.”
Looking further ahead than the next model means that designs coming out of the Geoff Lawson Studio can ‘push the envelope’, but Thomson knows that the Jaguar ethos is paramount. “We can be extreme,” he points out, “but we must remember that Jaguar is about purity of function and line. We’re not here to provide flights of fancy.”
The task of the studio will be to explore new technology, both in design and vehicle engineering, and to apply it to both exterior and interior styling concepts. Although the tools available to the designers are among the most advanced in the industry, there is also the opportunity for them to work by more traditional methods. Freedom in the design process will, Thomson feels, lead to a sense of freedom in the designs themselves. As the interior design of the F-type concept proved, Jaguar’s traditional engineering craft skills can complement the most modern engineering and production techniques.The Jaguar design team is eager to develop the benefits of a fully digital workflow, but realize the importance of more traditional techniques where necessary to solve specific problems.
The designers use a combination of traditional and digital sketching techniques (including use of StudioPaint, Photoshop and Painter software). The general workflow involves sketches developed as Alias models, and then milled full size in clay, for further Alias development, or hand modelling in clay.
While most of the designs produced by the advanced studio will remain secret, some may take the spotlight as concept cars at international motor shows. Working on show cars, says Julian Thomson, is exciting for designers. “The inflexible deadline that a show imposes,” he says, “ certainly puts pressure on the people creating the car. But it also encourages spontaneity and that’s good for the creative process and the finished product.”
Jaguar’s Advanced Design team will be starting on its first projects as soon as the opening ceremonies come to an end and will soon be turning design sketches and concepts into full-scale models. Julian stresses that Jaguar will not slavishly follow market trends: “ The S-type sports saloon and the F-type concept roadster demonstrate that. They are both fresh designs but with an absolutely clear Jaguar identity that makes them stand out as something special and immediately identifiable. Neither could be anything but a Jaguar.”
Commenting on the new studio, Jonathan Browning, Jaguar’s Managing Director, said: “Much of our past success stems from the Jaguar hallmarks of prestigious style and richly crafted interiors, which remain vital to our future success. The role of The Geoff Lawson Studio is to develop fresh design concepts which embody greater modernity and innovative technologies and therefore will play a key role in Jaguar’s future. But our customers may rest assured that we will not allow the essential Jaguar design values to be diluted. For us and them, a Jaguar will still be a Jaguar.”
Jaguar and the Royal College of Art: “The Geoff Lawson Jaguar Scholarship”
Jaguar has established an endowed scholarship with the Royal College of Art called “The Geoff Lawson Jaguar Scholarship” to celebrate the achievements of Jaguar’s former Director of Styling. The Scholarship will be awarded in perpetuity on an annual basis to a student or students in the College’s Vehicle Design Course. The first award of the Scholarship is for the academic year 2000/2001, and was announced at the Jaguar Advanced studio opening. The scholarship was presented to Coventry University student Ted Mannerfelt by Dale Harrow, Course Leader of the Vehice Design course at the Royal College of Art.
Photos: Brett Patterson