Q&A with Ford Europe

28 October 2014

We get an exclusive interview with Ford’s new European design chief and talk about translating American design for European customers, the tools of the trade, and what the future holds for automotive design

What does your general day to day role at Ford involve?
I’m in the management ranks, overseeing the design, integration of design, what we do here in Europe compared to the global organisation and how we feed into it.

We have face-to-face global design meetings that happen three times a year with all the global design directors, where we share what we’re working on, strategy moving forward, and really focus on the next generation of vehicles.

Joel Piaskowski is in charge of overseeing work in Ford’s Dutton, London and Merkenich studios - the biggest arm of Ford’s seven global design sites outside of its Dearborn headquarters

You’ve reworked some American ‘heritage’ models; are you excited about designing their European counterparts?
There’s great heritage with many of the Ford cars, especially in the UK, like the Fiesta and the Focus. It’s really about developing the visual story with the design DNA.

It’s creating consistency across the range of vehicles - such as the ‘new face of Ford’ - but at the same time we have to evolve our design language and DNA to be fresh and relevant, not only for the times but also against external factors, including our competition from technologies, other OEMs, and new brands, like Tesla.

How is technology changing automotive design?
From a standpoint of Human Machine Interface (HMI) there’s a lot more technological opportunities on the interior of a car. How the passengers interact with the car is a big concern as you’re driving a ‘lethal weapon’. You want to be engaged with technology but in a safe way.

Coming from a styling background, how much do you consider the engineering elements of a design?
We work very collaboratively. Sometimes the innovations come from engineering, and others come from the design department, but also, to bring a car to the road it’s a strong group effort – it’s not one function leading another.

Is it challenging to bring a new car to market?
Cars are one of the, if not THE most, complex products to develop. Think about what goes into a car: technology, all the moving bits and pieces, safety, all complemented by great aesthetics. But great aesthetics don’t come for free necessarily, there’s a lot of ‘bartering’ that needs to take place to find the right balance. It’s a daunting task!

The all-new Ford Mustang 2015, the exterior design of which Joel Piaskowski oversaw

What are your design tool ‘weapons of choice’?
Anything that can make a mark on a piece of paper, and ultimately, the clay modelling.

Computers and technology play a vital role in what we do, but there’s the art or the craft of design, which involves hand modelling of clay models. That’s something that’s called ‘the human touch’, something we feel should be done in clay.

We use 3D scanning to scan the surfaces, bring it into a digital world, regurgitate those back out into a clay model in a process of milling the clay.

We put them on the various courtyards of our facilities around the world, and it’s really important to evaluate a painted 1:1 scale clay model in an outdoor environment where the car lives and breathes.

What products do you wish you could’ve designed?
There’s a number of vehicles I wish I could’ve had a part in designing! Having the experience of working on the 50th anniversary Mustang was absolutely fantastic, one of those childhood dreams. Porsche 911s – pick a year! They’ve all looked fantastic, keeping true to its heritage.

Outside of motoring there’s some really interesting bicycle designs, also watches - beautiful intricacy and another avenue for design to explore - and looking at the interior of a car it’s composition is a multitude of products assembled in a holistic form. It’s exciting.


Win a trip to Cologne to meet Ford’s design team. For more info on our design competition click here

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