Metamorphosis of a sketch: Gathering the design team
Photo credit: ISTOCKPHOTO
Advanced Product Design senior manager Cliff Wilkins had no interest in doing a concept. He was knee-deep in production work, and it doesn't stop because you're doing a concept.
Wilkins had been supervising Vardis in the advanced studio. He usually worked on exteriors, but he had rendered an interior that blended perfectly with Vardis' sketch. The bosses wanted to use Wilkins' interior design for the show car.
"It's kind of a mixed blessing if somebody says: 'You know what? I'm not sure about that for a production proposal, but why don't you take that and put it in with the concept-car stuff?' " Wilkins recalled.
In the color studio, senior design manager James Parker knew exactly who should handle color and trim responsibilities for the Jeep: designer La Shirl Turner.
Turner had worked on the Hurricane and Gladiator Jeep concepts, as well as the Chrysler Imperial. She would work with Vardis and Wilkins to find fabrics, leathers and other materials, and to research and develop paint colors.
Doug Quigley and his concept design engineers rounded out the team. Quigley's job was to make sure the vehicle was feasible to build and operate. Early on, he contacted Metalcrafters Inc. in Fountain Valley, Calif. Like many Chrysler concepts, this one would be hand-built there.
Quigley is the reality check for designers. "This isn't just a visual property," he said. "It's a fully operating vehicle with all sorts of mechanical requirements and things that have to fit, including people. That's not the designer's problem, and I can't just drop this into Metalcrafters and say: 'Hope all that fits. If it doesn't, come let me know.' "
He assigned a senior engineer, Mike Kornilov, to work directly with Vardis.
The drawing board
With the team in place, Vardis now concentrated on turning his two-dimensional sketch into a three-dimensional drawing using Alias software.
This type of drawing can be rotated and viewed from various angles, so Vardis had to create views not seen on his original sketch. Quigley's staff needed details. How do you open the tailgate? Does it flip down? Is there glass?
Fortunately, Vardis had worked with Alias for years, and he went in with confidence.
Getting the images approved was another story. For instance, Vardis drew what he thought was a beautiful, sculptural body side. But a supervisor complained that it wasn't Jeep-like; it looked more like a Dodge. "I got nailed on that one," Vardis later admitted.
Several reviews later, the Alias sketches were ready for the next step. Vardis turned his work over to the Conceptual Data Development staff. Its job is to refine the graphics, using Catia software to create more detailed surfaces and generate more precise mathematical data.
It was during a review of the Conceptual Data Development images last March that the Trailhawk finally emerged. Creed was there, as were vice presidents Gilles, Tom Tremont and David McKinnon, Jeep studio head Sgalia and Renkert - a veteran of many successful Jeep designs, including the Commander, Compass and Patriot. He was now supervising Vardis on the concept project.
They all sat in a room in front of a big screen and reviewed the grille and headlamps that make up the vehicle's face. Somebody mentioned that it looked like a hawk.
"For the first time, we saw the face and the expression of the car," Renkert recalled. "Suddenly we had a set of eyes and a set of teeth, and we all sat back and said, 'Wow, that's cool,' because the car had an expression.
"It had this slightly furrowed brow, and the first thing we all said was it looked like an eagle or a hawk. It had that sort of attitude about it, a little bit of a scowl to it, which is not typical of Jeep."
Months later, Renkert would give the vehicle its name.
You may e-mail Leslie J. Allen at email@example.com