As Jaguar introduces the XK sports car this week at the Frankfurt auto show, the Ian Callum era at the automaker officially begins.
The car is the first production vehicle Callum, who joined Jaguar in 1999, has designed for the struggling British automaker. He spoke last month with Staff Reporter Richard Truett.
What is your design philosophy?
I believe a motor car is tending toward a work of art. It's something you create to enjoy. It's something you create to get a reaction.
Unlike a Francis Bacon painting, a motor car is not there to challenge you. You are going to spend a lot of money on it. Overall, it is there to please you for a very long time. It's got to give pleasure to the observers because the people who own these cars want to know they look good. That's fundamental to my philosophy.
Doesn't it seem as if everyone has an idea of how Jaguars should look?
Before I arrived here, I wasn't aware of the vastness of opinion. It's stretched across demographics. It's stretched across geography.
There's a lot of opinion. I have a strong opinion of what Jaguar is, and the one advantage I have over a lot of people is that I grew up with Jaguars. People do give me opinions, inside and outside the company.
A lot of people at the board level are actually looking toward me for a stronger opinion. Yes, they do have a view, but they are looking toward me for a stronger vision to build their opinions around. It's quite satisfying in a way. It makes me think more about how people perceive what a Jaguar product should be.
How do these many voices affect the way you do your job?
You take in all of these opinions, but at the end of the day you have to sit down and make up your own mind, not just through consensus, but through an actual thought process of what is really correct for the brand.
And once you have made up your own mind, the important thing as a designer is to stick to it.
As you have made that statement, whether it be in a sketch or a model or in the new XK you are about to see, you'll always get opinions thrown at you. You have to respect them, and you have to say, "Yes, I understand."
But if you get swayed too much, you'll end up with mediocrity, which we have no time for.
Where do you get your inspiration for shapes, colors, styles?
I get inspired by other cars. I am a car nut. I am not a car designer. I am a designer and a car designer in equal measure. If I weren't a designer, I would still love cars. I have a huge reference of cars that probably started when I was 3. So that's nearly 50 years of stuff in my head. I can look back in history and really analyze what made something look good or what made it look bad.
The SS Jaguar, for instance, looks fantastic because (Jaguar founder Sir William) Lyons applied three basic lines to that car and said, "That's it, I am going to make these lines gorgeous." When you look at something like that you learn, and that is inspiring. I also like other products that I find pleasurable to look at. Furniture and architecture inspire me.