Yes, there are cliches about car designers: They wear black jackets and shirts, they admire Bauhaus architecture and minimalist product design and they spend every free minute at furniture and fashion shows to get inspiration.
But Mercedes-Benz design boss Gorden Wagener takes a different approach. There's his view of Bauhaus aesthetics, for instance: "It has created houses that conformed to geometry, not to the needs of humans."
And his take on Dieter Rams, the iconic German industrial designer and mastermind of the ultraclean, functionalist Braun consumer electronics products of the 1960s and 1970s: "My admiration knows limits."
Wagener, in the job since 2008, also says he has little tolerance for artsy furniture that is awkward to use. The 45-year-old dresses more like an executive than a studio artist and he insists -- somewhat surprisingly -- that he has no modern role models when it comes to shaping Mercedes cars of the future. Instead, Wagener says his taste is influenced by classic European cars of the 1930s.
"If there is a direct heritage, it is characterized by vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz 540K, the Adler Autobahnkurier, by streamlined design and the 'dropping line,'" he said. "Compared to our competitors, we have the shoulder line sloping downwards, and that is an inspiration from the 1930s, which was a glorious era in automotive design.
"There was incomparable refinement at that time, a very personal expression, and we always want to capture exactly that," he said.