ATSUGI, Japan -- In a world of digital design, old-school clay models may seem an anachronism that will someday fade away. But Infiniti's top designer says the iconic modeling medium is here to stay.
Alfonso Albaisa, 51, who has spent nearly three decades in design at Nissan Motor Co. and its premium Infiniti brand, says there will always be a need for both clay and computers when conceiving and crafting cars.
If anything, the young stylists coming out of design schools these days are perhaps too skewed toward the two-dimensional digital world, Albaisa told Automotive News.
"A lot of the young kids are in this bubble and a little bit less adventurous in clay. A little timid," said the American designer, who now serves as global design chief at Infiniti.
The familiar red clay used to sculpt full-size tangible models, by contrast, evokes "artistry," he said. It is also more democratic because it does not require specialized computer training.
"It's like a community thing. You have professional modelers and designers and corporate vice presidents who physically can jump in," Albaisa says. "Whereas in the digital [realm], there is such a level of expertise. To make very basic surfaces, you're a genius basically."
Clay enables, on the one hand, more experimentation with free-form creativity. On the other hand, it also allows leeway to veer into questionable designs a software program might snub.
"Clay is much more linked to our brain. We can make terrible shapes in clay because we're free to do it. The computer will reject some things," Albaisa said.