Ian Callum is an enigma. A man who eschews the typical style cliches, he's put Jaguar on a design path which could significantly decide the future of the brand. The new XJ, XF and the XK are all Callum designs, so the present range has entirely been crafted by him. The upcoming F-Type sports car, which Jaguar has confirmed for production later this year or early in 2013, is also a Callum design.
In many ways, this is fitting for a man, who as a 14-year old boy, sent in some drawings to then Jaguar engineer William Heynes, back in 1968. Heynes in turn was encouraging, suggesting the young boy pursue his dream by studying engineering draughtsmanship and industrial design. Taking this advice to heart, Callum graduated from Glasgow, and is also an alumnus of the prestigious Royal College of Art in London. He worked for Ford from 1979 through to 1990, when he quit to join Tom Walkinshaw at TWR design, moving from a corporate behemoth to essentially a barn project, but he relished the design freedom. As you can see Callum has both - credentials and pedigree.
He was named Design Director for Jaguar in the year 2000, when it was owned by Ford.
Nurturing a brand like Jaguar can never be easy, given its history, its degeneration into near anonymity, and its resurrection, almost Phoenix-like. Here, he shares his thoughts with us in simple, self-assured terms.
Ian Callum with Ratan Tata and Ravi Kant at the 2012 Auto Expo in New Delhi.
AJ. What inspires or influences your designs?
IC. Many things. Furniture, art, cars from the past, Jaguars from the past. It can be just about anything – I’ll grab a pencil and paper and will start scribbling away. To be inspired is inspirational in itself.
AJ. Sometimes, as a designer, you may face a lot of criticism, while you often get a lot of accolades as well. Do these accolades or criticisms affect your subsequent work?
IC. I work from first principles and I am qualified to know when right. Of course, I listen. But no, I don’t think they overly affect what I do. Cars styled by a committee are often bland, faceless. They lack focus, drama, passion – to create something that’s truly special you have to follow your gut feel and take a chance or two. Fortunately, it’s worked for me so far!
AJ. Consumer surveys indicate that while style is important, many car buyers rank other parameters such as fuel efficiency, value for money, service network and resale value above style, when it comes to choosing a new car. Do you buy this logic, or do you think more buyers are influenced by a car’s design than they’d care to admit?
IC. Yes, they are. Design is vital. You could argue that the iPod was not the most technically advanced or cheapest MP3 player on the market – but it didn’t matter. Everyone just wanted one. Logic can’t dictate what is the second biggest purchase of your life – desire has got to play a role. I hope people will love Jaguars – but this must be balanced by reliability, quality and a passionate dealer network.
AJ. The Jaguar XK shares a similar silhouette to the Aston Martin DB9, a car you initially had a hand in designing. How difficult is it to differently interpret what is essentially a similar layout: front engine, rear-drive two-door sports car?
IC. Good question. It’s tough, obviously you need to design a car that’s unmistakably a Jaguar. Cover the badge – does it look like a Jaguar? Yes? Then you’ve succeeded. The two cars will inevitably be similar but they each have their own identity. Same goes for any family hatchback. It’s the design language that makes the difference. Astons are tailored. Jaguars are voluptuous and that is evident in DB9 & XK.
AJ. Designers and engineers often lock horns over form and function. In your opinion, is it important for engineers to have an aesthetic sense, and for designers to have an understanding of engineering principles? Is it always possible to marry the requirements of both, or are compromises inevitable? Can you cite some examples during your career?
IC. Absolutely – a strong relationship with the engineers of the car is vital. There is no point in creating the most wonderful shapes if they can’t be engineered. You’ll just get frustrated! Same goes for cost – I know how much pretty much every major component on our cars costs. This has to play a part.
The Jaguar C-X16 concept pictured here, which will evolve into the new F-Type sportscar, is a design Ian Callum is particularly proud of.
AJ. The recently announced F-Type: will it hold clues to the future of Jaguar design, specifically the new 3 Series / C-Class competitor?
IC. The F-TYPE marks a new evolution of Jaguar design – seen first in the C-X75. Will it be seen on a Jaguar in the future? Difficult to tell, every car has its own identity. You will have to wait and see!
AJ. Designing the C-X75 concept car would have been a very exciting challenge, but how different is the approach when designing purely a concept or show car, vis-à-vis an actual production vehicle?
The C-X16 is actually a good example. Every element of that car was production feasible. This reduces frustration as concept cars often get people excited, only for the resulting production car to be watered-down due to the constraints of the various legal requirements a car has to adhere to.
AJ. The collaboration between Jaguar and Land Rover is increasing. In this sense, do you see a future where similar design elements may be seen on both, or will the two brands always chart their own course in design terms?
IC. No, a Jaguar has to remain a Jaguar – same goes for Land Rover
AJ. In your eyes, which is the most beautiful car ever built? Also, which is your favourite car that you have designed to date?
IC. I’m most proud of my most recent project – the C-X16. It combines the past and the future in a car that I hope will stand the test of time. It’s beautiful, elegant yet purposeful. A proper Jaguar. Other than a Jaguar? The Ferrari 250 GT SWB.
The Ferrari 250 GT SWB, the most beautiful car in Callum's eyes, "other than a Jaguar"!
Jaguar Car Features
As a 14-year old boy, Ian Callum sent in some drawings to then Jaguar engineer William Hynes, back in 1968. Hynes in turn was encouraging, suggesting the young boy pursue his dream by studying engineering draughtsmanship and industrial design.
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