From Ferraris to hovering taxis: Q& A with Lilium’s new head of Product Design

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Munich-based Lilium, the super-ambitious firm developing an electric vertical take-off and disembark( VTOL ) jet and accompanying “air taxi” service, continues to hire top talent to make its vision a reality. The latest brand-new recruitment is car layout ex-serviceman Frank Stephenson, who has previously worked for Ferrari, Maserati and Mini, to refer but a few.

Considered one of the world’s most renowned and influential automobile designers in recent years, 58 -year-old Stephenson’s portfolio includes iconic layouts such as the BMW X5, New MINI, Ferrari F4 30, Maserati MC1 2 and McLaren P1. Now he’s embarking on contributing the Lilium jet to that list.

Officially starting next month, he’ll be have the responsibility banking a totally new blueprint team to figure both the interior and exterior of the jet-black itself, as well as a design language for the company’s wider infrastructure, including property pads and difference lounges.

In a announcement with Stephenson yesterday morning, I got to ask him why he’s trenched Ferraris for flying taxis, what his new capacity will involve more particularly and to dig a bit deeper into how he thinks about motif and why good designing certainly concerns. A lightly edited transcript of the full Q& A follows.

TC: I don’t know a huge amount about designing gondolas, let alone designing vehicles that can fly. Designing a modern-day gondola involves a heck of a lot of people and designing something like the Lilium jet again implies a whole unit of people. As head of designing, how does your capacity fit into the larger machine of improving a vehicle or” hovering car ?”

So if you have a Michelin-rated eatery and you’ve got to feed 100 parties, you’re going to have quite a few cooks in there and the attendants and everybody else to run the machine. But the chef, the guy that’s got the Michelin suns … gets all the recognition for it. But it’s all the other guys doing the work for him and he’s basically overseeing it and he’s trying to keep everything moving along the right track. That’s kind of what it’s like. I entail, I’m not perhaps your standard type of blueprint director because I like to go into and cook and mix up the stuff extremely. I merely have never been able to stop going my hands dirty. I suspect in that respect, the design directors come across often as prima donnas almost and sit back and watch the people drive and every now and then “says hes” likes it or he doesn’t like it. But I am more of a hands-on type of director.

I like to build small teams. I don’t like vast units because it takes a lot longer to get stuffs done and the vigour sometimes isn’t as strong with a big crew as it is with a smaller crew. You’ve got to work faster and much more focused and much more efficiently to get the amount of production done. So that sort of builds the steam up in the pressure cooker, but if you affection design it’s absolutely the right temperature to be working at. You want to be under pressure to deliver great design. And normally if you think about a blueprint too long, it gets irrigated down and loses that attribute, that pureness that you had at the beginning. So smaller crews tend to come up with better ideas I belief, or more dramatic intuitions, than immense fellowships with huge designing teams.

I don’t placed the brief because that comes from marketing, what commodity segment or what grocery segment the produce should fit. So if they’re telling us to design a two-seater vehicle or a five-seater vehicle or whatever then that grows the specific objectives of the specific characteristics team to deliver in a certain time distance. What I do is I meet with the marketing people, I meet with engineering guys.

The engineering people will lay out which is something we call a container, where all the critical components are for private vehicles. With a gondola it is typically” Where does the passenger and the move sit? Where are the rotates and where is the engine and how much stem or boot seat are we going to have ?” Stuffs like that. And then I cultivate around all those components with the aerodynamic operators, postponement and everything.

What I have to do basically is get the team going with theme new ideas and really innovative breakthrough ideas, because that’s what designers do. They don’t echo stuff, they have to come up with trash that mostly moves the game forward. You’ve got to create within this design team a kind of awesome childlike creativity and spirit perceive. It takes a lot of brainstorming and muse. You sort of mount the color of that kind of feeling within blueprint to get the designers departing and then the mood incomes momentum.

I’m very advanced in the way I imagine — I have to be because of the path motif is geared, you do a lot of computer effort — but I typically make sure that we all start pencil on paper sketching, because that is really the only mode to get a pattern or a spark out of your recollection. If you go through personal computers it loses the human … So I pretty much try to keep the design team on paper as long as possible.

The moment we come up with great minds, we work with engineers. Frequently I try to get architects and designers working together in the same studio or very tightly together so there’s no loss of traction, and to make sure that what we’re doing can be made. We typically form scale prototypes out of clay. We maybe do two, maybe three, different motifs, and as those designs evolve one will get selected as the favorite theme. That goes to full-scale. And then when this clay simulate is ultimately approved by engineering, and approved by commerce, and approved by market, and approved by design, we will recommend that to the CEO and he’ll have a look at it if he hasn’t followed throughout the process, and then that product will become the simulation for prototyping and we’ll take molds off of it and generate the real panels for the car and then it goes into production. Reasonably much that’s it in a nutshell.

As a pattern chairman I have to control everything from the look to the color to the ergonomics to the feasibility of it. And then with Lilium the requirements is very likely to branch out over into what the Lilium port will look like that you access to get into your airplane. So the whole various kinds of context from an aesthetic or emotional point of view.

TC: Impart me more of a sense of the ties between designing and engineering( or way and role )… Aren’t you moderately constrained in your imagination by the science of operating ?

No, that’s what a bad decorator would tell you,” I’m restricted, that’s why the vehicle doesn’t seem as good as it should .” But the facts of the case is he’s to be paid the big bucks to become that thought examination good and if he can’t make it watch good he’s just not good enough. So there’s no excuse in my book for bad motif or anything that seems bad. Perfectly no self-justification. Anything can be made beautiful and should be made advantageous, obviously.

We have to have constraints because safety and engineering require that. If we don’t have restrictions then designers aren’t designers they’re just artists and they’re not doing the job. You can make a pretty depict but if it doesn’t work at the end of the working day then you haven’t really designed anything, you’ve just sucked a moderately picture.

So in terms of limitations, yeah, but that is what does video games so fun for a designer, that you’re working within rules and legislation and restrictions which make it a challenge. That’s why you get good-looking automobiles and other gondolas that don’t seem as good. Like I replied, if there is a beautiful small-scale automobile, why aren’t all small-time automobiles beautiful? It’s a taste concept undoubtedly. Some parties like some patterns, a lot of parties like other intends. But good blueprint is absolutely not subjective. There’s good design and bad layout, and there are a lot of bad designs out there — not to knock them or criticize — but there are principles for good blueprint that designers often learn when they’re being improved. If you don’t refer those laws of good design then you’re not going to have a good design.

Inspiration for good design comes from a lot of different sources, but if you’re looking at brainchild from chic generators like fashion or another type of layout that are in one day and out the next then you’re not gonna have a timeless motif or an iconic pattern. Iconic designs are generally timeless patterns, they last-place eternally. Anything that was designed iconically 40 years ago will still look great 40 times in the future. The design is so good that it just lasts and lasts and final. It is hard to achieve that, but if you use the right type of mental blueprint approach then it’s achievable.

I envision designing vehicles is not harder or easier than designing an aircraft, it’s just obliging the perfectly best make they are able to reach that works well. Frequently if you design something that works exceedingly, very well it looks terrific. If you design something that doesn’t work very well then the specific characteristics doesn’t matter at the end of the day. One of the interesting things is people ever say that form follows operate. I’ve never heard anything more stupid in “peoples lives” because for me form equals capacity. If the make works well, it looks great. There’s nothing in the world that works fantastically well and looks horrific, that combining doesn’t exist. Especially in sort. You look at all these beautiful animals and creatures in sort that work incredibly well, and therein lies the beautiful of quality. Horses and cheetahs and all these amazing animals , none sat down and designed this amazing-looking swine. Evolution caused it to be absolutely fantastic at what it does, and through being splendid at what it does, the result is the look, and that seem is awesome. That same principle is how I feel about layout. If “youre working” very good with the engineers and you generate optimized mixtures, it’s very easy to represent them seem good, it’s almost inherent in that way.

TC: Viewing the Lilium jet … what is the main challenge in your brain of designing what is a new type of transportation ?

My challenge — is simple — is to become the person who gets into the jet not wishes to get out of it. You know. Although he’s reached his end he’ll want to do it again and again and again. The rationale behind that is because all the new generations coming along after the old farts like us are mostly go looking for suffers. They’re not so much geared towards buying materialistic situations. They adore knowledge. And that’s what Lilium is going to be offering, its own experience and a service. And I see that as the future. For me it’s an amazing opportunity to be able to take something from scratch and be developed further into a reality.

It’s always been a sort of science fiction, when you picture The Jetsons, the cartoons and stuffs … it’s like, one day, but not in my lifetime. Well, here’s news for the world, it’s coming before they know it and it’s going to be here extremely, very soon. And these things have to look as amazing as the technology that they’re returning with them.

What I need to do is not just make it an incredible aesthetic exultation to be in, but when you get inside one of these happens you don’t want to get out of it. It’s going to be the experiences that you have when you’re inside this transportation machine. If you could just take such a situation of being inside a vessel, what the fuck is you want to occur there? You want to loosen, you want to train, you want to work, you want to be entertained. All that is now incredibly possible.

I mean all the advances … where everything coming now is digital and so real that you can actually envisage something on the inside being the new wave of entertainment. So mostly you’re in your private seat, you get to turn it into a virtual macrocosm where you’re being transported from A to B or wherever your end is. And within that space in time you’re in the ideal atmosphere. You’re not really sitting outside an aircraft and have to go along for the ride, which is what you do pretty much in a taxi. All the new cloths that are coming about at the moment to its implementation of accommodates, flooring, lighting, buttons, spectacles, image estimate, resounds and temperature ascendancy. You know all the things that we try to shoot into new gondolas as a next stair for luxury, those are just going to become everyday happens the hell is inducing the whole go an incredible experience.

Regretfully they’ll are plenty shorter in duration because of the specific characteristics of the aircraft being you know very high-speed and all that. But it’s kind of like if you can imagine somebody who loves roller coasters they’re always at the end pondering” oh my gosh that was too quick, I want to do this thing again .” That is the kind of positive perceive you should have when you get out of the vehicle.

TC: I saw this documentary a while back that stimulated the notes that the world “were living in” is predominately designed by humans and therefore blueprint can stimulate or transgress our daily events. As a designer, is it really difficult for you living in a world where, let’s face it, a lot of design is horrid ?

Some designers take it as a activity. Other people only live it. And pattern is all about realizing “the worlds” a better place not a prettier residence. That’s[ only] a consequence of constructing it a better place, but forming it a better place is what the end goal “mustve been”. It’s a shame that there aren’t more designers in the world thinking about forming the world a better place.

TC: How did you get this profession? Did they come to you? Were you just like,” I’ve done cars, I want to do something new “?

It was fate, that thing when two disconnected courses unexpectedly collide. I think it was more like that. I’d left McLaren in November 2017 , not because I was forestalled or anything like that but because I remembered there was something bigger than only designing products that nobody actually requires, they are only wanted and miss. What was I doing, I was just clogging up the road networks even more and not drawing the world a better place, perhaps a more exciting neighbourhood, but not socially better. And so I left with my ideas of starting my own design studio, which I’ve been sort of kicking off, in terms of how to improve the world, and then I heard about Lilium and Lilium contacted me.

It was just a match stirred in heaven. It met all my principles of working for an exciting and fantastically innovative companionship from the very beginning. To be able to establish a design district for them with a intend DNA, a design language, the specific characteristics team, the studio. Doing something for the future of mankind. Standing with transportation, but obliging it even better than it ever was. Establishing something science fiction reality.

TC: Are there any specific decorators or layouts that you can point to and say that decorator or commodity has stood the test of age ?

That’s really, really difficult. I can tell you specific concoctions for their aesthetic quality but I consider I have to go deeper than that because you know everybody admires different designers for different reasons. If you could gave two people together that would be da Vinci and Einstein. I intend da Vinci was probably the person because he is not simply could paint and suck and all that but he was also an incredible operator and he figured out how to do these thoughts duty and he wanted things to look great too. So if I could answer person or persons for me “it wouldve been” da Vinci more than anybody else precisely because the person could cover, the guy could engineer. Anything he ever touched was absolutely amazing. He was doing winging machines practice back too. I like his natural approaching. I like people who are really in tune with sort because for me that’s best available inspiration we have. He came up with events that never existed before for the benefit of humanity. Moderately much. If he would have been that kind of guy today he would be the absolutely most breathtaking human being on ground. I’ve got tons of books on his undertakings and him, and everything like that, simply because he’s so inspiring to me.

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