IgnitionLIVE was fortunate to be invited to the recent world launch of the Mercedes-Benz SL in the sunny state of California. While there, Bruce Fraser chatted to Jackson Luttig, a designer at the company’s advanced design division.
Q: The SL has such a rich history, with many famous models. Which is your favourite?
A: It would have to be the original 300SL. It’s iconic in the purest sense. The silhouette, gesture of the fenders and minimalist graphics make it as beautiful as it is timeless.
Q: What, for you, are the standout features of this new model?
A: I think the highlight would have to be the dynamic front-end design. It feeds off the design vocabulary of the AMG GT, adopting a sculptural, three-dimensional grille frame. The attitude of the lamps and powerful side intakes give it a more powerful presence.
Q: What inspires you as a designer?
A: Automotive designers can be inspired by anything, from movies, architecture, product design, or even just the female form (though this is definitely a cliche). I love to take feelings from sci-fi movies and translate them into automotive shapes. Product design is also a fast-moving, cutting-edge source of new shapes, textures and concepts that are great for inspiration.
Q: Often you will be working on projects that will only see fruition in five years’ time. Share some insights of what we can expect from Mercedes-Benz?
A: Unfortunately, I can’t say much except that our designers are constantly looking for new ways to express emotion in a three-dimensional shape.
Q: Has the way of designing cars changed a lot over the years?
A: Exterior car design has changed most noticeably with the addition of programs like Photoshop, Alias, Maya, and other software that we use as design tools. These programs have made designing/modelling more efficient. At the same time, our studio still relies on the oldest tools, like clay-modelling (by hand) and sketching on paper. These techniques seem to be the foundation that will always be present in automotive design.
Q: What is your all-time favourite car and why?
A: It would have to be the Lamborghini Countach. It probably has something to do with having grown up in the ’80s, idolising this car as a kid. The simple wedge shape and the proportions are awesome, while the crude details make it somehow endearing. This car slightly beats the 300SL in my favorites and has much to do with sentimental reasons.
Q: Explain how the satellite design studio principle works?
A: Our Carlsbad satellite studio (in California) works to support the headquarters in Germany. We participate in both advanced, and production projects. In some projects we are competing with our colleagues in Germany, and in others we simply support them with design ideas and solutions when needed. Our task is to feed off our different location and culture, to provide styling ideas from a different perspective.