On the side-lines of the Masters of Design program, Ishan got the opportunity to talk to one of the finest automotive designers in the world – Walter De Silva – and pick his brains about his design favourites.
For you personally – amongst your own designs – which is your favourite? Also, which design was the most challenging?
When you have the responsibility of designing a new car – if the concept is new, the idea is new, then it’s obviously more exciting. I remember when we started to design the first Audi Coupe (the A5), it was an exciting moment because you had the opportunity to introduce a lot of new design elements. But show cars – I remember the Bentley Speed Six and the Lamborghini Egoista fondly – are also exciting moments, because you’re given the possibility to undertake a revolution in design. But don’t forget that when somebody tells you that you have to design a new Golf, you start losing sleep at night – because it’s really difficult to design a car like that.
It’s really difficult for the simple reason that less is more! But less is also more complicated when designing a new car. With the Golf’s history and importance, it’s an unbelievable model that you’re given the task of designing. So, I’m considered a lucky man, because, in VW, the Up! was a completely new concept with a nice story behind it while the Golf was a mature car – and I had the opportunity to design both. And of course, in between, a lot of other cars too. At the end of the day, though, whenever you start with a new project it’s exciting because it’s a new project.
Other than the VW Group, what are the other brands that you see with a good design program?
The Koreans. Kia, for instance, has been working very well for quite some time. I believe that Kia’s products have good design. Hyundai is also moving in a nice direction. And now, with Genesis, we’ll also see what they want to achieve with their premium luxury brand. And I know the character of Korean people and the philosophy of their country, and I know that they can do a great job.
It’s also no secret that the Chinese learn very fast, and that’s something that we must respect. I’m not mentioning any specific Chinese brands, because right now there are too many brands – too many start-ups there. But, for sure, they are very intelligent.
For me, in Europe, Mercedes has undergone a good revolution with their design and they’ve started simplifying their design – which is important. And, last but not least, BMW’s products still have very nice proportions and the architecture is very interesting. But, at this moment, they must take care and make some changes. They have nice cars, but I don’t know what they’re doing for the future. Their design approach in lines and surfaces is repetitive, so across their brand the side profile of their cars looks almost the same. In their i-brand we’ll now see what they want to create, but they need to sort out their future design language.
What do you think of the design direction that Land Rover is taking?
Well, I think Land Rover is quite good. But, again, they need to make some major changes. For example, the Evoque was a good revolution for the brand in terms of design. Ten years ago, everyone had started moving towards the SUV segment. And, for me, if I was working for the Land Rover brand, I would move towards doing a Coupe-SUV perhaps – because otherwise you’ll be considered only an SUV manufacturer. And the market is so vast that you should be looking at exploring other product opportunities.