Alexander Klatt, former Vice President of Global Design at Fisker Automotive, has assumed a new role as Chair of the MFA Transportation Design program at the College for Creative Studies (CCS).
Both a trained engineer and an automotive designer, Klatt has worked at Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Opel before becoming Creative Director at BMW DesignworksUSA and ultimately joining Fisker. We caught up with him to discuss his new position and find out why he decided take on a role in education.
“During my time at BMW I worked with my team in design and engineering as well as interns, and they always told me I should teach,” Klatt told Form Trends in an exclusive interview. “I think it was my leadership style and my way of sharing my knowledge with them – coaching them and guiding them through their projects – that made them think like this.”
Though Klatt considered a career in education for a while, an opportunity arose when Fisker closed up shop and Geoff Wardle and Stewart Reed approached him to teach at the Art Center College of Design (ACCD). While there, he became aware of the position at CCS and remembered his experience in the Motor City.
“The MFA program focuses not just on the aesthetic qualities of the craft of designing, but also on the academic, theoretical approach of the business, which has a lot to do with understanding a problem and researching facts.”
“We had an office in Detroit during our development of the Karma,” Klatt recalled. “We had a good relationship with suppliers and partners. By thinking about it and talking with the students out there, I remembered that there was a lot of opportunity to work with suppliers and potentially the Big Three on visionary projects.”
Klatt jumped on “the chance to form and build the new generation of designers” and moved his family out to Detroit.
“It was really exciting for me to take this opportunity,” Klatt said, again recalling his time at Fisker. “Throughout the five years I was at Fisker I remember three interns from CCS, which were all great.”
Though the students came from CCS’s diverse undergraduate Transportation Design program, which graduated its first students in 1962, Klatt’s view is that today’s industry calls for a broader understanding of various issues. His new role will see him develop the graduate curriculum and lead the continuous evolution of the program in response to current and future opportunities.
“The future of the car designer education is the Master’s program,” says Klatt, explaining the reasons he is so excited in the next step in his career. “The first part of the shift in technologies or shift in user behaviors or marketplaces has to do with understanding the problems we face. There are certain vehicles and mobility which don’t even exist today, so finding solutions and opportunities by understanding problems is imperative.”
Since starting his career, Klatt has worked as an interior designer, a studio engineer, led strategic design programs and directed new car concepts. He ultimately built up a team of nearly 40 exterior, interior, color and materials and user experience designers as well as clay and digital modelers and fabricators to develop three variations on the Karma and Atlantic platforms.