Christopher Svensson on the Future of Ford Design

There’s been a lot of changes going on at Ford Design since the Moray Callum was promoted to replace J Mays as Vice President of Design. Obviously this has created an organizational shift in design leadership and the appointment of a successor to take on Callum’s previous responsibilities was in order. Longtime Ford designer Christopher Svensson filled that role.

Svensson began his career at Ford in 1992. He will now be in charge of overseeing all exterior and interior design within the Ford brand’s design organization, reporting to Moray Callum as he did in his most recent role as exterior design director. But in the reshuffle, there have also been some changes in responsibility.

“With Moray I think we expect a little bit more of a challenge in terms of pushing the boundaries of where design is going to go.”

“When [Moray Callum] held this position, [he] also had the Lincoln brand under his arm. But because we just made an announcement on a change in the Lincoln design leadership we felt we needed to give that some breathing space,” Svensson told Form Trends in an exclusive interview.

“I will be responsible for the Ford brand so that would be exteriors and interiors, cars, trucks, SUVs, but not the Lincoln brand. That will be dealt with by David Woodhouse.”

David Woodhouse most recently worked in Ford’s London-based think tank, Ingenie, but was appointed to succeed Max Wolff as Lincoln’s design director. Wolff has since taken on the role of chief designer for the luxury brand.

But even without overseeing the Lincoln brand, Svensson still has a lot on his plate. He’ll be responsible for the roughly 550 Ford creatives employed at the automaker’s North America design studio in Dearborn, MI, and the design center in Camaçari, Brazil, a studio built to gauge consumer preference in the growing South American market.

Over his career, Brazil is the only design studio Svensson has not worked in. He started out in Ford’s European studio in Germany, worked his way up to become design director in Australia and has been in North America for the last year. He sees his role as a way to impart the knowledge he has gained through his global experience.

Ford Mustang (2015)

“As you see with the Mustang, we’re starting to create products in North America that also become global products, that we’ll want to sell in other regions other than just North America. So someone with global experience I think is critical,” Svensson said.

Svensson doesn’t think there will be many changes in Ford’s design vision with Callum at the helm. The future product plan is already in motion and he’s confident in what’s in the pipeline. But the execution might be one of the areas where Callum stands to make his mark.

“I think Moray has a slightly different take than J,” Svensson said. “He also has a rich history of working for Ford and Mazda and I think he might challenge the design teams a little bit more. J was very focused on building brand and he’s instilled that in all of us. Quality and craftsmanship was foremost for J. We all have that knowledge now. It’s part of our DNA. With Moray I think we expect a little bit more of a challenge in terms of pushing the boundaries of where design is going to go.”

Curious? We were. So we asked Svensson to bring out his crystal ball and take us through the future.

“I think that there’s a landscape change in how people expect interiors to be executed in the future,” Svensson imparted. “That’s going to be a big challenge for us and that’s why we’ve brought people like Amko [Leenarts, Global Design Director for Interiors] in to give us a fresh perspective.

“A good team is really critical to ensuring that you’re able to produce great products,” added Svensson. “We want to build strength in all of our regions so that’s something that’s going to be key for me as well, to ensure that we have the right strengths in different regions to be able to deliver.”

“I want to understand how we can improve execution, improve quality and offer a little bit more choice in terms of design bandwith when we go to review.”

“North America, as a design organization, needs to become the epicenter of business so I really want to improve our processes and build on our strengths of the skill mix that we have here. I want to understand how we can improve execution, improve quality and offer a little bit more choice in terms of design bandwith when we go to review as well.”

Clearly Svensson is well aware of some of the challenges he faces in the current automotive design landscape. With automakers in developing markets such as China that could soon begin selling their products globally, competition is fierce. So too is the ability to progress a design from a concept through to final production whilst keeping a keen eye on cost.

“One of the challenges that I have as I move forward is understanding that balance between the creative and the feasible and understanding how to push that forward,” said Svensson. “I’ve been at both ends. I’ve been at one end doing concept cars and I’ve been at the other end doing commercial vehicles and delivering function-led design to real world customers. I’ve had that experience in my career. I think that’s probably critical.”


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