Ford Design Organization Changes Emphasize Future Strategy

The automotive industry is fraught with slow processes that require years to design, develop, fine-tune and bring a vehicle to market. But the industry is on a quest to shorten these development cycles and create cars with a more human-centric approach, as illustrated by a number of initiatives recently undertaken within the Ford design organization.

Following the recent announcement that Amko Leenarts is heading back to Germany as design director for Ford of Europe, industry title Automotive News is reporting that Ford, under the leadership of vice president of design Moray Callum (pictured above), is overhauling its design structure to include more designers responsible for strategy and splitting its team to focus on more specific vehicle formats.

Moving forward, the design leadership team will be split into two distinct camps, one overseeing the design development process of cars and crossover vehicles with another a separate group responsible for trucks, SUVs and commercial vehicles. This has led to the creation of a number of new roles within the company.

Joel Piaskowski (left), global director of design for cars and crossovers; Christopher Svensson (right), global director of design for trucks, SUVs and commercial vehicles

To achieve the organization’s goals of developing vehicles more geared towards specific customer preferences at a faster rate, former Ford of Europe design director Joel Piaskowski will now head up the development of cars and crossovers while colleague Christopher Svensson, former design director for the Americas, has taken a new role as global director of design for trucks, SUVs and commercial vehicles — a group of products that have long been steady profit avenues for the company.

David Woodhouse (right), Lincoln design director and global strategic design director, Ford (photo © Charlotte Bodak); Kemal Curic (left), strategic chief designer, Ford

David Woodhouse, current design director of the Lincoln luxury brand, will now also be responsible for global strategic design, overseeing an expanding team responsible for design strategy as well as advanced, exterior and interior design. Strategic chief designer Kemal Curic (responsible for the 2015 Ford Mustang) has moved to California and will replace Freeman Thomas when he retires at the end of the year. Meanwhile Robert Walker has taken on a new role as exterior strategic design chief from the company’s headquarters in Dearborn. Jason Castriota remains the company’s global advanced design chief, a position he was appointed to last year.

Amko Leenarts (left), design director, Ford of Europe; Robert Walker (right), strategic design chief — exterior, Ford

The changes within Ford’s design organization signal a significant shake-up. Besides the more future-oriented approach geared on developing more customer-oriented products with an eye towards UX, HMI and autonomy, designers such as Leenarts and Walker will be looking at the forthcoming product line from a fresh perspective. Over his long career, Leenarts has focused almost exclusively on interior design in his roles at Ford and PSA, while Walker has mostly worked on interiors for FCA, PSA and GM, and was previously overseeing interior design for Lincoln.

Ford’s design team has expanded considerably in recent times — the team has more than doubled in size in the last five years. The company is also dedicating a lot of resources in developing a new design center at its Dearborn headquarters, which is expected to open in the next few years.


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