Frank Stephenson has been appointed Head of Product Design for Lilium, a Munich-based aviation startup. His new role is a far cry from his previous position as design director at McLaren Cars, where he presided over a small team of designers dedicated to creating ultimate performance cars. Lilium is currently building electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) jet and robotaxis.
“My last job was as high up as you could be in the car design world,” says Stephenson. “The obvious question was — what next? But it wasn’t one I could easily answer. And then this incredible company — founded by four super-smart young guys — came along and it immediately felt like exactly the right move.”
Now Stephenson is set to build up the ambitious new company’s design team to work on the interior and exterior of the VTOL jet as well as establish a design language for the company’s wider infrastructure, including landing pads and departure lounges.
Stephenson says the objective of his new role is to “develop a design that will make it not just an efficient service but a supremely well-designed one”, and talks about the influence of nature in his work — something we’ve heard him discuss on many occasions.
“I am fascinated by biology and the animal kingdom — and how designers can use nature for inspiration. Nature always wins — things in the natural world are about as perfect as they can be. By using biomimicry, we can design truly exceptional things,” he says.
“Throughout my whole career, I’ve worked hand-in-hand with engineers, using these principles to create vehicles that will be mechanically efficient and technically effective while also looking beautiful. I will now apply those same principles to this very latest innovation in aviation.”
Lilium is developing a five-seat flying electric vehicle for commuters that can transition from hover mode (like drones) to wing-borne flight vehicle (like conventional aircraft) in mid-air. The company plans to demonstrate a fully functional VTOL electric jet by 2019, with plans to begin online booking of commuter flights by 2025.
“Lilium is going to revolutionize city travel by moving journeys from the ground into the sky,” says Stephenson. “The technology that they have already developed is truly mind-boggling.”
The Lilium Jet, which is said to be able to achieve speeds of up to 300km/h and have a range of up to 300km on a single charge, has been designed to be up to 90% more efficient than conventional competitors.
Designers wishing to submit their portfolio to Frank and Lilium can do so by visiting the Lilium careers page.
Founded in 2012, Form Trends tirelessly covers the automotive design industry in all corners of the globe to bring you exclusive content about cars, design, and the people behind the products.