Interview: Huey Lee, Creative Director, Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design California

Huey Lee has the enviable position of not only living in the sunshine state, but also working for a design outpost that has built a reputation for creating a number of blue-sky concepts over the last 20 years.

Lee’s been with Mercedes-Benz since he graduated from the prestigious Art Center College of Design over a decade ago. He is responsible for the F800 concept as well as the second generation CLS, a project which took him to Germany to complete, causing him to miss the birth of his first child.

Having risen through the ranks, and following in the footsteps of global design boss Gorden Wagener, Lee went to work on devising proposals for the future Mercedes-Benz design language when he became Creative Director for the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design of North America, Daimler’s first design studio outside Germany, in 2010. He was appointed to the role when his predecessor, Joel Piaskowski, left the company after little more than a year into the role.

Located in Carlsbad, California, the Advanced Design studio — one of five operated by Daimler globally — incorporates design input for advanced and production vehicle proposals, drawing inspiration from Southern California’s strong car culture and its creative, diverse and trendsetting environment. Mercedes’ US advanced design outpost was first established in 1990 in Irvine, California, but moved to Carlsbad in 2008. The 34,000 sq-ft facility features five full-size plates, a full-service machine shop, two milling machines, a paint shop, a large outdoor viewing area and employs roughly 25 people.

While Lee’s team works closely with their counterparts in Germany to invent new concepts — such as the recently unveiled Mercedes-Benz AMG Vision Gran Turismo — and define technical layouts and design solutions, they also work on projects for the LA Design Challenge, creating full-size concepts such as the Mercedes-Benz Biome and the Ener-G Force concept shown at the 2012 LA auto show.


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