Mercedes-Benz Exterior Design Director on Sensual Purity

Robert Lesnik has been with Mercedes–Benz a scant four years, but he has already had the opportunity to make his mark. Appointed to head exterior design at the company since the start of the year, Lesnik effectively replaces Hans-Dieter Futschik in overseeing all exterior design for the Stuttgart-based manufacturer’s passenger cars. He’s had a lot of practice already.

In his previous role as exterior design chief – a position now filled by former Audi designer Achim Badstübner – Lesnik devised the successful shapes of concept cars like the Concept CLS Shooting-Brake, Concept-GLA, Concept Style Coupe/CLA, and fabulous Concept S-Class Coupe. He also led the exterior design of the recent C-Class, S-Class and S-Class Coupe.


He’s now overseeing a team of 65 people – including design engineers – and tasked with developing the next phase of the ‘sensual purity’ design ethos he helped create since joining the company in 2009.

“I joined this company in January 2009, just a few months after Gorden Wagener took over [in September 2008],” Lesnik told Form Trends in an exclusive interview.

“[Gorden Wagener] was asked by the board of directors that we, as team of designers, show what we wanted to do. What is our vision? What should the next generation of our cars — and we have many — look like? We didn’t just sit down and start doing random lines without looking left or right. We created that design strategy. We defined many things that year.”


The designs of the recently unveiled C-Class and S-Class were two of the vehicles that were born from this newly defined design strategy. While the S-Class design was created in 2009, the C-Class design followed one year later. But what exactly is ‘sensual purity’ and what does it consist of?

“Purity means that we take everything off that you don’t need,” says Lesnik. “In 2009, 2010, we defined the surface language, the surface treatment. We decided to keep it round and concentrate on the proportions and a good stance, which is I think typical for a German car design. Then we don’t need so many details.”


Proportions are key in achieving this purity as well, Lesnik says, the long hood and dash to axle distance – aka the ‘premium measurement’ – has been stretched to the maximum in both the compact C-Class and the range-topping S-Class Coupe.

“In most cases, we have dream proportions,” says Lesnik. “When I was working for other car companies, I was dreaming about these proportions.”


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