“Nobody needs a Jag,” Ian Callum, director of Design, Jaguar Cars, tells me. “You have to want a Jaguar,” he adds.
It is about desire.
In April, the Jaguar F-TYPE was awarded the 2013 World Car Design of the Year. It is a car that Callum feels passionate about. When Callum was informed of the honor, he stated, “No design project has given me greater pleasure than the creation of the F-TYPE. It’s a project I’ve looked forward to from the moment I joined Jaguar, and it’s one that’s given my team and I great satisfaction. The F-TYPE is a sports car that is true to Jaguar’s design values—beauty of line and purity of form.”
And when we talk, standing by the car, he says, “To me, this is the center of the bulls-eye for the Jaguar brand, a two-seater sports car. It is the epitome of what we’re about. We’re about fun, we’re about style, we’re about performance. That’s what Jaguar has always been about. And until we got back to our two-seater sports car—which is about two seats, an engine, and performance, the fundamental criteria—I never felt in my own mind that we had the center of the brand correct.”
Callum has been with Jaguar since 1999. He studied industrial design at the Glasgow School of Art, then went on to the Royal College of Art in London. Upon his graduation from there in 1978 he was hired by Ford, where he worked until 1990, when he joined TWR Design in the U.K. So to that point he’d been involved in design projects including the Ford RS 200, the Ford Puma, the Aston Martin DB7, the Aston Martin Vanquish, and a variety of other vehicles. When he joined Jag, it was owned by Ford. (Ford sold Jaguar in 2008.) In his time at Jaguar Cars, Callum has worked on the XF, XJ, XK, and the C-X75 concept, among other vehicles.
And then there is the F-TYPE.
What’s interesting about Callum’s approach is that he has a great sense of history, of what has come before, and why things like values are important. “I knew what my references were for the F-TYPE. I knew this car emulates the values of the old XJ”—the one that Sir William Lyons, company founder, was around for—“and there are references to the sports car company called ‘Jaguar’ that won Le Mans in 1955 and ’56. Those are our references, those are our values. They may sound a little old-fashioned, but they are a fundamental of what made this company great.”
Callum says that when he joined the company, he realized that it was a tremendous privilege to be working for such a storied brand. He said that he had an awareness of what the company had been in its heyday, such as back in the 1960s. “I found very few people around me who understood that,” he said, adding, “They’d fallen into a trap of what it had become. There was no reference to what it stood for.”
So in the design department he set about reestablishing what Jaguar means. Which brings us back to desire: “People bought a Jaguar for a reason. Usually because it was beautiful.”
Callum says that he often used to be asked: “What’s your metric for this car?” He has one, and it is even quantitative, not just qualitative: “My metric is how long somebody turns around and looks at it when they arrive home from work. They’ve had a hard day at the office, then they drive home. The go to their front door, then turn around and look at it. For a Jaguar it must be more than five seconds.”
Callum acknowledges that he has an advantage as heading up a design team that is tasked with re-creating a luxury marquee. “My life is a lot more satisfying aesthetically as a designer because we’re designing things that people want and desire rather than need.” He adds, “There is a need factor in there, you can’t ignore it, but it is a matter of scale. Our desire factor is more important than our need factor.”
But design is not all beer and skittles at Jaguar. He points to the hood of the F-TYPE, where there is the traditional power bulge. “I wanted it to be strong and purposeful, as all lines should be.” It couldn’t be too high, because of regulations relating to sight-lines. It couldn’t be too low, because of regulations relating to pedestrian safety. “I had to spend a month on this, negotiating with component engineers, millimeter by millimeter.
“It’s very complicated, but it’s worth it. That’s what good design is all about: Understanding your parameters and pushing your boundaries.”
He acknowledges, “I am helped by the fact that I have an engineering team tha works with me. They will go the extra mile to give me the shape that I need to make the car a little more beautiful than anything else.”
But in some cases it is a matter of sticking with the line, making sure that it is realized in sheet metal (which, in the case of the F-TYPE, is an aluminum alloy, AC600 sourced from Novelis [novelis.com
], which allows them to achieve a radius tightness of 8 mm). Sometimes, Callum says, he is told by Manufacturing that they just can’t get the radius that they’re looking for. But he says they have to stick with it. “I have to capture that line, so I stick with it to the end. Sometimes you have to go through 100 iterations.”
Because, he says, “At the end of the day, I know I can create something great with my team.”