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[Herald Design Forum 2022] EVs offers opportunity for car design innovation, says Ian Callum

British car designer hopes to work with Kia

Ian Callum CBE, design director at Callum. (Callum)
Ian Callum CBE, design director at Callum. (Callum)

Ian Callum, a British car designer who led design team of Jaguar Land Rover until recently, believes that electric vehicles open up more flexibility for designers.

“Many electric cars still have a conventional look currently. But they don’t need to. Again, it is down to the designers to create this difference. Being electric is not a hindrance but an opportunity, as long as the company’s management and directors allow this freedom,” said Callum in an email interview with The Korea Herald, ahead of his visit to Seoul for the 2022 Herald Design Forum that kicks off on Sept. 27.

“I don’t think there will be a specific style for electric cars. There is more flexibility and so design is wide open. Designers need to maximize on this opportunity,” he said.

Callum, who has over 40 years of experience with major carmakers including Ford and Aston Martin, has established his own automotive and product design company, Callum, in 2019.

He said setting up a new business gave him a freedom of design creativity.

“If I was a painter, I would continue painting but my medium is too complicated and expensive to do on my own, so I started a company, with like-minded colleagues, to allow me the privilege of continuing designing and making products, from furniture to motor cars,” said Callum. “Creativity is my lifeline.”

Under a focus on niche products of small-volume manufacturers, Callum has worked on eclectic mix of products, from furniture to motorcycles and cars. He has also designed the bottle of single malt Scotch Whisky Callum 529 by Annandale.

Callum said such projects allow him to be part of the complete process, from sketch to production.

“My philosophy will continue to be to create beautifully simple objects that work well. So far, I’ve focused on working with small startups or niche manufacturers and individual clients, although we’re always open to discuss collaborative projects. Ideally, we would like to eventually design our own car.

According to Callum, design is everything to car brands, as it tells a story of what the brand is about.

“Beautiful design attracts attention and positive reaction. People generally want to be part of something expressive and design expresses the brand and its values. It also reflects the character of the people involved in creating the product as well as the customers.”

Jaguar I-Pace (Callum)
Jaguar I-Pace (Callum)

As a designer of Jaguar I-Pace, he picked I-Pace and Porsche 911, although he didn’t design the model, as best vehicle design cars.

“I-Pace has a completely new proportion, which resulted from the electric platform and the freedom of package it gave,” adding that he also finds the F-Type and CX-75 from Jaguar as amongst the most beautiful production and concept cars.

“I have always been a fan of the Porsche 911. Each model evolves and each one is beautiful. The latest 991 and 992 models are particularly special. They have great surface details and wonderful proportions. The cars have a ‘totality’ about them, designed by Michael Mauer who is a very skilled designer," he said.

Callum has no experience of working with Korean brands, but he said he seeks the opportunity to design the “right solution” for clients like Kia.

Calling car designer Peter Schreyer, who designed Kia Soul, Stinger and Hyundai Nexo and Santa Fe and developed Hyundai's brand-defining cascading grille, a good friend of him, Callum said he created a design culture and philosophy for Hyundai and Kia.

“I am sure working with a Korean manufacturer would be fascinating. After 40 years, I am focused on projects that are fun.”

By Kim Da-sol (
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