What is luxury? Jaguar design director discusses

The idea of luxury has evolved to include a much more complex set of values. Time, authenticity, legacy, access, resource, journey, skills and memory – these are just some of the concepts joining the more classic terms associated with luxury. And going forward, when the car becomes essentially a high-tech gadget in the age of autonomous driving, what will define true luxury? In the second of our interviews with some of the leading creatives, Ian Callum, Jaguar Cars design director, offers his thoughts on the subject.

Design Talks. How would you define modern luxury?

Ian Callum: One aspect of modern luxury is appreciating old world luxury, to understand the essence of authentic materials, noticing and understanding the value of these, understanding the pleasures it gives rather than the ostentatiousness of it.

As car designers our job is to understand our occupants’ emotional and physical needs, and to respond to this. We therefore use this word wellbeing a lot in our design process. To create a sense of real luxury is to essentially give a sense of wellbeing, to create an environment where our customers enjoy the experience, much like you would in a great restaurant or a modern hotel. It means forming a sanctuary. It certainly isn’t about showing off their wealth.

DT. How does this apply to Jaguar design?

IC. What this means in terms of Jaguar cars is a more exciting and involved environment in our sports cars like the F-Type, and a more comfortable and luxurious one in cars like the XJ. It means experimenting and investing in perfumes, smells, ambience lighting. It means looking into new luxury materials.

DT. How do you see this being unique to the marque?

IC. Jaguars are exotic cars, and people buy our cars because they are exciting. But part of this means taking up space so for us it is a case of balancing the exciting with the comfort. So our first priority is the packaging of the vehicle, the physical side of it – the very makeup of comfort, seat value, versatile occupant sitting space…

We then look at ambiance by simplifying the visual architecture. Forms and shapes need to be easily understood, but not be cold. And we offer choice – for a modern twist carbon, and warmer textures such as wood, leather and even cashmere, which we’re working on, to create a sense of softness in the future. We need to see beyond the immediate needs of our customer.

DT. How does technology fit into this?

IC. Beyond this are technology and connectivity, and the visual and verbal connections. The infotainment system has to be as sophisticated as any modern luxury living space. Sound is very important to a British brand, a great quality sound system, and for us it means working with technology companies like Meridian who share our values.

DT. There is usually an element of surprise in your cars, such as the gear leaver in the XJ that pops up when the engine turns on for a sense of theatre…

IC. Yes, Jaguar cars need to offer a little sense of fun, tongue-in-cheek humour and a bit of theatre – if the customer gets it, then brilliant and if not, it doesn’t really matter! We’re doing different surfaces and patterns, which you’ll discover, perhaps hidden in the glove box. The idea is to make people smile.

DT. How do you see the future of luxury car design in the context of driverless cars?

IC. Honestly I don’t know yet! But the first stage will be semi-driverless cars where the driver has the option to let the car be piloted autonomously. All this would mean at this stage is that the infotainment system used by other occupants can extend to the driver. But for safety reasons occupants will still need to be seated [traditionally] and strapped in.

However, for the time being electric cars offer huge possibilities in terms of the architecture of the car for more interior space. Space is increasingly luxury and this is something that we’re working on at the moment.

Nargess Banks

Read our interview on the subject of modern luxury and car design here.

Read more about Jaguar design here.

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