Marek Reichman (Aston Martin’s Vice President and Chief Creative Officer): The twelve years Marek has been at Aston Martin have been one of the most prolific periods of new model introductions for the British marque. These have included the DB11, Aston Martin’s latest GT offering, the recently launched Vanquish S and Aston Martin’s track-only Aston Martin Vulcan. Marek has also been heavily involved with some of the world’s most iconic cars throughout his accomplished design career. These have included the Rolls-Royce Phantom, the Lincoln MKX and Navicross Concept Cars and the Range Rover Mk lll.
Born in Sheffield, England, in 1966. He graduated from Teesside University in Middlesbrough with a First Class Honours Degree in Industrial Design and continued his studies in Vehicle Design at the Royal College of Art in London. After beginning his design career with Rover Cars in 1991, Marek moved to BMW Designworks, California in 1995 to become Senior Designer. He joined Aston Martin in 2005 as Director of Design and has strengthened the company’s iconic styling in that 9 year period. This has most recently been delivered in the form of the new V12 Vantage S, Vanquish Volante and Rapide S. The most recent creations to leave the Aston Martin Design Studio under Marek’s leadership include DB11, the DBX Concept, Aston Martin Vulcan and Vantage GT8.
Having missed Marek Reichman when he was in NZ for the launch of the Vanquish S, he thankfully agreed to a quick chat over the phone – here’s how it went.
How was your visit to New Zealand? It was a little brief. It was my first time there and we flew in over the South Island. I decided I need to come back for the Ice drive later this year and spend some more time there. I did get a chance to grab some Fush n Chups though (at a restaurant with the same name).
From Rover to Rolls-Royce, Range Rover to Aston Martin, you’ve had quite a diverse range of experience.
At the end of the day; I’m a designer. Although I studied Industrial design and always wanted to be an automotive designer (which was my Master’s Degree), essentially I love the creation of objects from the cosmetics to their functionality – in automotive terms; there is nothing more functional than a landrover.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
It’s hard to define. It’s things like Travel, People, Colours, Architecture… I connect with other designers in other fields but for me, it’s more about having an open mind and opening your eyes.
What has been your most standout design?
It’s easy to say ‘the one that’s just about to arrive’ but right now it would have to be the DB11. It’s a huge change point for the company and a move towards our 2nd century. The language, the proportion… (in many ways it’s art – DMc). That’s exactly it; often my brief is to make the most exceptional automotive art.
What has been your most challenging design?
I never see design as a challenge, more of an opportunity but the Valkyrie was a big opportunity. 1:1 power to weight ratio, Red Bull F1 Innovation but it also has to make a profit, so budgets had to be adhered to.
From Concept Car to Production, what are the compromises?
You can’t compromise, you just have to think of the package of the car and keep reassessing. You have to think about every mm of the vehicle and how a 1mm change can affect the rest. In the case of the valkyrie, it’s so extreme. For example, it produces 4G of lateral movement and currently, the best road car produces 2G’s (F1 is 4.5-5G by the way) so this has to be handled from a drivers point of view and on top of this it has to be usable and practical.
Where do you see the future of car design?
There has been a market shift to heightened driving positions and SUV’s, and yet to most people, Aston Martin is fundamentally a Sports car brand. The S in SUV is for Sports and at Aston Martin we do tend to have a utility or practicality side to our vehicles. We have had shooting brake’s in the past and our vehicles do make room for overnight bags. But it’s more about HOW you approach things. Let’s say we are big in Sports and Small in Utility, however; as you can see in the DBX, using learnings from our sports side in terms of lightweight materials and smart production, we can create something efficient on the inside but very dramatic on the outside.
What about EV, are you pro it?
Absolutely, and our customers demand it. The Electric Rapide is the technology of the future. For me, it’s more about the ‘connected’ nature of the product, it’s technology and innovation moving forward. Many people talk about Aston Martin being about the sound of the V12 but I liken it more to the movements in a symphony, yes the crescendo is loud and powerful but there is also lots of beauty in the silence.
The big question, what poster did you have on your wall as a child?
I actually had two. The Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato – it’s delicate but powerful with a slim A-pillar and chrome detailing and the Lamborghini Muara an outstanding mid-engined design.
What are the elements that sum up a timeless design?
Proportion – it gives you a timeless nature. I often display cars under cover, it helps give off the sense of proportion, it’s only when you pull back the sheet on say a DB5 that you see the era it’s from.
Every designer claims they start with a blank sheet of paper but how much of the core Aston Martin features need to be kept before it becomes unrecognizable?
In our case; under every blank sheet of paper is 104 years of history to draw upon. This gives you a language of honesty, heritage, and knowledge to begin with. It also means that we don’t repeat, we innovate – I like to say that we are a 104-year-old start-up company.
What is the future of Aston Martin?
The DBX is a massive product shift for the company that requires a new facility (opening 6th April), we have huge expansion plans. 7 new cars in 7 years have been voiced with 4 ‘almost’ done right now. SUV’s, Super GT’s and Valkyrie inspired Mid-Engined sports cars are all planned and coming and all have ‘Automotive Art’ at the core.
So something I always like to end with is ‘Watch this space’
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