One global team - one design
It is just after lunch in the design studio when Louise Temin, Senior Interior Design Manager, picks up a pen, plugs in her headphones, and gets to work. She is standing by her desk, sketching, and at first glance she seems to be working on her own.
But designing a Volvo car is anything but a solo act. It is teamwork – in a global sense. The Gothenburg design team works in close collaboration with the smaller design studios in Shanghai (China) and Camarillo (United States).
“The other teams’ insights on the local markets are very helpful to us,” says Temin, who was lead interior designer for the S90 and V90. “Even though we always base our work on the Volvo heritage, everyone sees things differently. As a designer, you’re inspired by the world around you.”
The studio is inside a rather anonymous-looking concrete building, situated in the middle of the small universe that makes up Volvo Cars in Torslanda, just outside Gothenburg in Sweden. Going to work here every day are 150 employees and 90 consultants – all with the same purpose: to design the next Volvo cars.
The process starts with a rough sketch, and then the procedure of refining and reviewing commences. All teams receive the same brief, and during weekly meetings – with those overseas joining via Skype – the designers’ proposals are reviewed and, finally, one key sketch is selected. The designer responsible for the key sketch, whether situated in Sweden, China or the United States, becomes the lead designer throughout the whole process to ensure the result stays as true to the original idea as possible.
“It’s just like being in the same room when we discuss the current events at these meetings. We’re one large international team, all part of the same process, even though we are in different parts of the world,” says Temin.
And when one design studio goes to sleep, the other sites are ready to take over. In China, the 12-strong design team goes to work in an office located in Jiading, an industrial district in the northwest part of Shanghai. Next year, a brand new two-storey design studio will be completed.
Jingjing Zhang, in charge of Colour and Material, says the time zone difference is advantageous.
“Working in different time zones is highly efficient,” she says. “Someone is always working, around the clock. I work closely with the team in Gothenburg and I can get feedback and input overnight.
“I like to think of myself as a cook, serving Swedish food, but putting a little bit of Chinese seasoning on it – a good combination of East and West. For example, maroon as an accent colour was first developed for the Chinese market as it’s a very popular colour here.
“Volvo Cars is a global brand with a global view. It’s important to be aware of the regional distinctions, and it’s a big challenge for designers to balance the different marketing requirements. Volvo Cars does this successfully.”
The Scandinavian roots, however, are as important for the Chinese team as for the Swedish, according to Jonathan Disley, Vice President Volvo Design Shanghai.
“Scandinavia is all about simplicity and honesty of materials and form. We have to design luxury products that are both simplistic and luxurious, and we keep a certain honesty in the way we design: clean, simple and elegant,” he says.
Often, designers from Shanghai or Camarillo spend time at the Gothenburg studio, working together in the design process. Even so, the team in Gothenburg is itself truly global.
“This is a very international team with lots of different nationalities,” says Louise Temin. “Everyone interprets Sweden in their own way. While we Swedes see our Scandinavian heritage as a natural part of our everyday life, someone from another country might think of it as a very exotic concept. This means that everyone has a different take on things. That’s unquestionably a very valuable aspect in the design process.”