Car design depends on teamwork, in sharp contrast to the social distancing the coronavirus pandemic has imposed. How does smart working change creative activity? What consequences will it have on the form of tomorrow’s cars? Auto&Design has asked these questions of carmaker design chiefs and independent style centres. The vision of Gorden Wagener, Daimler Chief Design Officer.

Since you are at home due to the coronavirus shutdown, how has your way of working changed?

My daily life switched to 100 % digital mode. It´s been always very digital, because we have regular calls with China, the US and all the other international studios around the globe, all before the virus came up. But now the rest of our personal meetings and chats changed to technical channels. The medium changed, but our work is not infected that much as I thought. Maybe it is because our performance is so great as we have no ordinary design team (laughs).

When this period will end do you think it will have influenced the way you draw a car? How?

No virus can infect my passion for designing and creating. I still do sketches for myself as ever and it always starts with a blank sheet of paper. I used to draw every spare minute in the past, maybe I do more sketches in the future again. The last few weeks I remembered how I missed this creative minutes. I did some very promising sketches the last weeks, and I´m curious what my team thinks about them.

If the design method changes, do the results change too?

I hope that they get even better! As our team is working from their home office, many team members are working on strategic and future projects, giving “full throttle” and even our modellers are working on our clay modells – most of the time alone in the studios and with large distance from each other. It´s much more quite in the studios at the moment, but it´s definite getting louder soon, I´m sure.

Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR

How are you organized at the Mercedes-Benz design center? How many designers are actively working from home?

One part of our team members are working from home, but in many studios we have enough space that our future projects could be driven by our teams on site. Within some days after we got the local regulations in each studio, we reorganised our teams, set up all safety requirements and checked that everybody is safe while working. Maybe designers could get along better with this situation, as there is no “normal” work in our daily life – every day is different.

Have you brought specific tools from the studio or can you do everything with normal PCs?

For my personal daily work I just need my computer, my mobile phone and a connection to the internet. We set up a cascade of calls and virtual meetings, so that I have a direct line into all studios and teams, at some point more than ever. Maybe some team members are a little bit surprised how often I could be seen or heard these days (laughs).

From your point of view, how will the shapes of the cars you design change during this period?

Up to this moment we could work “as normal as possible”. We have a strategic masterplan and we have our strategic guidelines from our philosophy, you know Sensual Purity. You won’t see any “infected” cars from our team. Every team member knows what to do, so we proceed with our work. Of course our “normal” work – if you could speak of normal work designers do – is much more chracterised by personal contact and discussisons, but we cope with any awkward situation. Hey, we are designers!

How much is inspiration from the outside important for a designer? Is it sacrificed if you stay at home?

Inspiration is crucial for each designer. For myself, I miss all my travels to my teams around the globe. Travelling keeps me awake for new impressions, I love new insights, images, scents, colors and sounds, even tastes are important to me. I´m like a magnet for all this. But as we all have to deal with this situation I explore new ways of getting inspired. My personal digital contacts with my team every day keep me busy. Within this special situation I could experience a great performance of our team – I´m so proud of the best design team in the industry!