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 Moray Callum, Vice President Ford Design.

How has your way of working changed during this period of closure?

Our work is often based on physical models, discussing these objects all together and studying a solution to make them better and better. This aspect has obviously changed a lot and to compensate for this loss we are fortunately well supported by technology and we continue to see each other remotely and discuss design. We even have a great opportunity: we work at home with virtual reality.

So you brought specific tools from the studio and recreated a design office at home?

Yes, we have. We have recreated a real virtual reality workstation at our homes that allows us to see things as if they were real. Just put on the viewer, grab the joystick and you’re done. It’s a project born in the form of an experiment, but it’s done incredibly well. The workstation was installed in the homes of some Ford Design directors, but soon we want to extend it to the chief designers as well. The other guys took home everything they needed to keep working, from tablets to PCs.

How does this technology work?

We can review and validate the same model at the same time and see ourselves all together in the same virtual world. We are even able to recognize each other because everyone is identified by our own avatar. We can also talk to each other through the microphones installed into the viewer. At the moment we are not able to make changes in real time, but this helps us to validate the 3D model just as we would do in the studio.

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

Right now it’s really difficult to answer this question because it’s like we’re still in a storm. The time will tell if the way we design will have changed. What influence could the question of social distance have, for example, on the distribution of the interior space of a vehicle? It’s hard to say.

How important is inspiration from the outside for a designer?

Inspiration from the outside is very important for our job, I think it’s really difficult for each of us to have strong inspiration if we are always locked indoors. However, we have to live this moment trying as much as possible to produce new ideas in our team and this is allowed by technology. We have every chance to do that. Waiting for things to get back to normal.