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Students Showcase Designs For Jaguar Sports Cars of the Future

Jaguar designers “impressed” by final presentations for Jaguar + AAU Corporate Sponsored Class

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One of the designs on display at the Academy of Art University Automobile Museum was the Jaguar M-Type by Guangxu Jin (Keen). Photo by Bob Toy.

Jaguar Design Director Ian Callum and Dr. Elisa Stephens paused to admire a 1964 Jaguar XKE during a stroll around the Academy of Art University Automobile Museum last month. A beauty, for sure. But Jaguar’s design director hadn’t flown all the way from England to see classic models from the past. On the contrary. He was there to see what a Jaguar sports car might look like in the future. 

On Tuesday, August 18, 12 students from the School of Industrial Design’s Jaguar + AAU Corporate Sponsored Class showcased their final projects. Tasked with designing a sports car for 2030, they presented an array of futuristic vehicles that incorporated autonomous driving with new possibilities for steering, data display and social interaction.

“I was impressed and pleasantly surprised at the depth of exploration of ideas,” Callum said. “And it has inspired me, I have to say.”

Hailing from the Schools of Industrial Design (IND), Web Design + New Media (WNM) and Fashion (textile design), the students worked collaboratively with the guidance of three instructors, Associate Director of the School of Industrial Design Antonio Borja, Aleksandra Grippo (WNM) and Samuel Rosen (IND). Jaguar design mentors checked in weekly via Skype sessions.

“You can see the students really listened to our coaching and our guidance,” said Alister Whelan, creative director, Jaguar Interiors. “And we’ve tried to balance it with not trying to restrain them too much, in fact we’ve really tried to nurture their creativity. There have been areas where we’ve recommended they develop something more than something else and you can see that they’ve listened, and done that, which from our point of view is very good.”

Industrial design student Jack Liu said he appreciated the different perspective Jaguar offered. “It’s a different world with different expectations,” he said. “After a while you get used to certain things, you start to do things naturally and that’s when you start repeating your habits. When they came in they were like, ‘OK, we see your habits, now go do something else.’”

For Liu, that “something else” took the form of a racing-influenced sports car inspired by a recumbent bicycle that turns the traditional notion of steering on its head. Instead of a steering wheel, hand controls positioned by the driver’s thighs turn the car left or right and activate signals and command menus. Taking Liu’s physical design, Aniruddha Mistry (WNM), incorporated the car’s UI aspects, including standard elements like the instrument cluster as well as a “drag mode,” which allows the owner to practice racing without leaving the garage by projecting a virtual race track on a 180-degree windshield.

“[Jaguar] came to us wanting us to push the boundaries, to see how we perceive the future of driving,” said Liu. “This is a whole new way of experiencing the driving thrill of the road.”

Eric Stanley (IND) and Eric Mao (WNM) focused heavily on the social elements of driving, incorporating ways to connect with friends en route to the same destination. Their storyboard narrates a day in the life of a horse racing enthusiast on his way to the track. As he makes his way out of the city and onto the highway, the car goes into autonomous mode. The windshield turns gray and the driver can check the status of his horse or chat with is friends through the Jaguar operating system.

Mao was thrilled about the opportunity to work with Jaguar. “Our department is focused on mobile right now, but in the next five or 10 years, the car UI will become the new thing,” he predicted.

At one point during the presentations, Callum sat down in a leather chair, donned an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, and placed his hands on a model of a futuristic steering wheel. The combo-system of Ludovic Ernest’s steering wheel and Tyler Carpenter’s virtual 3-D rendering offered a sense of what it might feel like to get behind the wheel of one of these futuristic sports cars—an experience integral to Carpenter’s concept. Carpenter describes it as “a marketing campaign” for a time in the future when car sharing and autonomous driving are de rigueur. To give people a reason to buy a Jaguar, he proposes putting them on the streets of major cities and making it a game. “It’s roaming through the streets of the city,” Carpenter explained. “It’s wild, it does its own thing, but by discovering it, you’re able to get a test drive. You get to experience what a Jaguar feels like. At the end of the day, the car drops you off where you started and goes back into the crowd, creating a very strong urge for you to find it again.”

After running similar programs at the Royal College of Art in London, Jaguar decided to look overseas, establishing a summer class at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, as well as at the Academy. “It’s something I feel very strongly about—nurturing young talent and students,” Callum said. “And if we see people we like there’s an opportunity to pull them in before somebody else does, because the good students go quickly.”

According to Tom Matano, executive director of the School of Industrial Design at the Academy, about 29 schools around the world have a dedicated automotive design program. Callum says the Academy is in the top five. “To have a company like Jaguar paying attention to us … it validates that we’ve made it to that level,” Matano said. 

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The 1964 Jaguar XKE, currently on display at the Academy’s Automobile Museum. Photo by Bob Toy.