Could a layman create a credible Land Rover for the next generation? To discover the truth, the company’s bosses ‘lent’ me a couple of their most creative men to attempt the task, working as if they were producing a new model according to a client’s instructions.
Chief designer Ollie le Grice and designer Florian Dobe first gave me a half-hour questionnaire, focusing on usage (towing, comfort, great on-road performance, carrying capacity and space, reasonably hard-core off-roading ability).
They asked what I’d like the design to avoid (aggressiveness, heaviness). On design style, I asked for the elegant simplicity of Apple’s products and the integrity and manufacturing precision of Rolex.
It seemed a very tall order to me, but within a week they had initial visuals to show. These depicted a more modern, somewhat less monolithic Discovery-style vehicle, still with the square back and split tailgate I wanted, but with a new expression of the side vents and new rear shoulders to express the modernity I wanted.
Cutaway side sills helped emphasise lightness (much of a future SUV’s acceptability will depend, I believe, on how it looks). After some argument over tyres with an unacceptably low profile and some rapid mods to the things I felt needed changing, Ollie and I submitted our design to design director Gerry McGovern for appraisal. He didn’t spare our feelings.
“I think it’s a bit overstyled,” he said. “I don’t think it’s functional enough, although some of the details are nice. But the face of the car seems too generic. It needs to look more positively like a Land Rover; to echo its roots more. It looks quite nice, but you really can’t tell what it is.”
Once he’d said these things, I could instantly see the sense of them. This SUV could indeed have been something other than a Landie, yet Landies have always been very distinctive. I felt rather apologetic about having led Ollie and Florian into a position where they’d had to take both barrels of McGovern’s critical shotgun.
“No problem,” said Ollie, with something like a grin. “This is how things go sometimes. You want your work to be chosen, so you have to take criticism on the chin and adapt as quickly as you can. It’s all part of being a designer.”