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FoMoCoNews Designer Series
Martin Smith

Born in 1949 in Sheffield, England, Smith attended King Edward VII School. A car fanatic since he was a boy, he wrote letters to Mini designer Alec Issigonis asking how to become a car designer and received kindly and encouraging replies. He studied Engineering at the University of Liverpool before graduating with a Masters degree in Vehicle Design from the Royal College of Art in London.

Career
Audi
Having begun his career at Porsche in 1973 which also included a short stint working on commercial vehicles for Ogle Design in Letchworth, Smith moved to Audi in 1977, then briefly to BMW only to return to Audi where he would remain for the majority of the 1980s and 1990s. At Audi he transformed the mundane Audi Coupe into the legendary Audi Quattro and subsequently became Head of Audi's Munich Design Studio. He helped introduce a slippery aerodynamic look and austere functional cockpits to the Audi range as evidenced by the 1982 Audi 100 and 1986 Audi 80. Whilst in charge of the Audi Munich Design Studio, he worked with J Mays on the 1991 Audi Avus Quattro concept car which previewed a geometrical style as well as the extensive use of aluminium. His last position at Audi was the Head of Interior Design where he oversaw and developed the first generation Audi TT interior.

Avus Concept

General Motors
In 1997 he moved to General Motors' Opel/Vauxhall division as Design Director for compact cars, working on the Opel Speedster and the 2004 Astra. In 2002 he became Executive Design Director for Opel/Vauxhall responsible for the design of the entire product line-up and where he realigned Opel/Vauxhall design from the inoffensive but bland of the 1990s to a more dynamic direction in line with his 2004 Opel Astra, Insignia concept and Vauxhall VX Lightning. Under his guidance, this new direction influenced the whole Opel range including the 2004 Opel Tigra TwinTop, 2005 Opel Zafira, 2005 facelift of the Opel Vectra/Opel Signum, the 2006 Opel Corsa, and 2007 Opel Antara.

Ford
In 2004 Ford's European Design staff underwent a comprehensive reorganisation, the first step coming in July 2004 seeing Smith lured from Opel to become Executive Design Director for Ford of Europe, where he reports to the Ford global group Vice President for Design, former colleague J Mays. This was quickly followed by fellow Opel refugee Stefan Lamm joining in autumn 2004 as Chief Designer for Exteriors at Ford.
Smith was also reunited with another former colleague, Chris Bird, who moved to Ford as Design Director from Audi in 1998. This reorganised staff quickly made its aims clear: to move Ford of Europe design its New Edge design philosophy towards the ethos of 'Kinetic Design' which roughly translates to 'Energy in Motion', a language that consists of clean angles and complex surfacing to give Fords a sportier, more dynamic, exciting look. This language was first implemented by Smith and his team on the Ford SAV Concept, and has progressively been developed in a series of other concepts including the Ford Iosis, Iosis X and Verve concepts. These designs, or at least elements of these designs, have increasingly been adopted on production models, with the 2006 Ford S-MAX, 2006 Ford Galaxy, 2007 Ford Mondeo, and 2008 Ford Kuga all designed within the Kinetic Design paradigm. Smith's design team is also working on bringing the remaining line up in line with Kinetic Design with the 2007 C-MAX Facelift, 2008 Ford Focus Facelift, and upcoming 2008/2009 Ford Fiesta as previewed by the Verve concept. In addition to his responsibilities at Ford of Europe; in May 2006 Smith was given the responsibility of overseeing vehicle design in the Australian, Chinese and Asia-Pacific markets, with the task of giving the line-up a more consistent look.

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Wow i had no idea the amount of influence he has had on such significant vehicles in europe, i mean the Astra, Smax and the new focus?!?
 

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I think this guy is probably only equal in influence to Ed Welburn. A great design mind, like Dick Nessbitt during his era.
I do not know about Harry Earl though. Was he as big as they say he was?
 

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I think this guy is probably only equal in influence to Ed Welburn. A great design mind, like Dick Nessbitt during his era.
I do not know about Harry Earl though. Was he as big as they say he was?
Harley Earl was a larger than life character who influenced every single GM design for almost four decades and defined the car design process as we know it today. To say he was "big" would be a major understatement.

The kind of power and influence that Earl had over design at GM would be impossible to replicate in a modern corporate environment today. He was political incorrectness personified. The stuff legends are made of. He would be considered a mad man today, by in my opinion and by all accounts the guy was a genius.

 

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wow that's so cool! Though according to his bio he started his career when he was 24, so at 24 he had a BA in Engineering and an MA in Transportation design?

Also I like how all these famous car designers wrote to companies when they were young, Ed Welburn to Cadillac, Ian Callum to Jaguar and Martin Smith to Mini.

Well, I've written to BMW!
 

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wow that's so cool! Though according to his bio he started his career when he was 24, so at 24 he had a BA in Engineering and an MA in Transportation design?

Also I like how all these famous car designers wrote to companies when they were young, Ed Welburn to Cadillac, Ian Callum to Jaguar and Martin Smith to Mini.

Well, I've written to BMW!
BMW? You should have written to Ford.. or GM!
 

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Harley Earl was a larger than life character who influenced every single GM design for almost four decades and defined the car design process as we know it today. To say he was "big" would be a major understatement.

The kind of power and influence that Earl had over design at GM would be impossible to replicate in a modern corporate environment today. He was political incorrectness personified. The stuff legends are made of. He would be considered a mad man today, by in my opinion and by all accounts the guy was a genius.
I don't disagree, but I think we have to give Edsel Ford his due if Harley Earl is to be the recipient of such praise. Edsel was, arguably, the father of mainstream automobile design in America since before his work on the Model A car bodies not attached to expensive luxury models were strictly about function with little consideration given to appearance. And while people like to credit GM with the first manufacturer owned 'design studio' in the automotive world I feel that this is a bit of slight to Edsel since he had been directing the design of cars for years at Ford and Lincoln before GM created their studio. The difference here being that Edsel himself was so talented he was a one man studio in his own right.

Finally, while Harley Earl's designs were consistently larger than life I think that Edsel Ford arguably had a more lasting impact on automobile design than did Earl since his designs were typically less overt and more timeless. For example, while 50's Cadillac's often create a sense of awe due to the sheer volume of chrome, steel, dagmars, and fins the Continentals, Zephyrs, Vicky's, and duece coupes Edsel brought to life are masterpieces that changed the face of the auto industry drastically..... and which truly prove that cars can be works of art.
 

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BMW? You should have written to Ford.. or GM!

Well BMW is my favorite car company (and I love their current design direction and Chris Bangle is currently my favorite designer), sure I guess it would be wiser to write to larger companies like GM and Ford, but hey, this industry runs on passion! And as much as I like both GM and Ford, BMW won out!

But I do intend on sending my complete portfolio to GM and Ford, just for the heck of it.
 

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Well BMW is my favorite car company (and I love their current design direction and Chris Bangle is currently my favorite designer), sure I guess it would be wiser to write to larger companies like GM and Ford, but hey, this industry runs on passion! And as much as I like both GM and Ford, BMW won out!

But I do intend on sending my complete portfolio to GM and Ford, just for the heck of it.
I really would love to see you get in and someday drive a ride designed by you. Just do not make an Aztek
 
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