With the Jaguar F-Pace having recently received a mid-cycle refresh, TheDetroitBureau.com recently sat down with Jaguar color and trim chief designer Siobhan Hughes, interior designer Jon Sandys, and product communications senior officer Josh Moore to talk about how the brand’s approach to interior design has changed, while remaining faithful to its design heritage. An edited version of the interview follows.
TheDetroitBureau: There are quite a few customers still put off by the fact that there’s no wood on a Jaguar interior or that there doesn’t seem to be enough of a traditional Jaguar interior element. How do you create an interior that’s advanced, yet maintains Jaguar’s design heritage?
Siobhan Hughes: We’re not relying on great swathes of leather and wood, which going back some time ago is basically what Jaguar was synonymous with. It’s really important now that we’re looking at more tactile, more contemporary British contemporary aesthetics going forward. So, whilst we still do offer wood, I think we’re looking at featuring grain on those veneers that are far more expressive of modern luxury. So, we haven’t got the heavy gloss wood surfaces, and — for a long time — people thought they were plastic anyway.
Jon Sandys: But at the same time, the perception of luxury is changing, and the idea of wood veneers, chrome accents and leather finishes — that’s a definition of luxury that isn’t long term. It isn’t sustainable because you’re finding future customers growing into the Jaguar brand who don’t recognize those more established traditional values of luxury. In fact, if anything, they look at it as indulgent, or ostentatious. They’re looking more for sustainability and being socially and environmentally aware. So, it’s a different value set for future customers. If the brand is going to survive and have a future, it has to adapt accordingly.
TDB: So how is that mirrored in the interiors you’re producing now versus ones you did a decade ago?
JS: Well, the point Siobhan made about having open pore wood veneers is a good one, because before we would have done gloss veneer finishes, and that was always widely acceptable. But now, it’s the use of materials that aren’t necessarily leather materials, but also not trying to fake or replicate leather. In the past we’ve used polyurethane (PU) that you print a grain on and make them look like a leather finish. But I think now it’s acceptable to have PU or other alternatives that are actually what they are, and you don’t need to dress them up for something else.
Bringing function to unique form
TDB: Isn’t it challenging to make an interior functional, yet stand apart in design from what’s offered by competing automakers?
JS: Yeah, totally. For a brand like Jaguar, it’s almost impossible to try and go toe-to-toe with some of the more established brands that will sell significantly higher volumes than the Jaguar does. And it’s unrealistic to expect that you can have infotainment systems that would compete with them in the same way. So, the important thing is finding something that you can say is unique and is ours. But we’ve come up with an aesthetic throughout the screens that’s much more editorial in its layout and an aesthetic much more in keeping with apps or online magazines. It’s the kind of things our new customers will be used to looking at on smartphones and tablets and that feels like something that we can do really well.
TDB: One of the things we’ve heard about is design director Ian Callum’s insistence on pushing everything as far forward as possible on the I-Pace, but being limited by front crash standards, HVAC plumbing and other things that had to go up front. Talk about the limitations of pushing the cab forward and its impact on interior design.
JS: You’re quite right. I-Pace gave us a really unique opportunity because it was always a ground-up EV architecture. F-Pace is different again, it’s a hybrid architecture. So you have the challenge of packaging batteries as well as a drivetrain, a fuel tank and that kind of thing. There’s certainly been opportunities to reclaim more space in the console than we were able to do with the previous generation F-Pace. And that’s one of the biggest things about EV architecture, and to some extent hybrid architecture, is that it gives you opportunities to make the most of the space in the car and give that space back to the customer.
Josh Moore: I would add that part of making every car feel like a true Jaguar is how do we make these midcycle refreshes all feel like true Jaguars, to give the best design to everyone, and that was the decision that was partly behind only offering it in automatic; you can open up all that space underneath. You don’t have to have the kind of manual transmission constraints, and then all of the constraints around HMI and where the throw goes and those sorts of things. So, from an engineering perspective, design perspective, and technology perspective, these cars have really been kind of looked at with a fresh set of eyes to keep them at the top of their game, even halfway into their lives.
Getting at the essence
TDB: Getting back to materials, what sort of interior materials are quintessentially Jaguar?
SH: I think it’s really important that the materials that we choose are evocative of being rich and warm, something that’s timeless, and classic. Something that’s not following fashion, trends that are in and out. Something that’s everlasting and very beautiful, that wear with age, but wear in a beautiful way.
TDB: Given a relatively long development cycle and knowing that fashion changes minute by minute, how hard is it to ignore fashion and yet have a sense of trends knowing the vehicle might not be seen for a couple years?
SH: I think you could say that we set the trends; we’re not waiting to follow what’s going on in fashion or it’s a case of picking out those trends that you think are going to be around for a long time. I think from an exterior color point of view, that can be difficult on a vehicle that you’re not going to launch for another four years and expect it to still be relevant. So yeah, that is quite a task in itself really. And obviously it’s really important that the colors that we do pick suit the architecture. There are some colors that you just can’t pull off. So, we make sure that we’re going through a very rigorous design review, painting full-size vehicles, just to make sure that it’s the right thing to do.
TDB: I wonder if you could talk about some of the historical details that are part of the interior materials that you use.
SH: In the same way that a lot of luxury brand houses have their own kind of monogram, we created and designed our own. So, we’ve actually applied that as a quilt embroidery on the seats, and on the periphery of the rotary. Another detail is on the gearshift selector. So, you know, we’ve got this stitch that was inspired by cricket. And who else to best exploit cricket because we’re really good at it. So, it’s just a nice little quirky.
Balancing the past, present and future
TDB: What I love about the F-Pace’s cabin is that you’ve really gotten it down to a visual haiku calling to mind the great Jaguar instrument panels and interiors of the past. There was certainly a simplicity to it. How much does heritage influence your design without dictating what you do?
JS: We are in quite a unique position and quite a fortunate position in many ways because as designers, we have such a fantastic heritage. An E-Type, an XK-120, they still look great today. They’re fantastically evocative cars. One of the biggest things for me as a designer is that we’ve always had this value in Jaguars of tactility and engagement.
And when you look when you look back on a car like an XK-120, you’ll see all the toggle switches, you’ll see an incredibly tactile and engaging gear shifter. The steering wheel is a beautiful wood rim with metal spokes, that kind of thing. And it’s just so inviting. You want to reach out and touch everything and play with everything. And it’s deliberate on our part, not to necessarily go the way that a lot of gone, where everything just becomes sucked into a screen.
But to celebrate these elements of tactility and interaction and creating these beautiful details that look really rich and valuable. It’s not just about it working in your head, but it also appeals to your heart — it’s an emotional connection. And that’s really important when you’re designing Jaguars, that we can have something that is really visceral and tangible, that there’s this tactile engaging rewarding aspects to driving a Jaguar.
Speaking of the future …
TDB: What is your biggest challenge going forward? What are you tackling that’s just a real challenge right now?
SH: For me it’s looking and searching for those new materials that kind of meet the taste of new customers, and, making sure that they meet the test requirements that are expected. There are so many beautiful, amazing materials out there, but to actually get them to perform — it’s difficult. So yeah, those are the challenges, I think.
JS: I think for me with, you know, I’ve been fortunate to be involved in three Jaguars that have won World Car Design of the Year awards. We’ve always prided ourselves on a design team as coming up with cars that are award winning, globally recognized as great design, not just good design. And everyone is getting good at design now. Trying to maintain an edge, I think that’s the challenge and it’s a wonderful challenge. I love it because there’s always budget challenges, there’s always legal constraints, safety requirements; they were there at the start 100 years ago, and they’ll be there 100 years from now. But trying to create stuff that stands out and gets recognized as beautiful design, award-winning design recognized globally, that for me is what keeps me going. That’s what wakes me up in the morning feeling ready to go and hit the day and try and come up with something that’s even better than everyone else.