“An in-depth interview with Philippe Emami, automobile designer and innovator”-
Please introduce yourself to the readers. How did you first get involved in automobile design?:
I have always been fascinated by cars and science fiction since childhood. I was always determined to have an influence on innovation, so I decided to mix my passion for cars with science fiction. No one in the design field at the time really understood what I wanted to accomplish — they looked at me like I was an alien!
That didn’t stop me from becoming a designer. I was and I am a dreamer and have always had my feet securely on the ground.
Who or what were some of your influences growing up?
I loved to see those 70’s era movies like Space 1999 and Startrek. I spent hours contemplating the design of my dream cars such as the Pininfarina Modulo, Bertone Stratos and any UFO style concept cars, listening to space-style music like Jean-Michel Jarre. I was inspired by the spatial and futuristic surroundings and sounds.
My most important source of inspiration, however, has been mother nature and the depth of sky and space. To me, it offers the most efficient proportions and harmony.
For cars specifically, the most important influence that pushed me into being a car designer was the Pininfarina Modulo.
In general “less is more” to make a design withstand the test of time. I don’t believe in adding extra “bling”.
What kind of training have you had, if any?
I pursued various creative fields such as sculpting and drawing, utilizing all kinds of objects including plaster, cardboard, foam, and even household tools such as forks, spoons, scissors, and my parent’s tools to materialize and create what I had in mind. Every tool could be used to show my creation.
What has been your favorite project so far?
That’s a really hard question to answer, but I would have to say that my best design experience has been with the most famous automotive brand design studio in France.
With these confidential projects, I try to keep the magic of the design from the drawing to the actual building of the car, something that few designers actually choose to do.
Also, in general, I would just say my favorite project to work on is the next one. Having a project, whatever kind of project it may be, must have constraints and must be challenging. A project without risk and challenge becomes a mute and blinded project.
What would life be without compromises and challenges?
If you could work on any new project, what would that be?
I love to work alongside people who appreciate the real value of design and creation. So, I would love to develop and design for “clean” transportation means (cars and objects travelling in the space…).
What have you learned most about this business?
The most important lesson that I learned after my 23 years of experience in Transportation and Product Design is “Less Is More”. This means a pure design with minimum complexity.
In my opinion, the best design involves objects that time does not alter. A beautiful object has to stay beautiful and in harmony with its surroundings. Time will not have any influence on it. So again, to observe nature, today much the same as it was billions of years ago, is wonderful.
What is your best piece of advice for aspiring designers?
Keep dreaming! Push to make your dreams come true, whatever your dreams are. You have only one life to make it, so do not wait!
To designers, open your wings and keep creating without limitations. Use whatever objects are at your disposal.
How did you get into the industrial design business?
I began Industrial Design at an early age, which allowed me to understand the feasibility of design in general. Technical understanding is capital to make your design come to life.
I also learned that there is a difference between a designer and an artist who creates a static artwork.
As the designer, you have to be able to utilize a bit of everything: creative, technique, philosophy, and sensitivity to others.
How do you prepare for each job/request you receive?
After completing my schedule, I try to understand the finality of the project. Why would the final customer (the internal or external person I am in touch with) choose my design?
This stimulates my creativity and helps me get in touch with the true aim of the object that I create. I like to respond to the needs of the customer, so that I can push the potential of my design to its best level.
Does the field of automotive and industrial design change significantly each year?
Yes, absolutely. Trends and needs evolve, and we have to re-think our environment constantly as designers. We have to be ready for new challenges and critics every single day.
What has been one of the biggest highlights/achievements of your career?
At 6 years old, I knew I wanted to be a designer and I made it, thanks in large part to my parents, who helped me realize my dreams from a young age.
Lily, the wife I share my life with, is also a big source of energy and inspiration to me as well and my friend Bertrand (a childhood friend in Strasbourg), who pushed me to go forward.
With all that in mind, the biggest achievement of my life has been making my passion my career. It has been amazing to see my designs on the streets and know that they have been praised as some of the best quality automobile designs in France.
What do you see yourself doing in the next two years? Are there any other areas you would like to branch out into?
I am definitely open to any kind of proposal, but my ideal plan is to design not only cars, but everything I can. I dream about designing cars, yachts, aircrafts interiors, Space Stations even spaceships…and to be the one leading these designs.
What is the most rewarding thing for you in this occupation and line of work?
Definitely, the joy and enthusiasm shown by the user when he is using the product of my designs. If users, automobile drivers, for example, are able to use my designs in their daily lives, that is the best reward I can get.
What would your advice be to aspiring designers?
To truly innovate, a designer should try to incorporate timeless aesthetics to a need to improve the overall quality of life for the user.
It is all about proportion and harmony, shape, color or sound… The answer is around us, we just have to understand this universal language.