"Design changes permanently". Interview with Vice President Design Gorden Wagener

Since mid-2008 Gorden Wagener is Vice President Design for the worldwide operating design unit of Daimler. For him, design defines brands and a holistic approach is essential. Not only the products but also the brands of Mercedes-Benz must be staged perfectly. Therefore, he and his international team are responsible for the design of all brands and products within Daimler, including all cars as well as a holistic corporate design of all brands.

The focus is on the brand Mercedes-Benz. Under his leadership, the new design philosophy of sensual purity was created in 2009, which is now being continually developed. It defines modern luxury and expresses an essential aspect of the brand - the bipolarity of intelligence and emotion.

A variety of models bear Gorden Wagener's signature as Vice President Design, such as the new E-Class, C- and S-Class models, the SUVs GLE Coupé and GLC, the Mercedes-AMG GT as well as smart and the commercial vehicles of the company.

Mr. Wagener, what is design and how is it different from art?

I think the boundaries between design and art can be fluid. Automotive design is an artistic, sensory-based act of creation, albeit one that operates within corresponding parameters and can be judged to be "good" or "bad". This contrasts with the great freedom offered by art.

Imagine if you were to come across a sketch from earlier in your career while spring cleaning. What would you make of it now?

I expect I would think that I have made good progress since then.

Why did cars have straight edges in the 1980s, and why did they become more rounded again in the 1990s? Why is design constantly changing?

People are constantly developing new requirements, which is why design also never stops changing. In the world of fashion, for example, at least four new collections are presented every year. New trends emerge in the field of automotive design roughly once a decade. At the same time, however, vehicles have to have longer useful lives than other products (they will be visible on our roads for many years after all), and have to meet the prevailing yet ever-changing ideal of beauty. Because this is what shapes the preferences of our customers.

Gorden Wagener – Chief Design Officer Mercedes-Benz AG | (copyright) 2015 - Michael Dannenmann

Do you see a realistic chance that certain design trends from past decades will re-emerge in the future? What would they be, for example?

Past trends always come around again. Although not too often, I hope, in the case of the 1980s. But the presentation of the brand also inspires good automotive design if it translates the brand's tradition into the modern day. We have completed the transition from traditional to modern-day luxury, for example, and re-interpreted the brand as a result without creating the impression of "retro" design.

It is a well-known fact that design is a question of taste. How do you strike a balance between trends in the industry, feedback from customers and your own ideas?

That's the challenge! With our design philosophy of sensuous clarity, we have developed a design idiom that we use to perfectly present our products. They have to be hot and cool, which means beautiful, sexy but also modern and high-tech. In other words, they must represent the modern luxury of Mercedes-Benz in the best possible way.

How will automotive design change in the future?

The interior of the automobile will become increasingly important in the future, as a "third place" in addition to the home and the office. Particularly in the age of autonomous vehicles and digitization, this is where passengers increasingly want to enjoy modern luxury.