The Design Principles That Make Land Rover Successful: From a Talk by Gerry McGovern, Chief Design Officer

In 2008, Land Rover was undergoing major changes, having been acquired by Tata Motors (with Jaguar, now stable). Tata wasn’t exactly a household name, and Gerry McGovern, Land Rover’s design director, said Alloy + Grain of its reserves at the time:

“For me, when Tata bought Jaguar and Land Rover, there was a bit of concern. What do they know about the high-end automotive sector? They initially admitted that they didn’t know. Corn [they said], ‘That’s why we bought you. You are the experts. You run the business as you see fit. ‘”

However, there has been a very significant change made by the new owners. At the time, Land Rover was structured like many car manufacturers: the design group came under the engineering group. But fortuitously for Land Rover, Ratan Tata, who was then president of the Tata group, was not an average businessman; he holds a degree from Cornell in architecture and structural engineering. In other words, he was trained in both design and engineering, and understood what the relationship between the two should be.

So Tata asked Land Rover a question: “Why is design engineering? “

From then on, the arrangement was exchanged, for the benefit of the company, as we have seen here. “We’re all in the same boat,” said McGovern, “but they do the engineering better than us, we do the design better than them. So we respect each other and make sure we put it in the right order. “

We’re at a press event for the new Range Rover Evoque, where the car’s high sales figures are touted. McGovern takes the microphone and turns the speech towards design. “Of course, volume is important to us, and business is important, but most important is that we create vehicles that our customers love for life,” said McGovern.

“Direction of design and engineering integrity is at the top of the bar, no matter what vehicle it is. This has not always been the case with Land Rover. But what we’ve been trying to do for the last ten years or so is to give them a good dose of design in order to make these vehicles more universally desirable without them becoming generic. It certainly made a difference. And we do it without harming the engineering in any way, because the two can be reconciled if you have the right attitude. “

McGovern then goes into great detail about his and Land Rover’s design approach, their design dos and don’ts, how they harness design to create emotional connection and more. Here are excerpts from that conversation.

A modernist approach to design

“For us, it’s about being reductive. It’s about being ‘less is more’, it’s about reducing clutter. We think that’s fine for a Range Rover, which is a sophisticated vehicle. “


“Let’s face it, people don’t really need luxury Range Rovers. I said it. They don’t really need luxury watches, luxury homes, luxury vacations. They don’t. don’t need it, but they desire them, and that’s the difference. If people can nurture this desire with morally sociable, responsible and sustainable products and services, and in doing so, feed many families and keep people in business, there is nothing wrong with it. “

Three elements of using design to form an emotional connection

“This emotional connection is something that only the best, in my opinion, realize. Whether it’s a car or whatever, for me it boils down to three things:

“Visceral: When I look at it, do I want it, do I want it?

“Behavioral: when I have it, does it work, does it do what it’s supposed to do?” And last but not least,

“Reflecting: once I’ve used it, lived it for a while, do I still desire it? Does it still do what it’s supposed to do? And do I build a lasting relationship with it? him, which reinforces the reason I bought him in the first place?

“Now these aren’t necessarily all equal, sometimes the product can overindex on visceral and not behavior, but overall it’s still very successful – they vary, it’s like a graphic equalizer. . But for me, this is the absolute heart of emotional design. “

Don’t look at the competition

“At Land Rover, we tend to work in a slightly different way than some of our competitors. I know and have spoken to most of the design leaders around the world, and I don’t tend to look too much at their designs because I think it can subconsciously affect what you do, and I encourage our designers not to do the same either. We’re aware of what’s going on, in terms of competitiveness and the latest technology and all of those things. , we have our own DNA. “

Design first

“In the studio, we [designers] create the tangible asset, we create the volumes, proportions and basic arrangement of the vehicle and packaging. And once we’ve signed it, we ask our brilliant engineers to come and deliver it to us and get as close to that design as possible. A lot of studios work the other way around. I think it’s dangerous because the horse has flown away and we end up with what we call the “style”, which is reinforced by volumes and proportions that do not seem right.

“If you look at a Range Rover, it’s very elegant: a long wheelbase, a bit of a boat tail, a short front overhang, that’s the relationship with the body. It is a very well thought out and proportional design. It doesn’t even talk about the coating, just the volume and proportion. Now if we did it the other way [by starting with the engineering], there is a danger that he will end up watching [quite wrong]. This ain’t trying Pete [Bingham, JLR Chief Engineer] and his brotherhood – we’re all in the same boat – but they do the engineering better than us, we do the design better than them. So we respect each other, we make sure to put it in the right order. “

On the chaotic design

“We are starting to see more and more this approach to design that I call ‘Zorro’ on the market, [as in] the fencer – all lines everywhere. And for me, it creates visual confusion. ”

Refining vs. Restart

“There’s this concern in the auto industry that every time you make a new car it has to be completely different. Why? When it comes to a new vehicle that we haven’t produced before, it’s our chance to be radical. But if you’ve got something established that people love, [I’d rather] refine it. Look at the evolution of the 911, this is a very good example. Or the evolution of the Range Rover. This is our approach. “

Defender of design

Yes, we know what many die-hard Land Rover fans want to hear McGovern talk about the most: the Defender, that iconic, abandoned British SUV that Land Rover will soon be resurrecting. The new design is being kept under wraps, and at the press conference, after jokingly joking that he had one to show us, all it would say is this:

“Our design strategy or our brand architecture: Land Rover is still a leading brand; Range Rover is our family of luxury vehicles that speak of refinement and sophistication; Discovery talks about versatility. And I think when Defender comes, this strategy will do It will be the absolute polarization of the Range Rover, to give you a clue. ”

Were waiting!

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