Former General Motors Vice President of Global Design, Ed Welburn, left pretty big shoes to fill when he retired last year. While many judge only on the actual design of a particular vehicle, Welburn was responsible for turning GM Design into a global network with power brought back to the creative department.
Of course, that wasn’t before he personally reflected on Welburn and what he accomplished.
Finally making globalization something that Design did naturally and not quite as forced anymore. Ensuring art came back into the business. The growth of confidence in Design among the people. And allowing Design to become a power in the organization again. Ed also had a unique ability to make people feel comfortable at all levels. In many ways, he set me up for this job. He was the person who brought me to North America the first time, back in 2004.
Simcoe was then asked to describe his personal character, in which the words “bold”, “sculptural” and “great proportion” were tossed around. However, Simcoe is a grounded designer.
You can create a beautiful thing, but you have to make it real. There’s been lots of noise about me being an engineer in a designer’s clothes, but the reality is that I am a designer who can have an intelligent argument with an engineer about what I would like to deliver. Sometimes it’s a bluff.
When it comes to design outside of the automobile, Simcoe pointed to Apple as a leader in consumer design, pointing to the emotional attachment customers have with the products and the design.
When you buy an Apple product, you buy into the club. And in some ways, Tesla is playing that same game.
We won’t see the Simcoe design era come alive for some time yet, but anything left in the cooker after Welburn’s retirement will still need to pass Simcoe’s approval. Looking into the crystal ball, though, Simcoe sees design flourishing with the arrival of new propulsion methods and autonomy.
Other people seem concerned that autonomy and electrification are going to change the way we design vehicles. And they certainly will but in the right way. Different materials, different propulsion systems, the same and have the same proportion? That’s going to start to change. Design will have a level of freedom it hasn’t had in a long time.