As director of design for Jaguar, Ian Callum is the first in and last out of every vehicle the manufacturer creates. Shaping the brand’s aesthetic for the last two decades earned Callum five honorary doctorates, as well as recognizable status as a titan of design in themotoring world. On the heels of Jaguar’s launch of its first fully electric automobile, the I-Pace, Callum shares his thoughts with Alexandra Cheney on when to say no, how good design can be drawn in three lines and what keeps his wheels spinning
“I don’t win them all I’m afraid,” Ian Callum told me over a chilled, slightly saccharine glass of Montenegrin white wine. “But this one I did.” We were sat on the rooftop terrace of Aman’s Sveti Stefan, a 15th-century island village turned luxury resort, for the launch of Jaguar’s F-Pace, the brand’s first foray into the SUV class. As the sun dropped below the Adriatic Sea on a balmy Friday night, Callum raised his glass and glanced, with equal parts paternal affection and satisfaction, towards the “hardest thing” he’s ever had to create.
teen to attend art school. Callum heeded Heynes’s instruction, studying at the Glasgow School of Art before taking a masters in vehicle design at the Royal College of Art in London. He began the first decade of his career at Ford Design studios but soon found a home at Jaguar. Callum promptly produced concepts for the R-Coupe, R-D6, C-X75 and C-X17. Design and car awards soon followed, as did Callum-coined motifs. One of the most recognizable is his penchant for pushing the wheels as far as possible to each side of any vehicle, reducing front and rear overhang and, according to Callum, automatically conveying a sense of movement. “There are a couple of areas I will lie on the tracks for,” and as everyone familiar with his work knows, that’s one of the foremost. Callum reports directly to Dr Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, and welcomes the occasional visit from Tata Motors, the Mumbai-based conglomerate and Jaguar’s parent company. “My point of judgment is always: what would [Jaguar founder] Sir William Lyons think of this? My inspiration never comes from the same place. I don’t think I ever look at anything and say ‘I need to emulate that.’” Instead, Callum looks to photographs, architecture and paintings. He listens to music and explores some product design beyond the automotive bubble. “I’m not a
“Now it’s blooming obvious,” the 60-year-old Scotsman tells me recently via phone of the F-Pace’s design, “but getting there was very hard.” That’s inclusive of the time when Callum and his team of 45 people created 32 scale models (a handful or two is common) of the XF, a sedan and sportbrake, in order to “break that paradigm and move Jaguar, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.” Despite the challenge, Callum believes, above all, in his gut. “You have to trust your own judgment and be ruthless with yourself and with your
team. It’s a bit like scolding your own children, but the discipline of beauty is so important that you must leave out as much as you can.” The F-Pace is now Jaguar’s best-selling vehicle. Shortly after his 14th birthday, Callum first laid eyes on the long, low-hooded XJ6. Inspired and already job hunting, he mailed some sketches from his home to Jaguar’s then-chief engineer, Bill Heynes. Heynes responded with a letter, writing, “your ideas are good and you have obviously a flair for the styling side of the industry.” He also advised the young