Though we'd all like to think we're pretty unbiased when it comes to gender roles in the workplace, there are still a few that manage to surprise us.
Take for example automotive designers. The list of male personas in the industry is almost endless: Harley Earl, Raymond Loewy, Ian Callum, Chris Bangle, Giorgetto Giugiaro... Now try and think of female car designers and you're unlikely to come up with even one name without Googling it.
While doing background research on a sleek design study called the 2022 Alfa Romeo Mode, Carscoop was surprised to discover that the designer behind the project was a woman. As a great number of ladies we speak to roll their eyes at the slightest mention of cars, we were determined to investigate.
What we discovered was designer Yana Briggs, who was kind enough to agree to do an interview with us. We ask Yana about herself, the challenges of working in a male dominated industry and her Alfa Romeo design study. Intrigued? Then follow the jump for the interview.
Link: Yana Briggs
______________________Interview with Yana Briggs ______________________
CS: Hello Yana. Tell us a little about yourself.
YB: My name is Yana Briggs, and I was born in Lithuania. My family immigrated to the United States when I was seven years old. I worked as a sales associate for Mazda before starting my studies at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.
I am now in my fifth term, and soon will begin working on sponsored projects for a variety of companies. Internships such as these are a must for any design student. I am currently showcasing my portfolio to industry professionals in the hopes of securing such an internship.
CS: What attracted you to car design?
YB: I always had a passion for art and drawing, this on top of my love for cars made the transition into a natural one. Having the opportunity to create not only on 2D, but 3D was another goal of mine. In car design, one must be able to communicate a good concept and follow its transition into a physical object, which later performs a task. This sounds easy to many onlookers, but I know and enjoy the challenges involved.
CS: Car design is often perceived as male dominated industry. Have you faced any challenges yet or do you expect to?
YB: I expected this question. I will be honest, it's a number one priority for girls in my field to make sure and challenge the typical stereotype of this male dominated industry. The biggest challenge is trying to stay female with female notions and perceptions while surrounded by testosterone.
I try to bring the essence of a female touch to everything I design. I work and do my best to fulfil the designer shoes. At the end of the day, design is not gender relevant, all that matters is whether it is a good design or bad design.
CS: What do you think a "female perspective" brings to design, or is gender irrelevant these days?
YB: This is philosophical question. From my short experience, with new generation of designers arising and trends changing rapidly, every designer aims to have their own insignia and vision. Times are changing. Personally I feel it is hard to distinguish whether a car was designed by a male or female designer. All we can see is certain characteristics, but not the visionary. Nowadays, design is very open.
CS: What are you plans when you finish your degree? Do you have a dream job?
YB: Design is design. Designers are happy creating no matter what the objective is. For me it might just be more than cars, all industrial design and entertainment options are in my consideration.
CS: What do you think Alfa Romeo represents as a brand?
YB: Alfa Romeo has been an innovator in the automotive market for decades. If you were to look at their company history they have done things like, the first double overhead cam engine, all wheel disk brakes, and at one point the best drag coefficient in their class. All this from a relatively small company made me look at them as eager to try new and progressive design and engineering methods.
YB: The inspiration for the Alfa Mode was the Burham Pavilion designed by Zaha Hadid. I chose it for its unique surfacing, which comprised of stretched material over a skeletal structure. As well as for its exclusivity.
CS: Talk us through the design process. How did you go about designing the Mode?
YB: The design process was done over a fourteen week period. From the beginning we spent some time conditioning the story until it matured, and the pieces fell into place. Things like buyer, purpose of vehicle, inspirations and overall package were manipulated until perfect. Then the design phase started.
Six weeks of design and rough modelling to finalize proportion stance and overall theme took place with lots of going back and forth from 2D to 3D. This, I think, is very important when trying to understand cars. I had a great time seeing the Mode slowly mature to its final design.
CS: What do you like most about your design?
YB: Some of the key features that I am pleased with are the new covered wheel concept and overall surfacing execution. The surfacing theme on the vehicle design can be summarized by the wrapping surface, which begins at the rear quarter panel and continues through the belt to the rocker. This emphasizes the surfacing style of the classic corset as well the stretched material use of Zaha Hadid.
CS: If you were in charge of Alfa Romeo design, what would you do with the brand's styling?
YB: Alfa Romeo has always been an innovator. It is difficult for me to say what I would change in a company like that. Things like trends and material, technology and surfacing greatly affect how a vehicle is designed. So there is no direct answer to the future of Alfa Romeo design.
"The best way to create something new, is to make the expected look unexpected." These were some words of wisdom which one of my professors told me once. I believe this is true when you start considering where a company needs to go. When someone's perception of a brand is predictable, the only way to elevate it is to reinvent it. Similar to what Chris Bangle did at BMW.
CS: Thank you for your time Yana.