FCA Design Center in Turin

FCA Design: A Multicultural Perspective on Italian Design


October 7, 2020 - The FCA Design Center in Turin is where the Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia and Maserati models of tomorrow come to life at the hands of more than 200 designers from some 15 different countries. Selected for their ability to think outside the box, to harness and mix influences and experiences, to cross-contaminate and innovate, these designers transform their vision of the future into forms, materials and fabrics that infuse the unmistakable Italian spirit of these brands with new perspectives. Leading them in this challenge is Klaus Busse – Vice President of Design for EMEA – whose experience in Germany, Britain and the United States is accompanied by numerous awards for industrial and automotive design. That experience has proven valuable in his current role of creating cars that continue to embody Italian culture and appeal to customers around the world. “Here at the FCA Design Center in Turin, we think about where a product should go and why,” Busse explained. “I don't want my team to limit themselves to simply designing cars: I need them to think about what customers want and about how mobility, and more generally society, is evolving. In that sense, working in a multicultural environment creates value.”

Busse and group at FCA Design Center in Turin

Looking at Italy ‘From the Outside in’

According to Busse, a multicultural team can bring perspectives that enhance the extraordinary power of Italian culture underlying the Group's Italian brands. “People with a different passport or those who have been fortunate enough to travel, to explore and learn about other cultures understand how much Italian products are appreciated around the world,” he said. “This gives something extra to the vision of those who come from distant lands or who are globetrotters in spirit. A characteristic which we designers all have in common.”

Encountering and learning from people from different disciplines, backgrounds and traditions can breathe new life into ideas. “Whether its culture, education, personality or gender, our difference always enhance,” Busse added. “For example, some people pay more attention to the functionality of a product, while others tend to focus on aesthetics. Another advantage of a heterogeneous group is that everyone in that group represents the needs of a different end customer. This also applies to different expectations in the various markets where our cars are sold.”

The flow of ideas is facilitated by the very organization of the Design Center. Each brand has its own design studio, and all are supported by three ateliers (Color and Trim, Interior Design, and User and Experience Design). This ensures the creativity and quality of each product, while maintaining the unique identity of each brand.

Busse is also an avid proponent of meetings where designers can learn from the successes and failures of the entire group: a team of individuals united by creativity, energy and passion.

Anna Kondakova and Alexandros Liokis

A Tribute to Elegance

Italian design has always been synonymous with balance, refinement and timeless appeal. These elements are core to the daily work of Inna Kondakova and Alexandros Liokis, Chief Interior Designer and Exterior Designer, respectively, for Alfa Romeo.

A native of St. Petersburg, Inna says that when she was a child, she learned to appreciate the Italian aesthetic from the architecture in her city, designed by the many Italians engaged by the Tsars. Her interest in cars came during an internship in Arese, where she was won over by Alfa Romeo craftsmanship. "At the Design Center in Turin, we are aware that we are in a place which represents the roots of FCA’s Italian brands,” Inna said. “That's why our work focuses on tradition, in true Italian style.”

Liokis thinks the same. A long-time fan of the Group’s Italian sports cars, he is proud to be part of the FCA family. “I graduated in Design Engineering from Athens, my hometown, but I chose the European Institute of Design (IED) in Turin for my specialization,” Liokis said. “Here at the Design Center, I’d be proud to leave my mark by designing a car which epitomizes Italian elegance, where every component is balanced to perfection. That is something that I also bring from my own culture, where for millennia we have studied the proportions that define beauty.”

Danila Giordano – Research & Application Chief Designer, Color & Material

Breaking Down Limits and Barriers

To successfully create products with a strong Italian identity that appeal to a global market means mixing traditional Italian know-how and craftsmanship with outside influences and experience. Danila Giordano Research & Application Chief Designer in the Color & Material atelier is convinced of this. She heads a small team which analyzes social trends influencing the automotive world, in order to anticipate and incorporate them in new projects. “At the Design Center, we redefine the concept of Italian culture, evolving and innovating with the help of colleagues from other countries, who bring other cultural perspectives to the table”, Danila said. “That dynamic led us, for example, to explore whether wood from the Val di Fiemme in Trentino could be combined with bamboo or carbon to create a new hybrid material. As designers, we can never rule anything out. We have to remain open and constantly explore what’s out there.”

This is also the approach Quentin Amore, Exterior Designer for Maserati, applies to his life and work. He is a native of Grenoble, France, with a Sicilian father, a French-Spanish mother and an American wife, and he has lived in Italy for 18 years. “Interpreting reality through different points of view encourages us to push the limits,” Quentin said. “As creatives, we have to go further, take risks, go places where we may not know how perfect the results will be. It is only by exploring the unknown that we can create a product that embodies art: beautiful because of the emotions it generates.”

Dario Pellegrino, Exterior Designer di Fiat

An Unexpected Synergy

New influences and alternative perspectives don’t only come from expert designers, however. Aesthetics is key, but when you’re creating a car that will go to market in five or even ten years, it's not only beauty that counts. You also need the right chemistry, made up of dialogue and synergies between specialists in ergonomics, engineering and aerodynamics.

Sometimes the winning idea can come from someone with less experience. “Often, experts in the sector focus more on the technical details of a project and can forget about what is at the core of Italian design, capable of rendering a masterpiece with just a few strokes,” reflects Dario Pellegrino, Exterior Designer for Fiat for six years. “My experience, together with other colleagues, of teaching at the IED in Turin, is very useful: teaching those who know little or nothing about the professional world helps keep us ‘fresh’.”

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