Laurens van den Acker, currently vice-president of Renault design took the stage at London’s Royal College of Arts to talk about the learning curves of his own international design career, as well as Renault’s new wave of design concepts. With many major manufacturers under his belt and an around the world career working in Germany, USA, Japan and now France. Producing game changing concept cars as he moved up the design food chain, building upon his own design philosophy and brand strategies. Manifesting that “at the heart of every brand should be a promise”
Van den Acker explains that a ‘promise’ should be at the heart of every brand, it should be this promise that the user will seek and be rewarded by. When joining Renault in 2009, after transforming Mazda with a collection of stunning concept cars, he was met by a uncoordinated composition of Renault models, realising that a ‘Renault promise’ was exactly what was missing. Set with this new task by his seniors, and having just one idea of what this ‘promise’ should be, Van den Acker created a ‘promise’ around ‘life and the human’. There was no plan B, this had to work as a manifesto. Extrapolating each stage of life to a different vehicle sector, as seen in the ‘Life’ flower diagram, was the Van den Acker idea. This has guided Renault into a new design direction with the successful Dezir concept at the forefront of this approach, signified by ‘Love’. Each stage of this life cycle is symbolised as a ‘petal’ with life at the centre, holding all concepts and vehicles together is the ideas of simplicity, sensuality and warmth. This message was then enforced through every vein of Renault down to the advertising communication of the new Clio advert that is currently on our screen.
On a more personal note to the students and designers in the room of the RCA lecture theatre, Laurens gave valuable career advise. Re-enforcing to always be yourself, to not ‘fall into’ a brand, always express yourself through your design and finally, if you are the best in the studio… its time to move on. “If you don’t push yourself you will not progress and what better environment is there to learn in than one you are not comfortable to be in”, Laurens explained design as making music, it’s something you should love and its an international language, that regardless of where you are design is your tool of communication.
The lecture concluded with a questions and answer session, a chance to put Laurens on the spot, a question from Jaguar designer Julian Thompson was put the to the floor, “Are the concept cars you produce for your designers or managers as they are quite far away from the production cars. Secondly why do you wear trainers? We aren’t allowed to wear sports shoes at Jaguar.”
Laurens van den Acker wittily replied; “Let me answer the easy question first, our concept cars are close to production cars. The trainers however, this started when i first began having to wear suits to work. I looked in the mirror one day and realised I looked like my dad! So i wanted to show some of my own personality and remind myself that i am still young. The trainers are now more of a gimmick i must admit, but its a cheaper object to collect than most designers have.”
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