Jozef Kaban, recently appointed head of design at BMW. In 2012, we sat down with the designer while he was at Skoda to find out how his experience with the Veyron the has helped to define Skoda’s new design language.
Jozef Kaban works for Skoda, in the Czech Republic. Growing up in a part of Czechoslovakia which falls modern Slovakia, his parents have driven Skodas, and now his family is not too.
Bugatti Veyron designer and Skoda design chief Jozef Kaban joins BMW
At the age of 18 years, came in second (to a professional service of design) in a Volkswagen design competition run by new owners, the VW Group. How Skoda’s design chief, he is the man that leads the brand’s design revolution that began with the Rapid sedan-profile tailgate which will be on sale at the end of this year. But he has written a couple of jalopies in the past, too, including a Bugatti Veyron.
Enter the VW after graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, Kaban has been involved in several projects including the Seat Arosa and VW Lupo superminis. A more recent experience at Audi, which culminated with Kaban be made to the exterior design chief, and then became head of Skoda design in 2008.
He has a degree in Automotive Design at the Royal College of Art in London, where she won the Giorgio Giugiaro award for innovation; Kaban now has the Italian master between the VW Group colleagues.
But it was in 1999 when the call came to create the Veyron’s exterior, which has seen the production. A single wheel for the world’s fastest production car has the same cost of Skoda new 999ccc Citigo urban terrier; a routine Car service, buy two.
The free tax disc has won the most clean Citigo is a concept that is alien to the Bugatti, which serves more than a half-kilo of carbon dioxide for every 1000 metres: more than a man of average weight within a range of 100 miles. As for power, 20:1 ratio in favour of the Veyron Super Sport trim.
Yet for all of their technical differences, perhaps the design philosophy difference between these two is no longer among the Quick, and the atmosphere is elegant and distinctive, Skoda-sketch of wine glasses that Kaban shows us at the company’s Mladá Boleslav design centre outside Prague.
In parallel, extreme, see the end of Ferdinand Alexander Porsche 911 original, and its just as functional everyday creations, such as pens and sunglasses. Or Gordon Murray McLaren F1 of 1993, and the prototype T25 and T27 city cars of today – all lightweight three-seater.
Kaban says he was able to draw on his experience with the Veyron to define Skoda’s new design language, which he calls “the elegant, to the point and practical”.
“There is a similarity in the simplicity… both are reduced to a minimum,” he says. It is an ethic that aligns with his former charge, Audi (which he describes as “proud and motivated – a perfect brand to work for”).
But Kaban think that there is room to maneuver within that philosophy: “I like Audi designs, but we are concentrating on our route, which will produce a different kind of simplicity.”
Kaban cites Apple’s clean, minimalist products as great examples of design and technology that work together perfectly, without being bound by an excess of detail. “Complicated, it is easier to do,” he says.
This position very much in agreement with F. A. Porsche’s credo that “a formally coherent product needs no embellishment,” and that “good design must be honest”. (Incidentally, in 2008, Porsche studio designed the elegant ‘109 And’ electric locomotive for Skoda Transport (away from the Skoda Auto since 1991).)
“There is always a certain process that is behind the design,” Kaban continue. Understand the short is half the battle, apparently, and while it is a designer’s values in his work, he must be guided by the brand and the customer.
“The designer’s ego is the most important thing: each brand has its own history,” he says, “it is important to understand the customer’s dreams. We must ask, ‘Who will buy this car?’”
Relatively sober Veyron, that means recognizing that buyers should not shy away from the aesthetic loudhailer offered by most of the supercars with their aerodynamic addenda. “If you’re rich, you don’t need to tell everyone that you’re rich,” says Kaban. “Your aura shows you that you have the power.”
And, in some way, it is easy to reconcile the Veyron composed with Skoda’s new design language, which Kaban says defines sportsmanship as “well-balanced and healthy, rather than as a bodybuilder… Skoda customers don’t want a look that is too powerful.”
The emphasis on practicality requires long distance, high rooflines and smart but simple extras (like the shopping bag hooks in the trunk), but Kaban said that begins with a beautiful form, and then works backwards, encouraging the start of negotiations between architects and engineers.
Without flourishes to differentiate the cars, that intend to use general forms to express the model’s individuality within a range that will eventually extend from the tiny Citigo to a large, 7 or 8 seater, SUV that is being considered for production. “The proportion that costs nothing, but gives character,” he says, adding that “A bigger car is not necessarily needed more details.”
And as Audi’s success proves, less is moreish.