Designing the Bentley of tomorrow is not an easy task. Not only must Bentley’s Director of Design, Stefan Sielaff, preserve the brand’s identity – forged over nearly a century – but he must also visualise the future and innovate.
Here Stefan discusses the future of luxury design, evolving customer demands and the models which define Bentley.
Do you have any guiding principles?
As a custodian of a British brand with such an extensive heritage, it is my role to push the design language into the future. To do this I am convinced we need the help of more three-dimensional design and form language. We always need one ingredient in the design language of Bentley, and this is elegance. So whatever we do, we push our design language into a new dimension with the help of elegance.
Which Bentley design defines the brand for you, and how does this inform what you’re thinking about next?
Talking as a designer, the Bentley which made the most innovative statement of its time is the Mulliner R-Type Continental from 1952. The surfaces of this model feature sharp lines against positive and negative curvature – permitted by traditional yet more time consuming production methods. This DNA will find its way into future Bentleys, but with lightweight, modern treatment. That’s before we even talk about the proportions forming the basis for our current model range. The striking power line, muscular rear haunches and swooping, fast roof line – we will continue to be inspired by these proportions in the future.
What does the future of luxury design mean to you?
The future of luxury design is rather complex because customers are demonstrating new requirements. We cannot only talk about a sculptural exterior and a functional interior. We have to integrate new technologies. I believe very strongly you can only more forward in design and aesthetic with a big input from technology.
Where do you think automotive trends are going? Both in terms of the design and how people use cars?
Society is changing. I think in the next 20 years the automotive industry will see seismic changes. Three quarters of the human population is going to live in mega cities, so the flow of traffic has to be different. In these megacities we are going to lose a very individual relationship of driving your own car. I think it’s more than a question of autonomous moving vehicles, I think it will require swarm intelligence to maintain traffic flow. I am also sure that there will be luxury vehicles – however we may need to redefine what luxury means. Luxury could mean being a member of an exclusive club which has access to a fast lane – time being the most precious commodity. In the countryside, in the mountains, there you may have this personal experience of freedom in your car, but in the megacities this will change.
There will always be an audience for luxury cars. Of this I am convinced. There will always be people who want an individual statement about themselves embodied in their car. Nevertheless, a lot of things will change. The customer of the future may ask for vegan materials – ecological, sustainable trends. This is why we are looking into developing materials like protein leather – or luxurious textiles – it is why we are experimenting with stone veneers, and OLED screens. There will be a mixture of technology and aesthetic in the future.