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Our interview with Jonathan Dale, Volvo ACC2 Designer

We recently had the opportunity to interview the designer of the ACC2’s interior, Jonathan Dale.

Yes that’s right, the guy responsible for creating the awesome interior of Volvo’s latest Concept Vehicle, and he’s very interested in what we’ve got to say about his work!

The ACC2 was conceived as an extreme version of the existing Cross Country, or V70XC/XC70. Equipped with features like studded Michelin snow tires, high performance drivetrain, and a “Utility Belt” of useful outdoor gadgets, the ACC2 is well equipped to take on the most challenging Winter conditions Mother Nature can dish out!

No word yet on whether or not this vehicle will see the market, but we’re hoping at least some of the features on the car will be parlayed into production models.

Here’s our discussion:

This is an exciting time for Volvo Cars and I think the ACC2 exemplifies this new direction for the company quite well, would you agree with that?

I agree, Volvo is making a great impact in the automotive world right now, especially in design. Our design language is very strong and the ACC2 simply enhances the Scandinavian and Volvo strengths that we have already achieved so far. The ACC2 has been a great success. The ACC2 shows that people are recognising Volvo and recognising great design. Pushing the XC in an extreme like the ACC2 direction is one way of looking at the possibilities of such a vehicle.


Take a look at the official press release video:
Quicktime
Real

Can you give us a general idea of how the design/development process unfolds, or is each unique to a given project?

Design for a vehicle can be started in many different ways, by a great sketch or by engineers. Normally a designer will start to think in many different ways and sketch sketch sketch!

I tend to think with spider charts first to see where a direction could take me. I then tend to brain storm with the other designers and chiefs with images and what we would like the result to be. I think having a goal to aim for is the best way to achieve the best design. Once we know what we would like to do we interact within each department, marketing engineering, etc. Refining and honing the design until we have a great result… ACC2!


You’re primarily an automotive exterior designer. Is it a challenge moving back and forth from the exterior to interior design?

Not really. I am a product designer with a degree in industrial design. I graduated with a Masters degree in car design from the RCA by designing a helicopter. So designing interiors or exteriors is just different it is a great challenge and really like a challenge, Interior design just has more to think about and many different areas which can be explored in a new way. Having a change, can sometimes be like Christmas when you have a new toy and finding out all the possibilities and getting excited again. Once you return to your old toys, you look at them in a new way. You see them in a new light. I am a great believer in having as much diversity as possible.


What projects have you worked on in the past which we might be familiar with?

I worked as a product designer in London while I was a student and worked on a Hagen Daz spoon!! I started my car design career at Audi. My first job there was the new Audi Cabriole. I left the company before the car hit the road, but the car is similar to when I was there. My friend, Frank Rimili a great guy, should be credited with the car however.

I have worked on a lot of concepts. I joined Ford in Germany. probably my most influential design was the concept of the London studio for all the Ford companies. I worked on the Mondeo ST, the next focus and other concepts which were really really great. A good time…. At Volvo I have worked on a number of different projects… all are still confidential… except for the ACC2.


How did you get your start in the automotive design field?

The RCA (Royal College of Art) is probably the best place to study if you want to design cars (or helicopters). I was interviewed by a number of companies and chose Audi design. A good grounding but I always really wanted to work for Volvo.


How has CAD changed the design process for you? For better or worse?

CAD is a tool, It is just another tool like the pen or clay. Once you can visualise in CAD, you can add this tool to your “utility belt” just like sketching. I personally can not imagine the design process without CAD.


Do you still begin with hand drawn illustrations?

Yes, this is still the place where we start. You still have to be able to communicate a design quickly and effectively, even if it is on a beer mat at the local pub!


What has been your greatest success and biggest setback during your career?

Isn’t this where footballers say ” money and Women”! I do not really see anything as a setback I will always look on the positive side. My greatest success was probably seeing my designs on the road for the first time. I also was very proud to have the opportunity to present the ACC2 at the Geneva motor show to the press.


Jonathan Dale Interview Continued…

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What’s a typical day in the life
of Jonathan Dale?

Pretty normal I would say. I am
always looking for something to do. I have just started to play Golf. Sweden is probably one of the most
beautiful countries I have lived in. Playing golf or swimming in the clear blue ocean here is something
that I would like to do everyday. Unfortunately I only do both, two or three times a week. I like to relax,
read, fish. On the weekend I will probably go for a good drive sit by the side of a lake, swim, fish,
set up the BBQ at wait for the sun to go down (which can be quite late here in Sweden). Drink a few beers
with friends and set up camp.


What car sits in your garage?

A lot of cars, BMW, Volvos,
Mercedes Benz. Only joking I have a communal parking under the house. I do have an S60 T5 for my day to
day car. For the weekend I have 1958 Porsche 356 Coupe A which is in GT specification dark blue and the
love of my life.


What were the objectives
in creating this vehicle?

We wanted to develop the
XC 70 into extreme design concepts, something to get even more excited about! We wanted to see which directions
the car could be taken and still have the toughness, strength, and still keep the feeling of Volvo premium,
and quality.

I’ve read that the ACC2’s
design was inspired by the Swedish Ice Hotel and the Swiss Army Knife. Where else do you look for inspiration,
on a more specific level?

We really did look at the
ice hotel and Swiss army knife. If you see the interior of the car there are iceglasses
to drink from, just like the ice hotel. The whole experience of the interior to give a feeling of contrasts.
Cold and warm. In the ice hotel you sleep on bed of ice with a fur for warmth. I had this in mind with
the leather seats, the sledge like floor and the snowy carpet surrounding to feel snug and comforting
after a hard day of performance skating.

We search every where for new things, graphics, materials. Most ideas are actually from the materials
which really start you brainstorming about where you can use them to show them off. Lotta Svärd did
a great job, exposing me to lots of different ideas from colour and trim.


When did the ACC2 project start,
and how long did it take to complete?

The ACC2 project started
in March last year with a sketch from Steve Potter. I did some interior sketches and the ball started
to roll with Peter Horbury’s enthusiasm. We finished in time for Geneva.


Did you encounter any particular
challenges in designing the ACC2?

For me, designing the whole
interior in Alias (CAD) was a huge challenge because you don’t really know how the interior will turn
out until the last weeks of the project. I had sketches and renderings, but the feeling you get from sitting
in the car is always more exciting than you can ever imagine.


Now onto a few concept
car details. In the 3D rendered images, it looks as if the slits in the centre console are lighted. Is
this correct, and if so, does it exist in the real-life model?

Yes and yes. We wanted
to show where the hot or cold air could come from. The lights added a real “COOL” feeling to
the interior.


The signal stick has a
cross sign on the end of it. Will this be used as a navigation button of sorts?

Yes, there is a
similar button on the back of today’s car with the sat-nav system. I also wanted to play with graphics
and this theme is carried on throughout the interior design, even on to the location points for the four
ice glasses.


Out of interest, is the concept
vehicle drivable in its present state? If so, does it have the performance enhancements described?

The car is currently in
Japan (ED note: as of late June, 2002)… I did actually drive the car
in California for CAR magazine to take photographs. So yes the car can be driven. The car has all the
performance enhancements as stated in the Geneva press pack.

Thanks very much for your time Jonathan, we truly appreciate taking the time to speak with us about design
and the ACC2. I know I’m looking forward to seeing what the next step is for the Cross Country, and I’m
sure most of our readers are as well!

All the best!


As mentioned, Jonathan is very interested in what owners of the present Cross Country have to say about
the ACC2. Click
on over to the forums
to give us your feedback!

Thanks!

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