3 automotive designers any gearhead should know

Great automotive designers are able to translate the steel, plastic, rubber, and glass that comprise a car into something much more special than the sum of its parts. It’s a car’s exterior design that speaks the most universal language, dividing the appliances of transportation from the objects of art displayed in childhood bedrooms and on enthusiast’s garage walls alike. Automotive designers inspire and reflect the aesthetic of the time, inform us of the future, and pay homage to beauty long displaced by technology and the advance of modern manufacturing. As an introduction to the world of all-star automotive designers, one should not overlook Giorgetto Giugiaro, Batista Farina, and Ian Callum.

Giorgetto Giugiaro

With a career spanning more than 50 years, this famed Italian-born designer is responsible for some truly fantastic cars. In the ’60s, Giorgetto Giugiaro worked for Bertone and later Ghia, both hugely influential automotive design houses. It was during this tenure that he would pen the resolutely Italian Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT, the lovely BMW 3200 CS, and the Maserati Ghibli.

In 1968, Giugiaro launched his own design firm called Italdesign Giugiaro. While the new firm would have a hand in a wide variety of design platforms, automotive continued to be a main focus for Giorgetto’s talented eye. In contrast to the curvy and romantic designs of the ’60s, Giugiaro pioneered a much more angular aesthetic in the ’70s, dubbed the “folded paper” era. Examples of this design language include the Lotus Esprit, the Volkswagen Scirocco, and the legendary BMW M1. In the early ’80s, Giugiaro designed what is arguably one of the most famous cars ever made, the DeLorean DMC-12, immortalized as the car used as the time machine in the genre-defining “Back to the Future” trilogy.

From famed Italian marques to long-dead American brands, Giugiaro’s influence changed the way we think about cars, about how they look, and with the help of a little movie magic, where (and when) they can take us.

Ian Callum

Born in Scotland, Ian Callum got his start as a designer with Ford, where he is credited with the raucous and wild design of the 1989 Escort Cosworth. Most well-known for his work with quintessential British brands like Jaguar and Aston Martin, Callum is largely responsible for the design language that has styled a great many modern Aston Martins—from the early ’90s and the DB7, to the 1999 Vanquish and the 2004 DB9 (which he designed with Henrik Fisker). The design of the DB9 would eventually become the base of James Bond’s ride of choice, the V12-powered DBS (as featured in “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace”). On the topic of Bond cars, Callum also designed the futuristic Jaguar C-X75 concept that was driven by the villain Mr. Hinx in 2015’s “Spectre.”

Callum would later become the Design Chief for Jaguar Land Rover, where he has played a role in designing some of the most beautiful modern cars on the road today, including the 2005 Jaguar XK, the 2013 F-Type sports car, the 2012 XF Sportbrake Wagon, and the 2016 F-Pace SUV.

Having played a significant role in reinvigorating two aging British luxury brands, Callum’s work has been described as timelessly organic and he has become an undeniable presence in modern automotive design.

Battista “Pinin” Farina

Any gearhead worth his or her salt knows hallmark brands like Alfa Romeo, Fiat, and Ferrari, but did you know that one prolific designer designed some of these brand’s most eye-catching cars? Battista “Pinin” Farina founded Carozzeria Pininfarina as an automotive design house and coachbuilder in 1930. Responsible for an impressive cadre of customized coach-built cars and an expansive resume of automotive designs, Pininfarina has become an institution in the history of Italian automotive design.

Pininfarina is responsible for designing the classic MGB GT, the timeless Alfa Romeo Spider (as driven by Dustin Hoffman in 1967’s “The Graduate”), and the firm even penned the evergreen and beautiful curves of the modern Maserati GranTurismo (which has been in production for an unheard-of 10 years). Maserati, Alfa and MG aside, Pininfarina is likely most well known for their work with Ferrari.

Working with Ferrari, Pininfarina (and his stable of designers) have created some truly game-changing designs, the likes of which have spanned generations and helped to make Ferrari the juggernaut it is today. Highlights of this partnership include many of the brand’s most important cars, from the 1952 Ferrari 250, to the 1964 275, the 1965 Dino 206 GT, 1968 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona, the 1984 Testarossa and 288 GTO, the iconic F40, and modern cars like the F12, the 458, and the FF. In fact, Pininfarina is credited with designing four of the five Ferrari flagship supercars, excluding only the 2013-present LaFerrari.

A match made in sports car heaven, it’s hard to imagine what Ferrari would be without Pininfarina, and vice versa. Designers like Pininfarina, and indeed Giugiaro and Callum, become an often silent but entirely crucial element in creating a commercially successful car. These amazing, wild, and beautiful cars turn heads, adorn bedroom walls, and break auction records at Pebble Beach, and yet we forget that a great deal of their effect is derived from the relative accessibility of their exterior design. The design of a beautiful car exists outside the usual limitations of affluence, access, cost, ownership, and maintenance. It’s the universal language of automotive enthusiasm, and appreciation requires little more than a love for cars—you don’t even need a driver’s license.