Max Wolff is shaping the next generation of Lincoln design.
Born from a childhood obsession with sketching buses and trucks, Max Wolff's passion for the automotive world runs deep. "I remember the first car magazine I ever bought that had sketches inside it. I remember seeing those and thinking, 'Wow, I'd like to be able to do that one day.'" It's fair to say he exceeded that goal. As design director for Lincoln, Wolff is literally shaping the future of Lincoln vehicles. On a daily basis he oversees the design process from the exterior shape of a vehicle to a quarter-millimeter gap around an interior switch. And the technologies he and his team (which he is quick to credit) use enable more than even he could imagine back when he was sketching in his notebooks during class.See how the entire Lincoln lineup integrates
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Cars are pretty cool.And Max knows it.
- Q: What can technology do to enable great design?
- A: The technology involved in creating a car is amazing, and one of the things we're constantly adapting to in our process is how much of this new technology we use. Of course, we use tons of technology. And we use a lot of the same visualization techniques that you would see in movies or high-end photography or CGI. We use software similar to what is used to create animation movies, but specially refined for automotive applications. It enables us to see a full-size image of a vehicle completely rendered, in all of its colors, two years before it's ever seen on the road. We have very skilled computer operators; some have been clay sculptors and they learned this new tool and now they're math sculptors.
- Q: What does that give you as a designer?
- A: Developing a car with math and putting it in its environment allows us to get a feel for the car much earlier. It allows us to spot things we might like to modify early on. It allows us to do different things with design, too. I'm not sure it changes the physical—holding the steering wheel—but it definitely changes the way you interact with the vehicle.
- Q: How does technology impact the experience for the driver?
- A: The way that we interface with devices and products has changed significantly over the last few years. We don't push as many buttons; we're more accustomed to dealing with screens or, as in the case of Lincoln vehicles, capacity of touch buttons in the interior. Rather than a switch or knob, you'll just gently swipe your hand and the volume on your stereo goes up. It's a little piece of magic for the customer, but as designers, it's allowed us to clean up the interior. Certainly, as we look to the next generation of Lincoln and of that technology, we have even more opportunities coming forward.
- Q: What products excite you?
- A: A lot of the new electronics are very exciting to see. They're a bit faster than we are in terms of getting product to market. It excites me not only from a design standpoint, but also with what it's going to lead into next. And what opportunities that gives me as a designer to pull into our products and, therefore, push our products further as well. Furniture is a bit similar in that there can be breakthroughs by a new way of using material. Obviously, injection multiplastics were a huge breakthrough in furniture, as it later was for cars. So, it's good to keep an eye on what's happening in that world as well, so we can bring those discoveries into the future vision of Lincoln products.