Our industry moves so fast it is not always possible to get everything you wish to do, done. And this has been the case with our series of 10 questions where we ask a designer about their career start, influences and to pass on a bit of wisdom. I am pleased to say that this week I managed to get caught up over vacation and present a subject who has been become a personal friend over the years.
I first met Brian Baker while he worked in the GM Design Center. Brian has the kind of personality that makes you want to stay in touch, even though it is difficult to keep up with his energy and the speed of his many projects. Brian counts on his resume an astonishing array of titles including National Development Consultant for the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum, producer of numerous TV programs, faculty and teaching positions at numerous transportation design schools and countless speaking engagements. If you ever want to lose an afternoon in the untold stories of the Detroit design scene, just ask Brian to take you through his recent presentation at the IDSA conference.
TSB: When did you know you wanted to be an auto designer? BB: When In 3rd grade I felt happier in the middle of winter, crouched next to a cold brick building with a pad of paper drawing car ideas, rather than playing in the snow with my friends.
TSB: Where did you go to school and how did you decide which school to attend? BB: I began at Indiana University’s Herron School of Art in Indy before transferring to CCS and then I sat next to my drawing board in the middle of a Detroit winter with a pad drawing car ideas, I called my Dad and convinced him that I needed to go to Southern California and Art Center. I had a great Dad who managed to get me interviews at Ford and GM as a high school student. They recommended CCS, CIA and Art Center
TSB: What was your first job after college? How did you get it? BB: I dragged out my decade pan of education long enough for the Auto industry to recover from the early 80’s slump. GM, Ford and Chrysler all extended offers at the college. In retrospect I realize that this was a n amazing luxury afforded to me by being at an amazing college.
I got my job by being the kid from Indianapolis that built the full size Indycar for the year 2020. I got advice and tires from racing legend Dan Gurney. I parked my racecar outside the window where the interviews were to take place. I made certain I was the first interview of the day. I started into my portfolio when Chuck Jordan and Henry Haga stopped me. Chucksaid “who’s is that? Pointing at my race car. “He said forget the portfolio, let’s go look at the car.” The rest was pretty easy.
TSB: Are there any major lessons you learned in that first job? BB: I learned that the power of a giant can be coaxed to help you achieve your dreams. It can also snap your neck .
TSB: What are your favorite cars and why? BB: 1967 STP Turbine racer, 1966 Lamborghini Miura, 1937 Tatra 77, 1971 Buick Riviera, Chevy SSR Concept: All of these represent design at the extremes. Some asymentry, Flawless proportions, Dorsal Fins, Boatails that defied convention and my own design
TSB: Where do you get your inspiration? BB: My vehicle designs always have some reference to a classic from the past. Often not retro but reminiscent of the proportions for the classic car era.
TSB: Are there any other designers you admire? BB: Sure: Any designer with a vision that they are able to maneuver through the process to make it to the show stand at an international show. This is a magic that I managed to do only 2 or three times in 25 years. This is truly an art form.
TSB: What is the most recent vehicle you worked on (that you are allowed to talk about)? Can you tell us a little about the process and end result? BB: I worked on a C7 Corvette program. We did a series of scales that were intended to showcase the next styling. They were to be debuted at racing venues and entered in a GTP class. This was intended to give the Corvette a pre production pedigree for the track before the first C7 were produced. My design played the Stingray Racer up to fit the GTP catagory. Providing a race pedigree befor the car was ever built.
TSB: Can you tell us what are the biggest challenges facing designers in the future? BB: Instant online surveys, Government overregulation, the insulation of the driver from the physics of driving, manufacturing techniques that can support bad ideas just as easily as classic designs
TSB: Are there any last parting words of wisdom you would like to give to aspiring designers? BB: I’ll share what Lee Iacocca said to me just before I graduated. He said “Kid there are going to be days…Don’t let the business guys get you down!