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Man who styles Jags driving a home-grown design culture

The deadline for the second bi-annual Design Impact Award, based at Glasgow's architecture and design centre The Lighthouse in Glasgow, falls this Friday.

On the following Friday, September 12, the judges, of which I am one, will meet to consider the entries and come up with a shortlist, to be announced a week later on September 19.

Come October the shortlisted projects will be on display at The Lighthouse - The Herald's old Mitchell Lane building - for public scrutiny and for the public to vote for their favourite, before the winner is announced at the end of the month.

As judges, our guide through that process could hardly come with better design credentials.

Our chairman is Ian Callum, the Dumfries-born director of design at Jaguar cars, whose work history on the road to his current position includes some pretty stylish Fords and Aston Martins. Our photograph shows him posed by a restored Mark 2 Jag from the 1960s, but Callum is importantly the man behind the new F-type two-seater sports car, the marque's brand-new successor to the legendary E-type, having overseen the development of the XK, XF and XJ models. Next to appear will be the smaller XE saloon, designed to give the BMW 3-series something to worry about, and Callum promises "three or four new cars in the next three to four years".

These are exciting times for one of the most famous names in motoring.

"We are working on four cars at the moment, some of them replacing existing models," he says. Some will also be brand-new directions for Jaguar, designed to give the name a place in every sector of the global marketplace, from Europe's fondness for estate cars to China's love affair with the cross-over.

That means Callum is looking at every way in which the motor car can develop, from different power supplies, including electricity, to different manufacturing methods and materials. "Fiscal pressures will drive change," he notes, "and legislation, rather than conscience."

Where Jaguar leads the world is in the use of aluminium, and particularly, because the production of aluminium from mined bauxite is a complex and expensive process, recycled aluminium. The latest Jags have 75 per centre recycled body panels, and 50 per cent recycled metal engines. Callum's target for a whole car is 95 per cent.

Yes, today's Jags are made of old beer cans and soft-drink containers. Live with it.

"The car world is not just styling, it is about weight and cost. Design is about understanding the fundamentals, but also creating something that is exciting to use and look at. If something is bland, folk will not buy unless it is supercheap - people are sophisticated. We measure everything and create a matrix to be met, and some elements conflict with one another. But design is not about compromise, it is about making a judgement.

"And aesthetics are very important. I can perhaps make a more practical car but it won't sell, because part of the function of a Jag is to look beautiful."

All of which should give awards entrants an idea of what Callum and the panel will be looking for. As another judge, Caroline Parkinson of Creative Scotland, puts it on The Lighthouse website, entries must "capture the process that designer and business went through and demonstrate the benefit of that process. And to explain how the new product/service/process changed the business - from here to there … and how it improved the bottom line too."

Callum completed a two-year course in automobile design at London's Royal College of Art after undergraduate studies in industrial design at Glasgow School of Art, graduating in 1977.

Senior lecturer at the time was Dugald Cameron, a former student himself who would go on to be Head of Design and Director of the school himself - as well as a highly regarded aviation artist.

Callum speaks warmly of the example of his "pragmatic character" and the quality of his fellow students.

"I was fortunate to be in a fantastic class, we lifted each other up. I graduated in 1977 and it was one of the industrial design department's best years." Of course his own degree show included automotive design as well as hospital equipment and furniture.

Like other graduates Callum found the fire at the Mackintosh building this year distressing.

"Of course I was in the old building across the road from the Mac, a terrible place.

"But I spent many an hour in that library, it was my sanctuary, so the fire was devastating. I was almost driven to tears."

His return to the city for the awards will allow him to see for the first time the new Reid building, which had only its foundations when he received an honorary doctorate from the school. The institution and the judging come together in his hopes for the Design Impact Awards.

"I want to see designers grow and flourish in Scotland. Scots have a very creative and romantic view of life, but we have to get out of the assumption that to make it you have to go to London or New York."

He said with modern communication and techonology there is no reason for this, and it is possible to create a culture where Scotland is the country to go to for the best design.

He added: "It takes collective will to do that, a philosophy, not a set of numbers. There is more to life than politicians."

www.thelighthouse.co.uk

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