Nick Talbot
(Image credit: press)

Bike design

(Image credit: press)

How did you come to be a car designer?

I saw this concept car that looked unbelievably futuristic and exciting whilst looking through one of my father's car magazines at the age of six. That single moment brought being a car designer into focus. I sent messages to various car companies whilst at school in the Middle East to find out what the correct route was and they told me it was through the RCA. So I applied, having finished a four-year Masters in industrial design in Edinburgh.

Did your perception change of what car design is?

Yes it did in a sense that the technical and engineering aspects were very new to me. And I had no idea how big the car industry was! Even then there were satellite studies all around the world.

Nigel Chapman was course director when I entered the RCA. Then it was full of hardcore petrol heads, so much so that when I designed a powerboat it was considered unusual. However there is something to be said about concentrating on the craft of designing beautiful sculpture. In those days even if you weren’t so good they made you design well.

The course has changed a lot since, and in many ways this is good as diversity is indeed a positive thing. However, car design is about understanding volume and form. Despite this if you get someone good who has a natural feel for big sculpture and big volumes, and the confidence to design, then it doesn’t matter how the course is structured.

What journey did you take after leaving the RCA?

We started our own consultancy Sensation Design with two others at the college designing trucks, sailing boats and engines. I then worked for Seymour Powell [link:] as a freelance for a number of years. I joined Ogle Design for two years, mainly as I wanted to get a permanent job for a little while. Then 12 years ago I rejoined Seymour Powell to work on a motorcycle design project, and I have been there ever since.

Now I design pretty much everything. We have worked on aerospace projects, designed helicopters, as well as collaborated with Toyota, Honda and BMW motorcycles. Our last project was a major rail exterior and interior design scheme.

What is your advice for young designers?

There are opportunities for young designers to do their own thing rather than assuming their path should be directly into a big corporation. Nowadays you’re not limited to working in, say, London or New York - you can work anywhere so explore your options. Our designers have to be enthusiastic and very flexible as they could be designing shampoo bottles one day and a car the next.

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.