It’s Gilles. The French pronunciation of Gilles. He’s from Montreal, Quebec.
Oh yeah. Actually, I was reminded by a friend of mine recently that when we were in college, we were waiting in line for Phantom Menace Star Wars tickets and I was the only one in my group who had a flip-phone. (Laughter)
I had always wanted to be a car designer. Growing up, I thought it would be one of the greatest things to design Corvette’s and Lamborghini’s and Ferrari’s. I was just car obsessed. And I was good at math and enjoyed it, and I enjoyed my physics classes and chemistry and the science side of creativity. Coming out of high school, I thought that I would want to be a mechanical engineering major, but I quickly discovered in my freshman year that doing calculus three problems at two in the morning was not going to be my thing. (Laughter)
"Whether it’s a windshield wiper or an engine cover, it all has to be done with love. The observer recognizes that… And that’s good design and, ultimately, that’s good art."
I found work at a bagel shop where–very much through happenstance–I ended up doing some lettering on a chalkboard which lead to me meeting an art director who introduced me to the world of graphic design.
And it was through graphic design that I… Well, I didn’t even know that you could get paid for that job. One of my colleagues at the bagel shop said, “Yeah, graphic design, you know, it’s like designing cereal boxes, and they pay you for that!” (Laughter)
Oh yeah, I think about that all the time. I don’t know where I would be. I don’t know if there’s any good answer to that. I think so many people have had great happenstance occur to them, but certainly I count myself very fortunate to have been counseled in that way and to have had the opportunity to work for that company.
“You trust your gut instinct that it’s going to work, and eventually it’ll become a trendsetting design.”
I had met Ralph through WIRED. I was such a huge fan of his, both his work on the Viper ACR and the 300, and just knowing his history working on the SRT program at Dodge; I loved the lines and the weight and volume of his work, and have been a really ardent fan of his for years. I got to meet him the year before I started working on the Abstract project, and he really stuck in mind as someone we’d want to be in touch with in the event that the series should get green lit, and when it did he was one of my first calls.
Yeah, well I think Ralph faces that challenge. The auto industry has so many challenges in terms of design perspective; the fact that they have to tool-up an entire manufacturing line and spend a billion dollars to launch a new automobile, and the manufacturing line has to support the industry or the making of that car for five or seven years. So it’s not like you can go and redesign quickly. It’s necessary that they create scale but also safety, and the national transportation safety board has regulations about every aspect of an automobile, so to work within those constraints is certainly defining. But it’s also I think for Ralph and his team it’s liberating in other senses, and I think so many designers will tell you that firm constraints are necessary to do great design work. When you don’t have constraints, when you don’t have limitations, it can be hard to drive great decision making.
He’s one that finds influence from nature. I think it’s fair to say that, like Tinker (Hatfield. Episode 1), he’s someone who loves to be out in the world and loves to meet people and loves the history of his craft, loves the art of driving. He has raced semi-professionally himself and goes out on the weekend…
Yeah. He and his wife go race Vipers.
So he is someone who is influenced by the act of driving and the sport of it. But he’s also someone who has been trained and interested in automobile design since he was a kid. And we explore that in the arc of his story.
“My love affair with cars came from just walking around and seeing how ugly cars were. I remember thinking to myself, “Ugh.” And then one day I saw a Porsche 911 Turbo. I think I was maybe nine years old. And it struck me as being, “Why is that car so much more attractive than the one next to it?” And then I started noticing the more beautiful cars.”
I’m lucky enough to actually own my favorite car.
Well, I saved up for a few years, and then about eighteen months ago I bought a Porsche 911 Targa GTS.
It’s the 911 with the retractable roof. It’s not the full convertible, it’s not the cabriolet.
It’s pretty wicked.