Thomas Ingenlath discusses Volvo’s modern design identity

Thomas Ingenlath has been directing the Volvo design team in Gothenburg since 2012 – his mission here is to forge a strong visual identity for the Swedish marque. Volvo used to have a pretty definite brand message as the maker of safe and robust family cars. Volvo cars were synonymous with utility, but being utilitarian isn’t quite the sexy image a car marque in the current century wishes to project. Instead, Volvo would like to be perceived as a thoroughly modern and international company.

This means expressing a strong globally digestible design language, but also endorsing technology and digitalisation, and being seen to be at the forefront of sustainability – we’re talking connectivity, electrification and autonomous driving. Much like the former Volvo identity, this new message is very much a reflection of the company’s Scandinavian heritage, but of modern Sweden, one that is technical and advanced.

Having witnessed the latest creative collaboration with avant-garde dance duo Wang Ramirez and urban artist Ata Bozaci for the latest Volvo Art Session, we caught up with Ingenlath to find out more.

Volvo appears to be undergoing a renaissance in design. How would you describe your approach to design?

Our exterior design language is based around purity. Like all great design this starts with strong proportions, which we express as cleanly as possible with large surfaces that aren’t overloaded with fussy details or fancy tricks.

You just debuted the V90 Cross Country where the interior, in particular, appears to be in the process of discovering a unique Volvo identity in the age of digitalisation. It’s interesting to see natural material, warm textures live alongside the more digital, cold and technical side. Is this something we will see in developing further in the future?

The latest S90, V90 and XC90 interiors express a very modern take on digitalisation, with fewer buttons so you don’t feel like you’re on a flight deck. All our designs start with the human, so the use of natural materials combines with intuitive technologies to create a welcoming environment. Like the best consumer electronics, our digital spaces should enhance your life, not feel alien.

You’re involved in exploring electrification and the autonomous future through cars like Concept 26. How is Volvo’s approach to sustainable design different to other carmakers?

Our human-centric approach means that if a user scenario changes this will be reflected in the final outcome – that scenario would reflect a new starting point. This is the way Volvo will stand apart from other brands.

Nargess Banks

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