This story is a continuation of a two-part article on PROTON Design that previously explored how PROTON’s new design identity was crafted.
When the partnership between Geely and PROTON was forged, many divisions within the latter wondered the degree to which their daily operations will be affected and how they will be integrated into the larger Geely network.
Happily for Azlan Othman, the Chief Designer for PROTON, as well as his team, their counterparts over in Gothenburg and Shanghai have allowed them to carry on business as usual. Executive Vice President of Geely Design’s global network, Peter Horbury, prefers to play the role of a guide, nurturing PROTON Design to be all that they could be, with the ultimate aim of taking Malaysian design to the global stage.
One of the ways this was achieved is by sending the Malaysian designers for assignments in China. According to Azlan, around 15 of his 64-member team were sent to Geely Design Shanghai for an average of six months to work on creating PROTON’s new visual identity. For the designers, it was an empowering experience to be given a chance to work with experienced designers from many parts of the world, but the biggest take-away was being able to learn about Chinese culture. Besides learning Chinese cultural aesthetics, they’ve learned how Geely subtly applies these elements into the design of their vehicles, inspiring them to do the same to PROTON but with Malaysian cultural aesthetics instead. Another culture component they were exposed to that is of equal importance is the Chinese working culture, which they have noted to move at a faster pace than back at home in Kuala Lumpur.
Learning this new and fast work pace is fundamental as the team had only six months to complete the design work for Proton X70 and immediately thereafter, they had to commence work on not one, but four facelift models; Iriz, Persona, Exora and Saga. Due to the hard work and effort exerted by the design team, PROTON was able to release five cars within a span of eight months, a feat that not many car manufacturers are able to achieve in such a short window.
The work doesn’t stop there either. A new logo was recently launched by PROTON and it is common knowledge that a locally-manufactured Proton X70 will soon be released, with the PROTON Design team having diligently worked on both projects.
The frequent visits by both PROTON and Geely designers to each other’s studios have strengthen their relationship, allowing good rapport to be built whilst earning each other’s trust. This is evident when the team from Shah Alam was asked to take part in a competition recently to design an upcoming Geely Auto car with other Geely Design studios from around the world. Of the exterior and interior designs submitted by the Malaysian team, a portion of the exterior was actually selected by Geely to move forward to the next phase of development. Azlan was overly proud of his team, to be able to hold their ground against other international talents and have their concept form part of a foreign automobile. He was also pleased at the amount of openness shown by Geely Design, particularly by the Shanghai Design Chief, Guy Burgoyne, in allowing the PROTON Design team to contribute to the greater Geely family.
Designers are the dreamers of the company. That is the ideal held by Azlan as he believes that it is the design team’s job to dream of the future and then translate it into something that consumers can resonate with. Knowing that they are the source of inspiration behind the final product instills a solid sense of pride in the team to keep pushing themselves further.
With Geely’s global network and vested interest in PROTON, Malaysian designers can now even look at applying their ideas beyond PROTON and even beyond Malaysia. It is Azlan’s hope that one day soon, PROTON Design will be able to fully design a platform or a product in Malaysia that can be given back to Geely, ultimately raising the status of these homegrown design talents to that of global designers.