Nestled away somewhere inside America’s Golden State is Geely Design California. Here, a growing, multi-national team of designers plays an integral part in the larger Geely Design network.
While China is Geely’s country of origin, these days it embodies the concept of a global company. With a family consisting of countless nationalities and brands, the group has strong bonds with a variety of countries: LYNK & CO and CEVT in Sweden, LEVC and Lotus in the U.K., R&D and Daimler joint ventures with Germany, and in Malaysia through PROTON. However, very little is known about its design facility on the west coast of North America, in sunny California.
The idea to open a creativity centre here came about when Geely realised that, in order to attract top talents in vehicle design, they would need to be close to where the talents are, as well creating an environment that would allow the designers to unleash their full potential. In addition, having a little distance between the design centre and top management allows for an extra level of creative freedom. So in 2014, Geely Design California was established.
It started off as a small outfit (three people to be exact) based inside Volvo’s Camarillo facility, located around 100 kilometres north of Los Angeles. Being located here allowed them to tap into Volvo’s IT resources, which would mean a constant connection with Geely Design studios in China and Sweden. From here, the team grew into five and eventually moved out and to their very own space, a mere 90 metres away. The close proximity meant that they were still able to stay connected to the other studios through Volvo’s IT infrastructure. Other than that, the team kept very much to themselves and the only interactions they had with Volvo were during the usual coffee breaks.
In 2017, the time was ripe to fend for themselves and a new facility was set up in South Pasadena, situated just 18 kilometres northeast of Los Angeles. Being located in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area instead of beautiful but remote Camarillo has its own perks and certainly helps with the hiring process. For instance, many world-renowned automobile manufacturers have chosen to operate in and around the area, making it easier to attract top talents, while at the same time creating an environment of healthy competitiveness.
At present, the team is made up of 11 people, hailing from various parts of the world, including Argentina, Canada, China, Korea, Lebanon, Mexico, Vietnam and the USA. Despite most of the team originating from abroad, they all possess the infamous Californian spirit and an openness that is incredibly unique in North America. This perfect blend allows each person to bring their own distinct ‘flavour’ to the ideas they bring, which can then be combined with those of other team members to create something great.
Geely Design California has made immense contributions since its inception more than five years ago. With the creation and acquisition of new brands by the Group, their involvement has even gone beyond Geely Auto and the automotive sphere. The team regularly participates in design competitions for new vehicle projects with other Geely Design studios. They have also been assigned several emergency projects with short or absolutely no lead time, which is how they earned themselves the nickname the ‘fire station’ – always ready to jump into action to solve any design issues at a moment’s notice.
As part of their extensive resume, the Californian design team has provided initial design support for Lynk & Co and has lent their support to PROTON and Lotus after these brands were acquired by the Group. Besides cars, the team has also been involved with Terrafugia, the flying car company that Geely acquired in 2017. Presently, their design work can be seen in the brand new Geely Icon, the interior of which was designed by one of the team members in California.
However, their work goes beyond basic vehicle design. The team in California has taken the initiative and broadened their scope to include studies on new vehicle concepts and types that are currently not a part of Geely’s portfolio. This type of thinktank allows visionary designers to get together and think of new visuals, concepts and functions that can be applied in the areas of transportation and mobility in the future.
This process involves studying the broader environment itself, identify new opportunities and coming up with alternative solutions that are more engaging, efficient, comfortable and durable for both the individual user and the wider society. Although this may prove to be risky, this is part of the reason the team was conceived – to encourage progress by pushing the boundaries and attempting the impossible. Being in a vibrantly diverse and progressive environment such as California only enhances their abilities to do so.