Discover the design hotlist: McLaren design director Robert Melville

By Nargess Banks | 13 Jul 2018 | Design, Speed

Nargess Banks tells us how McLaren's design director is stretching the limits of supercar manufacture

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* McLaren design director Robert Melville is daring, stretching the limits of technology and viewing innovation as a way of making his cars faster, cleaner and more efficient

From architecture and interiors to art and engineering, Tempus has teamed up with a board of leading experts to unveil the eight innovators set to shake up the design world in Britain in 2018. Each day, Tempus Online puts the spotlight of one of these great eight pioneers to celebrate the launch of our new print issue.

Robert Melville

The complexity of creating a supercar – as opposed to simpler product design or fashion design – means that teamwork is everything. The engineering and technical proficiency involved requires a blended multi- skilled collective to bring it all together. At its heart, though, are wise leaders who help to guide and push for the go-ahead on risky projects.

At McLaren, chief executive Mike Flewitt has a real passion for performance cars, encouraging the brand’s design director Robert Melville to be daring, stretching the limits of technology and viewing innovation as a way of making his cars faster, cleaner and more efficient.

McLaren Automotive creates cars that are aerodynamic in shape, nimble in weight, extreme in performance and limited in numbers. Car making is an art form here. Even Norman Foster’s building where they are conceived is a masterpiece of design – a cinematic space worthy of the world of Ian Fleming. The employee entrance, for instance, is through a clear white tunnel designed to cleanse the mind as you step into this sanctuary.

Bruce McLaren Motor Racing was founded in 1963 – although the automotive arm is only seven years old and was born with a single product, the 12C. Today’s family of exclusive performance cars include the Sports, Super and Ultimate Series, and a selection of limited-edition tailored cars.

The philosophy is compelling. It is about continually pushing the limits of technology and design, evident in recent products such as the 720S and Senna. It’s about exploring new shapes, discovering new materials – weaving ultra-light carbon-fibre in ways no one has dared. The designs are organic, and there is a rawness to the layered theme, a striking clarity with each sheet of slim metal teasing us into the power and incredible technology that lies beneath.

McLaren has returned a sense of theatre to car making. In the polished production centre in Woking, you almost feel like whispering and walking on tiptoes. The sports cars and hyper- cars being envisaged here are exceptional examples of industrial design, each searching to find the purest connection between car and driver. McLaren cars represent a lively episode in vehicle design. It will be fascinating to see how the marque approaches.

Nargess Banks

A luxury brand adviser, Nargess also writes about cars and design for publications such as Forbes. Here, she presents her automotive design director of the moment. Read more from our experts and innovators in Tempus Design Issue, out now.

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* McLaren design director Robert Melville is daring, stretching the limits of technology and viewing innovation as a way of making his cars faster, cleaner and more efficient
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