Amy Frascella is the Director of Colour & Material Design at Jaguar Land Rover. Colour and materials touch all aspects of vehicle creation and her team encompasses concept vehicles, production vehicles and Special Vehicle derivatives. She graduated from North Carolina State University in 2003 with a BA in Art and Design and a BS in Textile Engineering, beginning her career as a textile engineer working with major Japanese automotive OEM's on production textile developments. She went on to work at Hyundai/Kia for seven years on cross car line colour strategies and future material developments. She joined Land Rover in 2012 as a Senior Colour & Materials designer, and in 2015 was promoted to Chief Designer Colour & Materials. In 2019 she was promoted to her current role of Director of Colour & Material Design where she leads a global team of 30 multi-disciplined designers.
Amy Frascella - Director of Colour & Material Design at Jaguar Land Rover
Chris Lefteri : I am really interested in how you marry luxury and utility from the perspective of CMF. Can you talk a bit about the challenges there?
Amy Frascella: Potentially stating the obvious - I think that is the unique selling point for Land Rover – Design leadership coupled with engineering excellence.
If I think about the last few years of projects – redefining the material strategies for Range Rover, Discovery and Defender, what connects all of them is honesty and authenticity. This is because our vehicles simply do what they say they are going to do. Our materials need to perform to these exacting standards, but what customers see, feel and experience in them is most definitely part of creating a feeling of luxury. Dialing up and down material technology attributes and visual characteristics for each family helps to create product differentiation. (As effectively Range Rover, Discovery and Defender are brands within the master brand Land Rover.) You can see we have begun to help to shift the definition of luxury materials within our industry from both aesthetics and values. A great example of this is our collaboration with our partner Kvadrat – Europe's leading manufacturer of premium textiles. We have delivered a Kvadrat Premium Textile option on the Range Rover Velar, Range Rover Evoque and most recently the Defender. Our team has actively pushed against traditional luxury conventions to deliver these conscious choices to our customers. These offers sit alongside leather as an equivalent choice. It is this curation of materials and choice that definitely signals luxury.
Working with more natural materials (like wool and eucalyptus fibres) is important as we move to develop materials that are more sustainable and responsible in their creation. Our testing requirements are some of the most challenging in the industry so material technology innovation can take time.
CL: Authenticity is part of a premium experience but how difficult is it to use real materials such as metal and glass in car interiors? Also how do you deal with authenticity and luxury and plastic materials?
AF: Using authentic and more natural materials can be challenging due to testing requirements. In addition to the wool blend textile I mentioned, Land Rover has also been industry leading to deliver semi-aniline leather (fewer top coatings) on the previous generation of Range Rover. More recently we were industry-first on the new Range Rover Evoque to deliver a plant-based textile using Eucalyptus fibres. This is all to say we work closely with Materials Engineering and our suppliers to simply find a way – as developing premium authentic materials is a strategic differentiator for our family of products.
We are continuing to develop and craft with plastics in our vehicles. When I arrived at Land Rover about six years ago nearly all our interior components were wrapped – predominately with leather. This was a world I did not come from, (previously working at a more value centric brand with a lot more exposed plastic for A surfaces.) So as Land Rover began to expand the product portfolio all interior components were not all wrapped due to different price points and trim levels, but more importantly for functionality. Defender's use of functional polymers is a great example of this. Making what may be considered a lower cost material appear crafted and premium is an exciting design challenge. Because there is variability in the approach to the production of plastics: dual shot injection moulding, co-moulding with other materials, exploring shore hardness, crafting the grain texture in the tooling to create surfaces that appear glossier or more diffused - the list goes on. Grain or surface texture is an incredibly important detail in crafting plastic tooling for components.
As we move forward we are also asking ourselves what is the future of plastics? We recognise we are amidst a plastic backlash amongst consumers – so how will we begin to make our plastics more sustainable? These are topics we are addressing.
CL: Do different regions change how you define what quality and premium is? For example in Asia is there a particular expectation of grain or surface texture?
AF: Not really – we are a global brand and the studio here in the UK is the 'mother' studio - our aesthetic definition is the global aesthetic. We design and develop multiple specifications for our consumers so there is always a curated choice.
CL: Is the CMF strategy consistent across the organization, or do you have a different approach for each vehicle?
AF: The Colour & Material Design strategy supports the overall Design strategy. Range Rover is about refinement and luxury, Discovery is about premium versatility and the architectural use of space, and Defender is our most capable vehicle. Sustainability is a key principle of the Design strategy so in everything we do we continuously aim to make materials more responsible and more sustainable – even if the development is for something our customers don't see. For example on B surface materials we have been working to incorporate more recycled polyester so this will help contribute to overall lower C02 for our vehicles. We collaborate with our Sustainability and Engineering teams to continuously improve our processes and materials in our journey to a more responsible future.
Colour, material and form are intrinsically linked – we view them as one in the same at Land Rover Design – they are developed at the same time together. And with this we are able to give our three families their own design language.
CL: Sustainability is also looking at how you would reduce energy in the production process.
AF: Yes – within Land Rover Colour & Material Design we describe our more conscious, more sustainable/responsible initiatives as 'Materiality.' This can include any material initiative really – leather for example could be a Materiality initiative, if we begin to use accept more natural markings and accept a wider visual tolerance on the material surfaces we gain higher yields therefore less waste. Any material development or initiative that brings us along the journey to move towards truly sustainable and circular processes is the ultimate goal – Materiality supports this.
CL: The perception of what is premium is always shifting. If you look to the future, what do you think will define premium for customers?
AF: I think it is about values and whether people actively recognise it or not it is also about pure desire. The heart wants what it wants! People want to see their values reflected in the brands they align themselves with – and that permeates at so many levels within our world of Colour & Material Design. After all Colour & Material Design is really all you see, feel and experience.
All of the things we have just been discussing, making processes and materials more sustainable and responsible can serendipitously create new aesthetics. Working more with alternatives materials and non-leather materials you can unlock visual solutions previously not achievable with conventional luxury materials. The attributes are different therefore how you work with these new materials requires new approaches.
We definitely see the influence of architectural spaces inside vehicles more and more. Less is more as this follows our reductionist design approach. Integration of technology and materials creates less visual 'noise.' Colour plays a huge role in the vehicle experience – is the environment a calm sanctuary? Are the exterior graphics and details visible? It will be more premium to move away from traditional, high contrast colour break ups that have long dominated in the automotive industry. We are also questioning the over use of black as well.
CL: What do you mean by high contrast?
AF: Typically when you look at an automotive interior (or exterior) key architecture is visually 'called out' through use of high contrast colour combinations. The midroll on the instrument panel (the middle of the dashboard) might be a very light colour whereas the upper part of the instrument panel/dashboard will be dark (this will be for UV and reflection requirements.) For Land Rover key architecture is our instrument panel midroll component – the unbroken beam. There may be other key architecture on doors and the centre console as well and by using a higher contrast colour palette these components, which are key to the design, will visually stand out.
We can achieve the same visual hierarchy in the future, but rather then continuously using harsh contrasting colour (almost black and white) we can move into layering of softer, monotone colour palettes – through textured surfaces and textiles. Bringing more architectural influences from your home inside the vehicle – one doesn't normally surround themselves in their home with this kind of harsh palette.
CL: That's interesting because one of the other interviews for this series is with Ivy Ross, who is VP of Design at Google. She talks about humanizing technology and you are talking about the same thing. It's about the interior of your car becoming much more like the interior of your home. I think textiles play a big part from what I can see in your cars.
AF: Yes – I hope the role textiles have in vehicle interiors will continue to gain mass acceptance moving forward. Our colour palettes will become more 'human-centred' moving forward whether customers actively realise this. We want to create safe cocooned environments – calm sanctuaries. Our technology should be working in the background and not be intrusive – called upon when customers need it. We need colours and materials and technology to seamlessly work together because as screens begin to hold more functionality (that may have been a physical switch up until now) they may become larger surfaces. How do you integrate all of this seamlessly? Colour and Material Design will have a big role to play.
CL: Going back to plastics, do you want to talk about any particular case studies of eco plastics in your cars?
AF: We use recycled plastic in some of our soft materials. For us this is not really new – but what is shifting is the proliferation of these materials. When the original Evoque was launched we used Dinamica microfibre suedecloth on the seats made from recycled plastic bottles – this material was combined with leather on the seat cover. For the launch of Range Rover Velar in 2017 we used this material once again but combined with Kvadrat wool blend textile – creating a full premium non-leather seat. We have launched the same set of materials on the 2019 Range Rover Evoque. For the Discovery Sport mid cycle fresh recently launched we offer the Dinamica material in conjunction with performance material Luxtex. This one single material example has had a big role to play in our Materiality strategy offering non-leather options for customers. Our goal is by 2021 all Land Rover's will have a Materiality offer.
CL: Do you think the consumers perception of sustainable materials would allow for imperfection in the way things look? Do you think that consumers will accept the idea of imperfection because because sustainability on that level becomes premium. Do you think consumers will become embracing of that in luxury?
AF: They already do. Think about shifts in how people eat, the things they buy - food packaging, beauty products, clothing and they way they live – travel, transportation and homes. Right now people accept many new ingredients and visual representation of natural materials/processes because if it is more respectful of planet, people and animals they understand the value and many times pay more. This is absolutely happening in many analogous industries and it is just a matter of time for this to become the norm.
This is coming to the automotive industry and we are getting ready for the shift. I would like to think we are even part of the few that are helping to lead the shift.
Recognized throughout the world as a leading authority on materials and their application in design, Chris Lefteri is one of the most important materials experts working in his field. For over a decade his studio work and publications have been pivotal in changing the way designers and the materials industry consider materials. In 2001 he published the first of eight books on materials and their application in design, which have been translated into six languages. These books have led the change in the way designers view and use materials. Subsequently his studio, Chris Lefteri Design, has worked with bluechip corporations and major design studios across Europe, the US and Asia implementing a broad range of strategies for effective materials integration in the design process.