The Vision EQ Silver Arrow show car combines the historic Silver Arrows from Mercedes-Benz with the perspective on the future offered by the new product and technology brand EQ. Matthias Schenker is an exterior designer based at Carlsbad in California and played a key part in the development of the show car. In an interview, the 27-year-old provides an insight into his role in the design process, the greatest challenges of the project and his career in design.
Hello, Matthias. Perhaps you could tell us a little about yourself?
Hi. My name is Matthias Schenker and I am 27 years old. I come originally from Grossbettingen, a small town in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, not so far from Stuttgart. In 2015 I graduated from Pforzheim University with a Bachelor's degree in Transportation Design. These days I live in Carlsbad, in California, where I work as an exterior designer in the Daimler Advanced Design Studio.
What can you tell us about your career so far with Daimler?
I took my first steps towards this career in 2006 after leaving high school, when I began training as a technical product designer. That's where I first gained insight into how a vehicle is built and learned about the technical aspects of CAD files. At some point along the way I picked up a designer's sketch book and was just blown away. That's when I knew: I'm going to be a car designer! Over the course of a few projects I got to know various designers and design students, who recognized my talent and gave me lots of helpful and practical advice. Having completed my training course successfully in 2009 I went on, six months later, to study "Transportation Design" at Pforzheim. I spent my internship working for Daimler in the Advanced Design Center in Sindelfingen, which is also where I wrote the thesis for my degree. Once I had my degree wrapped up, I was offered the incredible opportunity to start work as an exterior designer at Carlsbad, in California. Of course I seized the chance and have now been living here in southern California since 2015. While I've been here I've been able to work on so many really exciting projects, including the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Coupe and the Vision EQ Silver Arrow.
You were involved with the development of the Vision EQ Silver Arrow. What was your particular area of responsibility?
For the Vision EQ Silver Arrow, I was one of the exterior design team. This means that I was involved at every stage from the very first idea and sketches, through the 1:4 clay model to the creation of the 1:1 clay model. The resulting show car was presented to the public at Pebble Beach at the end of August 2018.
How long does the design process for a show car like this take? Which steps in this process are easily underestimated?
The design process always depends on the level of detail and the product features of the vehicles concerned. Some of our show cars are subject to a very tight schedule, with just a few months from the first sketch to the first design model. In this particular case the basic idea came quickly: we wanted to design a single-seater sports car that would be reminiscent of the legendary Silver Arrows and record-breaking cars of the last century. After just a few short weeks of sketching out ideas, we soon began to see how we might be able to bring past and future together. This involved combining the uniqueness of a conventional streamlined vehicle with the technology of a state-of-the-art electric automobile. As soon as the rough proportions of the vehicle have been defined and a design theme agreed, the next step is the technical realization: in other words, to transfer the vision from the drawing into three-dimensional reality. As so often, the devil here is in the detail, for every component must be designed with feasibility in mind.
What was the greatest challenge for you in all this and is there anything of which you are particularly proud?
The biggest challenge in the case of the Vision EQ Silver Arrow was to design, within a very short time frame, a vehicle that, while referencing certain classic traits, would at the same time provide a perspective on a whole new generation of Silver Arrows: Silver Arrow meets EQ – motor-racing tradition meets the futuristic technology of the EQ brand. And I think our Vision EQ Silver Arrow show car meets this brief perfectly. I am proud to have been involved with this project from the first sketch through to the premiere at Pebble Beach and to have been part of an incredible team that put such passion into their work.
Do you have any advice for anyone who thinks they might like to work in the Design department at Daimler?
Passion and dedication are among the most important requirements in our profession. To want to draw and shape things, every day, always working to keep improving the design - and yourself. The first prerequisite to becoming an automotive designer is the successful completion of a relevant course of study. This will involve working with other auto enthusiasts, learning the fundamentals along with the tools of the trade. With the first portfolio comes the first work placement, when you first get a sense of what it really means to be a designer. For most people, the path to becoming an auto designer is neither simple nor straightforward, but the hard work is worth it. I shall never forget the moment I first stepped, knees quaking, into a design studio. With talent, the necessary commitment and a good helping of luck, there is absolutely nothing to stop anyone becoming a designer.