Frank Stephenson is a designer well known for more than 30 years of his career in automobile industry as a head of design for companies such as McLaren, Ferrari, MINI and Maserati. In 2018, Frank Stephenson established the independent design company, Frank Stephenson Design based in London. In parallel he is the Creative Director at Lilium Aviation, Germany, designing the new eVTOL jet (electric vertical takeoff and landing jet). Also, he is the Design Master for Suning Intelligent Terminal Technology, China.
smalltalk with Frank Stephenson
“Metropolis, made in 1927.
It tells a great silent story through symbolism about humanity being swallowed up by technology.”
Designing cars and aircrafts, what the major difference? (Frank Stephenson) Designing an aircraft is quite different to designing a car because the most important factor, above all else, is safety. Safety and design are very closely related because each influences the other in many ways. So the aircraft designer has to design around the fact that the design is based on achieving flight worthiness certification through safety while the car designer tends to emphasise more the emotional appeal of the car’s aesthetics whereby the safety aspect isn’t their overriding priority.
“I envision today’s major road networks eventually being replaced with smart travelcorridors that don’t impact on the natural terrain.”
What is the future of mobility to you?
(FT) Tough question, but if we plot a graph we can see that the trend always shows that we’re getting to places faster, more safely and more comfortably. Relying less on our limited sources of natural energy and using more eco-friendly materials will continue to play a major role too for sure. So I’d say that, looking into the crystal ball, we’ve got a future ahead of us where unlimited atomic energy will be safely harnessed and used to propel us to our destinations in unimaginably short travel times within podlike vehicles in absolute safety and with selectable modes of an interior environment. I envision today’s major road networks eventually being replaced with smart travel corridors that don’t impact on the natural terrain. Private vehicle ownership will probably always exist and dominate but shared and highly efficient public transportation will likely grow exponentially.
Favorite Sci-Fi Film? (FT) I could easily pick out a couple of them from the Star Wars series or the original Blade Runner but in terms of which Sci-Fi film has moved me the most, no doubt it’s Metropolis, made in 1927. It tells a great silent story though symbolism about humanity being swallowed up by technology and the set design is totally spectacular.
What are you interested in these days? (FT) These days I’m still interested in literally everything. I’ve really never met anybody more curious than myself and that means that everything I come into contact with, planned or unplanned, can easily fascinate me. It’s tiring in a way to have your internal radar constantly on but on the other hand it’s incredibly satisfying to constantly learn new things.
What is good life for you? (FT) Good life for me is attaining a happy balance between achieving a productive life and reaping and sharing the fruits of your labour with others.