A day in the life – the designer

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Jean-Luc Maintenant is a senior designer for Katsao Motors, Korea’s fourth smallest car maker. He runs their new European studio in the South of France.

“I get up around 8am. The number 8 is perfect for me in its boldness, its smooth curves, its audacious near vertical symmetry. Also, my Phillippe Starck alarm clock is set to go off at that time and I can’t work out how to change it.

My first job is to decide what to wear that day. I believe your clothes are an expression not just of your outer image but of your inner soul and, by extension, your deepest personality and the creativity contained within. That’s why I am always careful to gauge my mood when I am deciding between a grey suit with a black roll neck and a black suit with a black roll neck. These are the details that count. You should also know that my watch is very expensive.

For breakfast I vary my routine. Sometimes I blend myself a fruit smoothie, the combination of strawberries, raspberries and oranges in itself a reflection of the designer’s job to mix and agitate the conflicting tastes and textures into one sophisticated, wholesome, often surprising entitity. Sometimes I just have Froot Loops.

I am in the office by 10am. Our newly opened Katsao European Style Centre is a purpose built complex, the impressive steel and glass central atrium a confident statement of the future direction of Katsao Motors combining openness and accessibility with strength, knowledge, surprise, delight and a small coffee shop.

First thing in the morning maybe I will also have a video link-up with my colleagues at our Korean headquarters. I am lucky in that I am fluent in over three languages. None of them is Korean. I will then typically spend the rest of the day briefing my design team and checking on the progress of their work.

I am a great believer in inspiring a team by providing them with appropriate stimulation, sometimes involving activities away from the office. So, if we are working on design proposals for a new 4×4 perhaps we will go rock climbing or play beach volleyball or shoot at some crows. For a small hatchback, maybe I will take the team to a shopping mall or to a school or force them to wear nappies. Just recently we were working on a top secret proposal for a new crossover model during which we threw a microwave oven at a pile of candles and then watched two Lethal Weapon films back-to-back. It really is that important.

I leave the office around 7pm, sometimes earlier if I feel that my work is done. I head straight home where perhaps I will read a very glossy magazine or simply neutralise my inspiration by activating some mood lighting and staring at one my extremely expensive pieces of white furniture. It helps me to switch off from work. Of course, the actual work that I do in a day is hard to define. But that is the purpose of the creative leader in any team. If you can say what you have spent the day doing then perhaps you have not been doing it at all.”