The Language of Speed
From modeling sports cars to teaching the dialect of design, Cesar Pieri is shaping the future.
Cesar Pieri speaks “Designish.” It’s a language he teaches to his students as chair of the industrial design department at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), and he is fluent. “Designish allows you to translate what only you can see onto a piece of paper,” Pieri explained. “It is one of the most beautiful languages.”
Born to an Italian family in Brazil, Pieri speaks a number of languages, but Designish is the universal language he uses to wrangle the ideas in his head into sketches then renderings then, ultimately, the final product whether that’s a Jaguar F-Type or an office phone or a Disney princess carriage (a project SCAD students took to market that is displayed in the lobby of the Gulfstream Center for Design where we met). “Everything in this room has been designed by an industrial designer. We’re surrounded by problems that have been addressed by a designer.”
Before coming to SCAD, Pieri spent six years at Jaguar concepting the company’s newest models and predicting the future of car design. “It takes four years to get from the very first drawing to production. When that car hits the market, it has a six- to ten-year lifespan,” Pieri said. “You need to make that design relevant 10 to 14 years down the line.”
At Jaguar, he was drawn to the opportunity to communicate the core values of the brand, the design DNA and the heritage of the legacy, starting with the first conceptual drawings. “It always starts with pen and paper. Every single line we make with pen and paper must communicate the muscles, the strength, the speed and that sense of beauty. It needs to look like it’s moving fast even when it’s standing still,” Pieri explained.
In the car design process at Jaguar, they would then move to clay modeling, an analog method, but one Pieri enjoyed. “I always say Michelangelo would be jealous of us,” he joked. “In clay, we have the chance to go back and fine-tune what’s essentially engineering device for moving people into something that creates this,” he took a deep breath, “Wow …You don’t know why because we control your eyes through the lines and make them travel through the body to give a sense of, again, muscles, speed, power.”
The process of creation is pretty simple — sketch a concept, collaborate on design, craft models and take them through engineering to the final product. What Pieri excels at and teaches to his students is more than the simple process. It’s that ability to divine trends decades in advance and make them real. “At SCAD, these students are the generation that will be designing the future. If you don’t speak Designish, you can’t function. They need to be fluent in those levels of communication. That’s what we teach,” he explained.
His personal art practice is naturally car-related as well. He started at Jaguar, creating sets of artworks for each car they produced. “As car designers, we always want to go further and explore different fields of design. I decided to find a way to celebrate that passion — the smell of petrol, the tires, the car itself — into something that blends those things.” So, he moved to a new medium, painting actual car bonnets (hoods to us Americans) with graffiti-like strokes and vibrant colors, communicating the speed and flash that fast cars embody. They’re mainly Jaguars, but he paints everything from Ferraris to Lamborghinis, always sports cars.
The inspiration for his pieces comes from many places, but music plays a large role. Pieri plays drums, guitar and saxophone and relates the musical process to design. “When you create music, you are designing. You put together notes and music to communicate feelings just like a car design communicates certain values.” He loves the Rolling Stones, but he’s a true Dave Matthews Band fan at heart.
As a designer, Pieri is exacting. Painting and music are where he can let loose and create without the rigidity of design software or engineering requirements. “My hoods became a way to relax and pursue this other dimension of creating,” Pieri said. “It’s all about passion, and it’s my way to celebrate that. It’s become something really impressive that I never expected.”
Pieri’s works hang in 24e Design Company on Broughton Street and in private collections around the world in Italy, England, Japan and the US.
The Art of Cars
Cesar Pieri’s bonnet art truly commands a room. An outgrowth of his love of car design, his bold designs communicate the love that lies in the hearts of car enthusiasts the world over — speed, passion, power, bravado. In cherry reds and English racing greens, carbon blacks and crystalline whites, Pieri’s works evoke the history and heritage of automobile travel and point in the direction of its future. The collector’s items take Pieri out of the structure of design and into the ease of spontaneous creation and represent, for his clients, the commemoration of true connoisseurs.
Check out his hood masterpieces at 24e Design Company and at designpieri.wordpress.com.