Ford Motor is shaking up its design team to shorten product development cycles and better define the group's overarching strategy.
The changes expand Ford's strategic design group to enable designers to work more collaboratively at a centralized location in Dearborn, Michigan. Designers are grouped into two camps: one covering cars and crossovers, and another handling trucks, SUVs and commercial vehicles.
The automaker is bringing Joel Piaskowski, director of Ford of Europe design, to the U.S. as global director of design overseeing cars and crossovers. Chris Svensson, design director of the Americas, has been named global director of design overseeing trucks, SUVs and commercial vehicles.
David Woodhouse, director of Lincoln design, has been named director of global strategic design in addition to his duties with Ford's luxury brand. In his new role, Woodhouse will oversee the expansion of Ford's global strategic design group.
Amko Leenarts will replace Piaskowski as director of Ford of Europe design.
In addition, Freeman Thomas, strategic design director based at Ford's advanced design studio in Irvine, Calif., will retire at year end. Thomas managed the company's advanced design studios in Dearborn, Irvine, London and Shanghai.
Moray Callum, Ford's vice president of design, said the changes are meant to enhance the team's thinking. He said the company will focus even more on consumer experiences through design-thinking and human-centric approaches.
One of Callum's biggest goals, he said, is to shorten product development times so that a new vehicle's final designs are set closer to when it goes on sale.
"If there's a strong strategy behind decisions, it makes decisions easier," he told Automotive News.
Ford has a number of new vehicles on the horizon, including the Bronco SUV, Ranger midsize pickup, an electric SUV and an autonomous vehicle.
Callum said as vehicles add self-driving capabilities, design becomes more important.
"I don't think design will ever matter less" than it does now, he said. "What we're communicating by our design is very important. We want people to trust the car and the brand and we need to communicate that in the exterior and interior design."
Over the last five years, Callum said, his team has nearly doubled in size. Ford will soon break ground on a new design center as part of a decade-long transformation of its Dearborn campus.
Callum said the changes to the design team were in the works before CEO Jim Hackett took over in May, but that it fits in seamlessly with his desire to transform the company.
Callum said, "We see him as a great supporter of design overall."