Marek Djordjevic (TRAN, ’91)
“Learning from competition is fundamental.”
Marek Djordjevic spent 15 years with BMW Group before leaving to establish his independent design firm, Marek Djordjevic, Inc. in Los Angeles. In his position as Head of Exterior Design at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars and Creative Director of Designworks USA, Djordjevic created the renowned exterior design of the Rolls-Royce Phantom and, later, the Rolls-Royce 100EX. At his firm, he offers strategic design and luxury brand development for land, air and sea modes of transportation. Djordjevic also teaches Advanced Mobility in Art Center’s undergraduate degree program.
What made you decide to make a career in transportation design?
I was one of those people who knew what they wanted to do when they were little. Having grown up in what was Yugoslavia and is now Serbia, people don’t often change careers, so it was confusing to me when I arrived at Art Center and saw people who couldn’t make up their minds about majors! I was in 8th grade when I figured out that transportation design was what I wanted to do as a profession, and by 9th grade I knew that I wanted to do it at Art Center. Around that time, I saw a German car magazine featuring a competition among different design schools. Art Center created a Porsche, and there just happened to be a stellar class at the time â€“ Ken Okuyama, Grant Larson, Craig Durfey and Ian Burgess. That was a clear indication that Art Center was the best.
What do you see as your most exciting career achievement?
It would definitely be the Phantom because it was just such a challenge. And it was a three-fold challenge. It was going to be the first Rolls-Royce to be designed, produced, and marketed under the stewardship of BMW, which was sensitive because it’s a globally recognized brand, so it had to be absolutely authentic. The Phantom was also going to be the first Rolls-Royce of the 21st century, so that’s history right there. Finally, it was going be the car to celebrate the centenary, so there was tremendous pressure! And that ties into Art Center for me â€“ learning how to use pressure as a stimulus to live up to the challenge.
Art Center’s Transportation Department turns 60 this year. What do you think has been the most significant development in the Transportation industry during the past 60 years?
In a wide view, I suppose it would have to do with the increasingly global perspective and democratization of the product. From the design process perspective, it’s probably the transition from analog to digital tools. Considering the manufacturing materials, it would be the emergence of the composites as an alternative to steel and aluminum. Socially, there has been a transition of the automobile from a luxury item to a globally affordable necessity. Business-wise, I think about the consolidation of the multinational brands and their platform-sharing strategies.
Where do you see transportation design going in the future?
The status quo of brands and industry culture is changing right now, and it’s not something that’s happening over five or ten years â€“ this is the year it’s taking place. There are a lot of technological advancements, and that’s always a double-edged sword. If you learn to master the tool, then you’re much more empowered in achieving your goals, but if you let the tool lead you then the quality goes down. And this is where Art Center plays such a valuable role, because an educational environment is incredibly important in making sure that all of the available technology and tools are used to reach objectives efficiently and creatively, and that they’re not just being used as an easy way out.
And, finally, what kind of car do you drive?
That’s an easy one, a Porsche Boxster!