After 20 years as the Director of Design at Jaguar—arguably one of the best carmakers to be Director of Design for—Ian Callum is finally stepping down to pursue his own projects. Callum has proved himself as one of the true greats of automotive design, leaving behind a legacy of really striking cars and managing to keep Jaguar design relevant and fresh while remaining true to their heritage. As an added bonus, he’s just pretty great guy.
Callum wanted to design cars since he was a kid, and had even famously sent Jaguar a letter back in 1968 asking for advice on how to design cars for Jaguar:
That seemed to have worked out pretty okay.
Callum’s career started with Ford, designing things like steering wheels for their mainstream cars like Mondeos and Fiestas, though he did get to do something fun and significant when he worked on the iconic RS 200 rally car.
From Ford he went to TWR, where he was part of the team that designed the Aston Martin DB7, and later he designed the Aston Martin Vanquish, both of which had the seeds of the signature sleek and athletic look that would become a hallmark of Callum’s work for Jaguar.
Callum arrived at Jaguar in 1999, during the Ford-ownership era, and after some facelifts and re-designs on existing cars, the 2006 Jaguar XK was the car that really began to show Callum’s full influence. That XK showed Callum’s skill at taking classic Jaguar proportions and feel into a modern design vocabulary, and the result was a genuinely striking car.
Callum’s leadership of Jaguar’s design team brought such great-looking cars as the XF Sportbrake, the lovely F-Type, a worthy successor to the legendary D-type, and, more recently, the F-Pace and I-Pace, which somehow manages the non-trivial task of making a bulky SUV look and feel like a Jaguar.
As I mentioned, Callum is a great guy—he’s always been easy to talk to, refreshingly free of any snobbery or self-aggrandizement, and always willing to talk cars and car design with those who are interested.
I sat down with him a few years back to talk about cars and design, and the fact that he put up with me for a half-hour is nothing short of incredible.
If you have the time and the ability to endure hearing me speak, I suggest you give a listen to this interview, as it gives a good sense of who Ian Callum is, and what he thinks about cars.
One spoiler: his first car was a Volvo PV544.
I’m excited to see what Callum’s own projects turn out to be. If his past is any indicator, we should be in store for some great stuff. If those projects turn out to just be a well-earned retirement, then I can’t think of anyone who deserves that more.
Thanks for everything, Ian. Have fun doing whatever!