Ralph Gilles was one of the early adopters for digital design in the automobile industry, maybe too early. He highlights why he and his team had to take a step back to clay modelling. He also mentions the upcoming 3-row midsize SUV for India.
Ralph Giles, an automobile designer who has spent all his life designing vehicles for Chrysler and its sub-brands was also the President and CEO of the SRT brand while also the Vice-President of Design at Chrysler until recently. Gilles is now the Global Head of Jeep Design. One of Gilles’ latest creations was the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer models in addition to the updated Jeep Compass for the global market.
Gilles is one of the early adopters of digital 3D modelling in automotive design around the world. However, he pointed out that at the time they may have been a little too early with the adoption. In a chat with Express Drives, Gilles opened up about the time the design team went too far with 3D modelling and were forced to take a step back.
When asked about how much of traditional clay modelling and modern digitised 3D modelling is used by his design team for its latest vehicles, Giles said “We were actually early adopters of 3D modelling. I was actually one of the first designers to do 3D modelling. However, we went a little too far. If you remember correctly, around 2005, our cars were very blocky and squared. Because at the time, the software wasn’t sophisticated enough.”
It bears true that Jeep models from that era did feature highly squared and boxy designs. Case in point, the Jeep Grand Cherokee from 2005 seen below. The model features a squared-off front grille with the iconic 7-slots, traditionally designed rounded off headlamps, the overall silhouette, trapezoidal wheel arches and other design elements were fairly square and boxy. However, they did pave the way for the future for the design language of SUV and what people still associate them to look like. Additionally, many of Jeep’s competitors have tried to emulate it in their designs as well.
Gilles added by mentioning that the team was too committed to it. It is why they took the call to move back to clay modelling. Now, Gilles and his team use a blend of both – Clay and 3D modelling, while designing new vehicles.
He outlines the process; “We start with a sketch, from it then we sculpt in clay following which we get a digital representation. From there we go back and forth. We use the digital medium more for speed, not necessarily for form.”
Gilles and his team work with a philosophy to “build the most beautiful surface” they can. Clay or 3D modelling are just mere tools, so a balance of both means is required in modern vehicle design.
Jeep’s 3-row mid-size SUV for India
As for the 3-row SUV, which is expected to be launched in India soon, Gilles stated that the Jeep brand offers two design streams — the Wrangler and the Wagoneer. The new 3-row SUV will use the underpinnings of the Compass and will follow the design language used on the Wagoneer.