The SMART Interview #31 Ian Callum
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The SMART Interview #31 Ian Callum

  • 3 Dec 2015

Ian Callum is one of the world’s leading car designers. He dreamt of being a car designer from an early age – even submitting sketches to Jaguar aged just 14. He has worked for Ford, TWR and Aston Martin and is currently Design Director for Jaguar. His latest creations include the F-type and the C-X75 – driven by Bond villain Mr Hinx in Spectre. But what fuels his creativity and ambition?

At Heathrow Express we like to celebrate doing things that bit smarter. Each month we seek out someone who really exemplifies this approach to work and life and ask them some questions. This month: Ian Callum    


You are one of the foremost car designers in the world. Were you born with this talent or was it something you discovered at school? 

My earliest memories are of drawing. I started at a very young age and used to draw everything around the house. I don’t know why. I then discovered cars and started drawing them. When I had to choose my subjects at school, I wanted to do engineering and art which confused the teachers – they didn’t understand why I would want to mix those two. They pushed back on me, but I thought there was a perfectly obvious connection: Leonardo da Vinci managed to put the two together! 

Being creative and working smarter is something that some people struggle with. What are your tips to unlocking the creativity? 

My first job was as a car designer at Ford in Essex and that was a great learning curve, as the constraints (dimensions, cost, safety, weight) meant you had to be very creative. It’s easy to design an exotic car but business restrictions mean you have to work in a very smart and creative way.  

What’s the secret to your success?

Having the right team in place is essential. I surround myself with good people who are also my friends. I’ve worked very hard to put the right team together and it has been an absolute pleasure. When we employ people, their character matters as much to me as their design abilities. And I’ve no time for ambiguity and confusion; ¬I believe leadership is born out of vision, determination and clarity.   

How do you reboot your creativity?

I get out on my bike – I have two or three bikes and thoroughly enjoy cycling. I also love walking. I like to get that sense of freedom from being outside. It helps me clear my head. And on top of that I draw – not just cars but landscapes; anything really. If ever I feel low about anything, I draw. It seems to take away all of life’s negatives.

What’s the best bit of business advice you’ve been given? 

My father said “You can do anything you want as long as you really want it and you work hard enough.” It certainly opened my mind to the possibilities that lay ahead and the fact that I’m in charge; that’s stayed with me.   

You designed the car driven by villain Mr Hinx in the latest Bond movie, Spectre. But who is your favourite Bond? 


Daniel Craig has definitely got a bit of edge that some of the other Bonds didn’t have. But for me, Sean Connery epitomised the Bond character. Goldfinger was my favourite of his films because of the Aston Martin DB5 – that car made Aston Martin. But my new all-time favourite Bond car is of course the new one – the Jaguar C-X75. 

You travel often for business, but how important is travel to you personally?

Travel is very interesting for me and I’ve been fortunate enough to go all over the world for business. This year though I had my first proper holiday in a long, long time – a complete break in a villa in Mallorca. It’s something I am going to push myself to do every year as it was fantastic.

What’s your favourite hotel or restaurant?

There are so many, but the Cipriani Dolci restaurant in New York’s Grand Central station is a designer’s dream. It’s surrounded by the beautiful architecture of the railway station and the food is fabulous.

And what’s your favourite place?

I love Dorset and am currently in the process of buying a house in Poole. And Stac Pollaidh is wonderful. It’s a mountain in the northwest coast of Scotland just north of Ullapool. I used to holiday there every year as a child and it still inspires me – it makes you feel small and humble no matter what you have achieved. 

Finally what do you always take with you when you travel?

My drawing pad and some 4B pencils. I never go anywhere without them. 

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