Design that gets under the skin.
The era of spoked wheels.
Mr. Wunderlich, which Mercedes-Benz classic would you have liked to have contributed to the design of?
I am fascinated by the 500 K/ 540 K Special Roadster dating from the 1930s, even though I have no particular passion for the era when spoked wheels were all the rage. The extreme proportions, the sculptured shape of the wings and the rear, as well as the high-quality, handcrafted details are still exciting for a designer even today.
If you could pick out a particular period from the brand’s history in which you could have worked as an automotive designer, which period would you choose?
It would be precisely that same period. There was a completely different way of working back then.
When it came to the styling, they would go straight into working with the hard material, carving the shape of the future car out of a block of wood. Metal was for machining, and shapes were milled out of solid material — I would have enjoyed that.
Pleasing sense of aesthetics meets functionality.
How and where did design begin at Mercedes-Benz?
The Mercedes-Benz designers have always called Sindelfingen their home, because this is where the brand had its first body plant. Based on the function of the body parts — for example aerodynamics was always an important topic — the search began for a suitable shape. At the same time, they started to design the interiors to give a pleasing sense of aesthetics to the functionality. For a long time they based their approach in this area on contemporary living areas — and so wood, fabrics and later leather became the defining materials of automotive interior design.
An exciting challenge.
Could you imagine designing an interior today using the materials which were originally used for automotive interior appointments?
That would be an exciting challenge. Such an interior would highlight the interaction which occurs between the various materials. You can only use leather in convex, soft shapes.
This would be contrasted by the wood, with its strict angles. Then there would be metal thrown into the mix as well. Imagine too that we could only work on these materials as we used to, and we would be able to create a very straightforward yet highly exciting cockpit.
The right qualifications to become a classic.
Taking these ideas through to their natural conclusion, could a Mercedes-Benz model be designed today featuring a retro look?
Never. Especially not in the case of our brand, with its long tradition. A Mercedes-Benz is also always avant-garde. It is therefore not plausible to have a Mercedes which only looks back towards the past.
I think the new S-Class is a very good example of how we achieve a delicate balance between classic modern and avant-garde styles, and bring them together in an exciting combination. The W 222 has a strong character and the creative qualifications to become a classic at some point.
Feel at ease.
Imagine we are sitting in the new S-Class. Should the interior provide us with a positive impression? Or above all: Should we intuitively feel at ease?
I would say the latter. I like to tell my team: Love blossoms from the appeal of the exterior, but the perfect marriage takes place in the interior. A successful interior will never be the sole reason behind a decision to buy a car. On the other hand, you also wouldn’t decide to buy a car in which you didn’t feel at ease, no matter how sexy it might look. I strongly believe that interior design is a factor of brand loyalty. Only someone who feels that they are in good hands will decide to go for a particular brand’s model again.
Continuity proven, new standards set.
Turning back to the design of the S-Class again: Can the creative characteristics which we see today be traced back to the early models?
Yes, most definitely. One characteristic feature is the strong, horizontal structure. For decades it has been seen in the form of the wood trim which, emerging from the doors, underscores the width of the dashboard. What fascinates me on the latest model is how pronounced the sense of width is, as well as the coordinated effect created by the round air vents. A second characteristic is the central display. Each generation of the S-Class has set new standards in terms of driver information and the design of the instruments.
And today we are adding the digital user interface. The two large monitors in the new S-Class, each measuring 12.3 inches, currently represent a benchmark.
Attention to detail, keeping hold of the bigger picture.
What makes interior design such an appealing job?
The small-scale approach and the diversity of materials. To present the widest range of functions within the most compact space, while taking into account aspects of ergonomics, haptics and materials technology. At the same time you have to achieve an overall level of beauty for this interior space. This is work for people who love to lose themselves in the detail, but without losing sight of the bigger picture.
Which sources do you draw upon for inspiration?
My great interests are aviation, yachts and the maritime world. Marine creatures are very beautiful — you can learn a lot from them about the natural harmony of form and function. I also have a good visual memory, and can store visual impressions for a long time.