The Maestro of Car Design: Giorgio Giugiaro

Dec 22, 2020

Sixty million cars have been built based on his sketches. His genius has spawned legends such as the BMW M1, the Fiat Panda and the Golf I. And at the grand age of 82 the Italian designer is still working on visionary cars for the future.

Giorgio Giugiaro is one of the best-known contemporary designers with many iconic cars to his name. Giugiaro was born into a family of artists in Turin. His career already spans over 60 years and has generated 500 vehicle studies, around 300 of which have made it to production. Giugiaro began his career at Fiat, aged 17. In 1959 he became head of the Bertone Styling Centre and in 1965 he switched to the competitor Carrozzeria Ghia. At the end of the 1960s, he took the daring step of becoming self-employed and founded his own company named Italdesign.

Automotive legends made by Giorgio Giugiaro

Giugiaro has worked for almost all renowned OEMs and some newcomers, too. His drawing board has been the birthplace of designs like the Lotus Esprit, the Fiat Panda, the Audi 80, the BMW M1, the VW Golf, Scirocco and Passat, the Lamborghini Gallardo, and even the DeLorean DMC-12, the futuristic gull-wing car seen in the “Back to the Future” films. His designs for Bugatti included the 18/3 Chiron that heralded the luxury brand’s comeback. And we shouldn’t forget Italdesign’s start-up assistance for Asian car makers. Alongside all his work for the auto sector, Giugiaro has designed innumerable everyday objects including cameras for Nikon, trains, tractors for Deutz, sneakers, household appliances, yachts, watches for Seiko… The list goes on.

From tractors and sneakers to the legendary Nikon – Giugiaro is an all-rounder

Giugiaro always anticipated the future of cars: small cars with compact chassis, aerodynamic shapes for low fuel consumption, city cars and EVs for car-sharing schemes, and sports cars. In all his designs he made sure that aesthetics did not dominate, and concentrated most of all on reducing the design to the essential functions. He is regarded as a “master of linearity” who uses clean lines and surfaces, like a timeless origami artist. His timeless style went into very long production runs. The Fiat Panda rolled off the production lines for 20 years. The original design elements of the Golf I – the upright C-pillar, the striking wheel arches, the typical front with a narrow radiator grille and downwardly protruding headlamps – have remained Golf hallmarks ever since.

„Anyone who doesn’t create appeal hasn’t fulfilled the task.“

Giorgio Giugiaro

© Volkswagen AG

The Old Master is still working on future mobility

In 1999 he was voted “Car Designer of the Century.” At the turn of the millennium most of the famous automotive brands from Italy were no longer on the market, taken over by large corporations, and functioning only as part of a mass industry. Giorgetto Giugiaro has remained independent all his life. Even after Italdesign was sold to Volkswagen, it remained active on the free market and works with manufacturers outside the group. Giugiaro sold his last shares to VW in 2010. Today the company with 1,000 employees is – like Lamborghini and Ducati – part of the Audi family. But the break was short-lived. At the age of 77 Giugiaro, together with his son Fabrizio, set up a new design studio called GFG Style. The firm’s name is made up of the founders’ initials. So far it has worked mostly for Chinese clients and develops concepts for hybrid and electric vehicles.

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