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The Designers, Pt 9 – Tim Yerdon, Visteon

Mon, 07 Jul 2014

Car Design News launched its first-ever Car Design Review yearbook at the Geneva Motor Show, featuring the award-winning Production Car and Concept Car Designs of 2013.

If you're interested in buying a copy of the 160-page yearbook this interview appears in, alongside trend reports, bespoke car design infographics and a special feature on Marcello Gandini, our inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Car Design Review can be purchased here.

Name Tim Yerdon
Role Global director of innovation and design, Visteon
Age, nationality 41, US
Location Michigan, USA
Education Michigan & Penn State University

"What's unique about us compared to pure consumer electronics industries is that we have automotive intellect. We integrate a variety of consumer electronics around the vehicle environment while still making them simple, safe and intuitive to use.

"If you think about the consumer electronics world, it spins very fast. In the amount of time it takes for us to design one car, there might have been eight new iPhones. The automotive world spins pretty fast too though. We have to be the meshing gear between all these technologies and apply them into the automotive industry.

"Visteon is fully detached from Ford now and deals with absolutely every major manufacturer around the world. Our focus is on cockpit electronics, everything that goes into the instrument panel. How do we interface it as humans? How do we develop the software? How do we use that interface, whether it's a remote input device or a digital display?

"A few years ago there was too much technology for technology's sake. Now there's a refinement of this technology and how it fits into the driving experience. 20 years ago we used to design a car for one thing, and that was driving. Now as designers and innovators, we have to think about four use cases: the driver when they are driving; the driver when the car is in an autonomous or semi-autonomous driving mode; delegation of tasks to passengers; and rear-seat occupants which may be family members or business associates. They all have different use cases.

"2013 was a great year for Visteon, and the industry as well with North American vehicle volumes in particular getting back up to where they were pre-crisis. In early 2014, Visteon announced a major acquisition, buying the electronics devision of JCI. This move really gives us scope and scale to be on a level with the top three in the industry in this area. Our customers need partners to enable them to bring together that ecosystem of multiple suppliers and bring that into a robust automotive environment.

"We are seeing a different type of young designer applicant now. It's gone from those into pure product or automotive design to user-experience design, user-interface design and understanding ‘futuring'. How do we put ourselves in the day in the life of a future consumer for a product that hasn't been created yet? I think the designer of the future has to carry so many skills, it's not just about the art side. It's about project management, dealing with engineering, marketing, customers and the technology people.

"A lot of our business is in the Asian market. We're headquartered regionally out of Shanghai, but we also have operations in India, Japan, other parts of Asia, Europe - based in the UK but also with operations in Germany and France - and of course in North (and South) America.

"New Visteon staff may not have the ability to live in that country, but we have to be able to share, communicate and collaborate on a global basis, so even if you're located in Germany, you can get to experience what people are thinking in other parts of the world like India or China. And as a supplier business we have to balance looking at future trends while also delivering value for our customers. So many of us have to wear multiple hats in order to get that product from thought and idea, through to creation and commercialization."

Tim's Cars of 2013


Nissan Blade Glider
Renault Twin'Z
Volvo Concept Coupé


BMW i3
Citroën C4 Picasso
Mercedes S-Class

"When you look at the integration of the technology on the Mercedes S-Class it's phenomenal. There's more technology than you can imagine from autonomous driving, to driver awareness, all the things link together in that vehicle"

< The Designers Pt8
Steve Mattin, Lada

By Guy Bird