Rolls-Royce recently revealed the all-new, second-generation Ghost which ditches the BMW 7 Series-derived underpinnings of the original car for a complete ground-up update, making it the most advanced Rolls-Royce to date. The original Goodwood Ghost revealed in 2009 was on sale for over a decade and went on to become the British luxury automaker’s most successful model in its history and it was an incredibly difficult task to get the formula right for creating its successor. We had the opportunity to chat with Henry Cloke, Lead Exterior Designer at Rolls-Royce, and get exclusive insight into the whole process of designing the all-new Rolls-Royce Ghost.
-How big of a challenge was it to completely re-imagine the most important and best-selling product for Rolls-Royce? The new Ghost has been more than 5 years in the making to consider, design and engineer a new car from the ground up.
The challenge as always is to achieve the correct character for any Rolls-Royce. When defining what new Ghost should be, we had to first establish what it was about the previous Ghost that made the car so successful, and what we would like to enhance and evolve into the new character of Ghost. Defining this foundation in character allows us to reference every design decision taken when developing the car over a 5 year period.
– Rolls-Royce products have relatively long product cycles; the outgoing Ghost was on sale for more than a decade. So, how difficult is it to pen a future-proof design with such a long product cycle, especially in the current scenario where technology is evolving faster than ever?
We are in a fortunate position as Rolls-Royce designers in that our interiors place prominence on craftsmanship and material value above all else. The technology is there and it is extensive, however it should never be the driving force in determining an interior ambience.
A clear example of this approach is seen with the integration of the main driving information which is encapsulated into a single layer in the upper portion of the fascia. However, notice how this tablet-like aesthetic floats above the wood and leather, hiding the connection from the client, preserving the integrity of the value we place in our materials.
In addition, when searching for influences in design it is important to filter out passing trends and seek the appropriate design influences that have the qualities to stay relevant. What makes the object desirable now and what will give longevity to the modernity of its aesthetic?
-The new Ghost is completely new from the ground up. However, the overall design is clearly an evolution of the outgoing model with very similar styling elements. How important was it for you to preserve the signature minimalistic styling of the Ghost while modernizing it?
It is very important to maintain the design ethos of simplicity and minimalism when approaching interior design for Rolls-Royce, and Ghost specifically, for both the front and rear occupants.
As a driver, clients enter their Rolls-Royce and quickly feel familiar with the essential driving controls; the reduction of non-essential elements helps to make the experience as intuitive as possible. The hidden technology and functionality embedded within the interior will reveal itself as the client gets to know their Ghost.
The reduction of the details and design elements in the rear is equally important to the duality of Ghost. We focus our attention on the details of expansive clean surfaces, giving the jewel-like elements the necessary space to breathe and be appreciated. This reduction and simplicity ultimately leads to an ambience that makes our motor cars unique.
– Rolls-Royce says the average age of its customers has come down to 43 and also a lot more of the Ghost owners prefer to drive the car rather being chauffeured. Yet, the new Ghost has a rather simple dash with traditional dials and buttons instead of going fully-digital. Why is that?
We try to strike a balance with the use of our technology with the more visceral experience of well-weighted controls; you have to have to celebrate the tactility and intuitive nature of some of our details. Every detail is there through a deliberate and extensive immersion into the experience of driving one of our cars. If not utilised correctly, the digitalisation of certain key functions within an interior can distract the driver; true luxury is the feeling that someone has taken the time to think about these things in detail, so you don’t have to.
In achieving simplicity we have to make sure that everyone involved is working towards the same goal. We endeavor to fight for every millimetre that would change the balance of the overall aesthetic when placing and positioning key lines and details.
However, this is only one stage of the process. When designing the singular piece of wood on the fascia of Ghost, or the leather that encompasses the rear door for example, we have to select the finest materials, with no imperfections, in a vast surface area to help us achieve our goal of simplicity and modernity.
– The starlight headliner has been one of the most loved features on Rolls-Royce motorcars. With the new Ghost, Rolls-Royce has not only improved it but brought the same glittering feature to the dashboard. What were the design challenges in integrating it into the minimalistic styling of the dash?
The brief was to create something unique to Ghost that would captivate our customers regardless of where they are sitting within the interior.
The challenge however was to realise the effect of the stars you see, into the Piano Black Wood. While difficult, it represents the evolution of our process and skills in Goodwood, and highlights the close relationship of design and craftsmanship within Rolls-Royce.