Henrik Fisker (1963- ) has led a charmed life as a car designer. Born in Denmark, he went to university in Switzerland and then graduated from the Art Center College of Design. Fisker went to work in the advanced design studio at BMW in 1989, when designers were being hired in droves to support booming sales in the U.S. Designers came into fashion again in 1992 when the introduction of the Audi Avus led to widespread enthusiasm for retro-theme cars, and Fisker was at the right spot at the right time. When BMW design director Chris Bangle asked his staff for a volunteer to forgo the approaching summer holidays in order to start a design study for a modern interpretation of the BMW 507, Fisker happened to raise his hand. Fisker's BMW Z07 became the hit of the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show, a compelling mix of retro themes and modern design, and it reached production to wide acclaim in 2000 as the Z8.
By then Fisker was in charge of Designworks/USA, the small design studio in California that BMW had purchased from designer Chuck Pelly. Soon Fisker was lured away by Wolfgang Reitzle (a former BMW executive) to run Ingeni, Ford's brand-new advanced design group in London. When Reitzle left Ford, Ingeni was quickly closed, yet Fisker bounced back when he joined Ford's studio for Advanced Product Creation in California.
Fisker has been the official design director of Aston Martin since September 2001. Although Ian Callum is the one responsible for creating a new design vocabulary for Aston Martin with his breathtaking Vanquish V12, Fisker has further refined the look. He began the DB7 Zagato and the DB AR1 specialty cars, and now the Vantage V8 and DB9 are his latest efforts. At the moment, Fisker is working on a shape for Aston's forthcoming racing car for the 24 Hours of Le Mans (as well as approving the appearance of the DB9 in the forthcoming James Bond film).
Fisker says that it was quite a shock to make the transition from the 30 designers and 25 support craftsmen of the Ford advanced studio to the handful of personnel at Aston Martin's studio. Yet Fisker doesn't wholly embrace the labor-saving strategy of developing car designs with computer software. Traditional clay models produce more emotional surface development, he says, and they also allow more designers the chance to collaborate.
Like all the younger designers, Fisker wants his cars to be more sculptural. In this way, he says, a car's shape is able to "glide through time." Like so many designers of his generation, Fisker seems to prefer overworked details (lights, doors, etc.) in an effort to produce a more "complete" design. As far as interior design goes, he favors designs and materials that have been truly crafted by hand.
Every since Ford first attempted to buy Ferrari in 1962, the Dearborn company has wanted to have its own luxury high-performance brand. Aston Martin is the kind of company Ford has been seeking for 40 years, and it gives Henrik Fisker the opportunity to seize the imaginations of car enthusiasts everywhere.