Which Designer Deserves More Credit?
At the turn of the Millennium, I was 15, had tickets to see the touring exhibition of 100 vehicles called Car of the Century, and was over-the-moon to not only see my first Lancia Stratos but to cast my ballot in favor of its seminal Marcello Gandini-penned lines. But when I started to stroll past other vehicles I hadn’t seen before, I remember being slack-jawed at seeing the Citroën DS in person—and completely ignorant to its sculptor—“Who designed this?!”
As part of the exhibition, experts and the general public were invited to cast votes, which were then tallied…the Stratos didn’t end up getting mine.
I now know that the car I fell in love with that day was designed by the Italian Flaminio Bertoni, who didn’t arrive at automotive design in a traditional sense—he was a sculptor first and foremost. While many talented designers stuck with coachbuilders, styling houses, or found themselves a cog within a huge styling department that had to constantly produce “design”, history has shown Bertoni’s situation at Citroën to be unique.
He was integrated into the vehicle design and engineering teams, with the French automaker seemingly operating in an opposite way to how things are done today. In period, Citroën used to invest huge sums of money into a single technologically advanced model, which would arrive on the market with a big splash…before being sold for a decade or longer. If you’re making millions of something, it’d better start off great, right?
As a result, Bertoni’s talents weren’t wasted on reprofiling chrome bumpers or altering his designs to follow quarterly market research reports: apart from a few minor changes, the DS’ shape was stamped out nearly three million times across 20 years.
The DS (just one of the many he designed) has since been crowned as among the most beautiful ever, and a Flaminio Bertoni museum is open in Varese, Italy; both hopefully allow people to have an appreciation for what he was able to accomplish in metal, glass, and rubber.
I think everyone should know at least a bit about Bertoni—which designer do you feel deserves more credit?