Fiat Chrysler Automobiles designers present at Interlochen

  • Arts Academy students share their thougths while examining one of the vehicles.

  • Head of Design for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Ralph Gilles gives a presentation to visual arts students in the DeRoy Center for Film Studies.

  • Fiat Chrysler Automobile Asia Pacific Chief Designer and Interlochen Board Member Bill Zheng shares his experiences with students.

November 15, 2017

On Oct. 20, 2017, Head of Design for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ralph Gilles, and Fiat Chrysler Automobile Asia Pacific Chief Designer and Interlochen Board Member, Bill Zheng (IAC 91, IAA 92-96), made the trek from Detroit to Interlochen for a special presentation.

Speaking to a crowd of visual arts majors in the DeRoy Center for Film Studies lobby, Gilles and Zheng shared their respective backstories, design ethos and insight on the journey of concept car creation.

Gilles presented first, and spoke at length about the process of designing the Chrysler Portal—an all-electric, self-driving minivan concept. Toward the end, Gilles opened the floor to questions from the audience. The artists in the room asked very few design-specific questions, but instead focused on the larger themes of zero-waste production, safety and technology.

Zheng’s presentation connected the dots from being a young artist in China, to his years at Interlochen, and then through college to how his career ultimately took him back to China. Zheng’s lecture showed his early work as an Interlochen visual artist, and transitioned into some of his current projects with Fiat Chrysler—including the Jeep Yunta (a Chinese concept vehicle). Zheng projected several early sketches and walked the audience through their development into renderings and prototypes. One animatic in particular drew an audible response from the crowd. During an animated demo of the Yunta, a drone lifted from the rear of the vehicle causing the audience to murmur and awe.

Zheng reiterated the importance of balancing design that is true to a brand’s DNA, but also thoughtfully pushes the boundaries and notions of what a car should be.

As the lecture ended, Gilles and Zheng invited students to explore the vehicles that they drove up from Detroit. Crowds eagerly examined and photographed the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio and Jeep Grand Cherokee parked outside of DeRoy.

You can find more images from this event on SmugMug.