Luc Donckerwolke on the new and future design of the Genesis car


Luc Donckerwolke is now Chief Brand Officer (CBO) and Chief Creative Officer (CCO) of Genesis, new titles in addition to his current position of CCO for the Hyundai Motor group. The Belgian car designer has been with Hyundai since 2016, following German designer Peter Schreyer as Global Chief Designer. Like Schreyer, Donckerwolke cut his teeth at Volkswagen Group, overseeing key cars like the Lamborghini Murciélago and the Bentley Continental GT and leading the Seat design team.

After a short break away from the company, he’s back in a new role at Genesis that completes his portfolio at the Korean industrial giant, alongside SangYup Lee, head of global design for Genesis. In addition to his work for the rapidly evolving Genesis brand, Donckerwolke will also contribute to the development of Hyundai’s Ioniq electric sub-brand.

We told him about the new role, Genesis’ only European-only G70 shooting brake model and the new Genesis EV60 electric vehicle, as well as some big changes coming to the industry.

Genesis G70 Shooting Brake

Wallpaper *: How does it feel to create a luxury brand where you basically start with a blank sheet of paper?

Luc Donckerwolke: This is something that never normally happens these days. There is a lot of serious work behind it which led to this great moment not only to create this brand but also to make it global. I was in the right place at the right time working for companies that needed a rebirth and where design was helping to relaunch. However, Genesis was not even on the horizon when I joined Hyundai. A few months after I signed up, they told me they were starting the business and asked if I would be okay with taking over the design.

The domed rear hatch glass of the Genesis G70 Shooting Brake was a technical challenge

W *: Where had you worked before?

LD: Working for Bentley, Lamborghini and Audi has been excellent preparation. But it’s about creating a brand with different values. Working in Korea was my first experience in Asia, and it was so welcoming, with such a great customer attitude. Translating this universe and this experience into a brand, designing products and experiences together, is something that makes you grow. The goal has always been to create an emotional and fantastic design. But it was also about being completely different from everything else. When you start with a new brand, everything should be consistent. Our approach was defined by “the design is the brand, and the brand is the design”, which is why we created a design language where the face of the car would be derived from the logo. We wanted to have a consistent approach all the way from the first sketch to the product on the road. It was a once in a lifetime experience.

The front grille of the G70 Shooting Brake evokes the shape of the Genesis badge

W *: The Shooting Brake is a very European type model. Was it difficult to convince the company that you needed it for this market?

LD: We designed Genesis DNA so that it is not [a case of ] design for another continent and try to sell them in Europe. We told Hyundai management that we had to meet the special needs of customers in Europe with specific products. They trust our experience and trust us completely. Normally, if you are making a car for a specific market, automatically the investment constraints are quite strong because you are talking about limited volume. They supported us to develop a product that stood out from the competition.

The interior of the Genesis G70 Shooting Brake

W *: There is a classic traditional beauty to all Genesis models. You’ve succeeded in distilling the essence the way big cars work best. How will this design language evolve – will the focus still be on sedans and SUVs?

LD: We wanted to create a design language that has a certain timeless beauty but that is not retro. If you are designing an aggressive sports car, you usually do a wedge design. This car is an “anti-hold”. It’s a noble design, with a serene attitude. It’s not arrogant, but he has a laid back, relaxed and confident demeanor. A Genesis appears to sit on its rear wheels, emphasizing the drivetrain package. It also refers to the classic golden rules of automotive design, with very few creases and creases in the body. The G70 Shooting Brake speaks of “sporty elegance”, that is to say sporty, but controlled.

In Korea, the market is for sedans, so we have very good experience in their design. We had to enrich our portfolio of SUVs, because they represent a significant part of certain markets. But we are going to work on different typologies. The recent Genesis X coupe concept shows that we don’t want to exclude any type of vehicle. I’m sure the current dominance of SUVs will give way to demand for other types of vehicles. There will be diversification.

The new Genesis GV60 is a purely electric car

W *: And the details? How do you deal with things like headlights and grilles as we are seeing a move away from the traditional grille in EVs?

LD: It’s not really about the size of a design element like the grille, but how you execute it. We don’t want to sound provocative or aggressive. The shape of the grille comes from the logo patch, which we could only achieve by integrating the license plate. With electric cars, the radiator grille cooling function becomes less relevant, so from a Darwinist point of view, the grille could almost disappear, as in the GV60. However, [there will be] the need to integrate the “sensory pad” of the near future – roughly the same size as today’s grille. When we started designing electric vehicles a few years ago, those were the questions we asked ourselves.

The interior of the new Genesis GV60 electric car

W *: What do your customers expect from a car interior? Are you hoping to give them something unexpected?

LD: We want to apply the same kind of purity as outside. But interiors are a very complex discipline. It’s like being an architect who has created a beautiful room with the perfect materials and proportions and then someone puts a heater in the room, and it’s ruined. You can make a fantastic sculptural interior, but you have to put in the air vents and the buttons and the screens and everything. In Korea, there is a great sensitivity and appreciation for aesthetics, an integral part of the country’s cultural tradition. Genesis interiors use a concept called “beauty of white space,” which involves orchestrating spatial elements. There is also a feeling of quiet and understated service in the way the buttons and controls are laid out. That’s also why we have these slimmer air vents, the thinnest you get in production.

Refined interior details in the new Genesis GV60 electric car

W *: Are there elements inside designed to create surprise and pleasure?

LD: The driver is often referred to as a guest. Technology isn’t about fireworks or spices, so you aren’t relying on overwhelming experiences. But we have so much more to come. I don’t think any automaker has ever launched so many products in such a short time. And each new Genesis model will have its own identity. §

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