Cadillac color and trim designer Alexandra Dymowska reveals a magnitude of influences, inspirational sources and technological developments that dictate the process of color and trim allocation. We caught up with the iconic American Automobile brand’s ‘aesthetic expert’ for insight into her design proposals for both production and concept cars.
Can you briefly describe your creative process?
The work process for production cars and concept cars is very different.
Production car design is driven by the need to offer a wide range of interior choices to the customer in a way that evokes the Cadillac brand. Consequently, I help to develop a multitude of color and trim palette proposals. These span from high to low contrast, single to dual tone, light to dark, chromatic to neutral, modern to classic, and luxury to performance.
In contrast, the color and trim selection process for a concept car requires the development of one strong palette for one concept interior. However, a concept car design challenges the team to identify innovative uses of advanced materials and technologies.
What are the specific interior and exterior elements that you work with?
I am responsible for both interior and exterior elements of the car. The interior, due to its complexity of forms, number of parts, ergonomics, personalization, and technical requirements, commands most of the attention. Our expectations and those of our luxury customers of the interior are very high.
Describe your first visual memory of a car that spoke to you.
My first visual memory of a car is the famous Russian ‘60s Volga. I grew up in communist Poland in the ‘80s, where owning a car was a dream to the majority of citizens and negotiating the system to own a tiny Fiat 126p was a life accomplishment serving as transportation for the entire extended family. Our family used only public transportation, with taxis as backup in times of urgent need. On one occasion, I found myself getting into this oversized bulbous car at the taxi stand. I was fascinated because the look of the car was curvy – very different from the standard, boxy Fiat 125 taxi. It stood high, and looked strong and heavy. The Volga had a presence and owning one in the Soviet Union back then meant you made it. In terms of social status, it was an equivalent of Cadillac.
I remember it was a stretch for my 5-year-old arm to open the matte cream door, which weighed a ton. Sitting inside I felt regal and that made me smile. The interior was very spacious with quality materials. The seat was wide and there were curtains in the windows. Yes, curtains! There were even colorful plastic flowers decorating the instrument panel dashboard! I later heard some Volga owners went to extremes to keep the interior in pristine condition, requiring their passengers to change into slippers. I will never forget the joy and pride I felt that day, savoring every moment of my lucky regal ride.
Are there any constant and reliable sources of inspiration when selecting color and trim for a car?
My sources of inspiration are many and mixed with my personal interests–from international travel and immersing myself in different cultures, to trade shows, fashion, trend research, and time spent exploring colors and materials with our Cadillac artisans and craftsmen.
This past fall I visited the Lineapelle leather show in Bologna. This month, I went to ICFF in New York City. Lately the beautiful compositions and rich palettes of food photography in magazines like Cereal and Kinfolk charm me.
Can you tell us more about the role that technology plays in the process of C&T design?
Technology drives the fidelity of colors and finishes and our ever-advancing production standards. Technologies, like programmable perforation and laser etching, allow us to combine the aesthetic with the practical. One example is the brand’s chevron-perforated pattern on quilted Cadillac seats. It is amazing how much car interiors have advanced and how the future is interpreting the next level of refinement and luxury.
In terms of accents, what materials, colors or grains excite you now and why?
The Lineapelle show inspired me with matte monochromatic exotic accents. The matte finishes are more minimalist and tame the exotic pattern. The sueded finish conveys sensuality and luxury. Currently, I am most excited about creating harmonious and elegant compositions that are rich in layers and subtle nuances.
Is there a failsafe color that you always return to?
Colors, especially the ones we surround ourselves with, are deeply individual. The preferences can be cultural or personal, practical or aesthetic based. Offering a variety frees customers to choose based on their individual sensibilities. While black and neutral tones are classic expressions of luxury, chromatic colors have become a mainstay in the Cadillac interior palette.
What are the most progressive colors or trims you have ever used for Cadillac?
One of the most progressive colors is the Morello Red. I helped to develop it for the Cadillac ATS to accentuate the sporty character of the model. The car garnered several awards and is a customer favorite for those desiring an expressive look. Cadillac interiors are rich and chromatic. I love Caramel Tan, Morello Red, and Kona Brown, as well as high-contrast combinations featuring Jet Black and Light Wheat paired with classic all-black and neutral interiors.
How do you keep a luxury product visually exciting?
Keeping a luxury object visually exciting is something of a science for Cadillac. We study the elegant use of beautiful elements. Some of the most beautiful elements come directly from nature or technology, such as the authentic wood veneers, carbon fibers and aluminums used as decorative trim in Cadillac interiors.
And finally, tell us about your dreams for the next portfolio of Cadillac cars?
I imagine cars that are highly refined, with stretches of beautiful materials and rich colors, elegant forms, and thoughtful details that reveal themselves and delight the customer over time.