Wayne Burgess: The Man Behind the Designs
If one were asked to draw a picture of a Jaguar designer, more than likely, the man would be dressed in an impeccably tailored suit—with the poise and swagger of James Bond, albeit with a license to draw.
Our man, Jaguar designer Wayne Burgess, most certainly does clean up quite nicely. But he’s equally comfortable in a T-shirt and jeans. And not to be pigeon-holed, he also happens to be the lead guitarist of U.K. metal quintet, Scattering Ashes.
For the past 15 years, along with his mentor and boss, Ian Callum, he has been crafting Jaguars—including the incredible 2014 F-TYPE and the ground-pounding 2013 XFR-S. Both of these cars made their Canadian debuts in Toronto at the Canadian International AutoShow.
Wayne Burgess begins, “I remember going to see Walt Disney’s Robin Hood when I was really young—I could only have been three or four. Once home, I drew all the characters from Robin Hood by memory. I recall my father coming into the room and looking at what I was doing. He couldn’t believe that I had drawn them. I got quite upset because I had drawn them. After that, I wanted to do it all the time.”
Growing up in Stoke-on-Trent in the 1970s, put Mr. Burgess in the heart of the United Kingdom’s prestigious automobile industry. Wayne not only penned his own creations, but also perfected drawings of the classic English car marques.
His taste for the classic lines of the English motorcar would take him south down the M6 to Coventry, England, home of Jaguar. Under the direction of the late Geoff Lawson, Mr. Burgess went to work on the X-TYPE. “Ian Callum, who was going to become the Advanced Studio Director assumed the role of overall Design Director. He and I hit it off really well, and he quickly seconded me to Aston Martin.
“When I came back to Jaguar. I became the senior manager/chief designer of what was to become the 2008 XF. After that, I became involved with the XK, and most recently, I was the chief designer on the F-TYPE.”
Surrounded by creative inspiration—model planes, Star Wars memorabilia, prints of RAF fighter planes, vintage Les Paul guitars and more—Mr. Burgess walks a fine line in creating something unique and something that is still recognizable as a Jaguar.
“That means getting the right wheel-to-body relationships, the right wheelbase, the overhangs, and getting what appears to be a low roofline. We recognize from 100 yards away, it’s the proportions that hit you first. So, we spend a lot of time on the fundamental architecture of the car. When we get to the details, we’re actually quite sparing on how much jewelry we put on Jaguar vehicles. We can then really focus on things such as headlamp and taillamp internals to make them beautiful pieces of jewelry.”
The same tack applies to the interior design. Nothing is applied just because. “We use materials in an architectural way. The kind of soft flowing waveform on the top of the dashboard in an XF is driven by the fact that we leather wrap it. The wood trim on the door isn’t just a bit of wood trim stuck on a door panel; it’s actually an integral part of the door that’s carrying the window switch gear and the door release.”
The basic formula doesn't change that much when the performance gets dialed up. What does change, are the priorities. And no vehicle dials up the performance like the 2013 XFR-S. 550 supercharged horsepower. Aerodynamic treatments. Downforce augmentation. You get the idea. Here’s how Mr. Burgess describes it, “I find it liberating to work on cars like that. The performance is so extreme it has to be stable at speeds approaching 320 km/h (200 mph). It needed to have larger intakes to cool that engine. I needed that deep jutting spoiler to create more downforce on the front and it needed the wing and diffuser on the back to keep the car planted to the road.”
There are no compromises for the driver environment. After all, despite it’s full-on aggressive exterior, the XFR-S remains a road-going Jaguar. So no surprise, regardless of its performance, there’s no leather-clad roll-cage.
Given its no-holds-barred performance, wood is replaced with carbon fibre to lower the weight. To continue the theme, the leather on the stiffly bolstered seats is embossed with a carbon fibre grain.
Given the approach and strict adherence to the Jaguar Brand DNA, there are places where a designer can enjoy some free reign. Burgess continues, “It’s my job to encourage the team to produce work that I think is consistent with Ian’s view of Jaguar. In terms of signature details, one of the things I have fun with is lamp detailing. The lamp internals on our cars are influenced by Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter. In addition, if one looks closely, there’s a little Jaguar leaper hidden in there like a piece of jewelry. That’s my little signature. And you’ll find it on the Model Year XF, XK and F-TYPE.”
Design DNA is one thing, but there’s always a new challenge, one that’s a far cry from the days when Sir William Lyons and Malcolm Sayer sketched and created the quintessential Jaguar, the E-TYPE. In their day, only the design led the way and safety took the back seat. Today’s Jaguar designer has to address both.
“To still build a beautiful car that is recognizable as a Jaguar is something special. You have to think a little smarter to make something that is beautiful.”
So, there’s no longing for the past. “We’re inspired by the attitude that Jaguar had in its golden era. What I mean by golden era, I mean the 1950s and 1960s when they were producing cars like the XK120, XK140 and XK150. And then replacing them with the E-TYPE which looked nothing like its predecessors.”
That attitude drove the development of the new F-TYPE.
“There was a global expectation that we would pay a lot of attention to the E-TYPE. However, we wanted it to relate to the current range of saloons, XF and XJ. The grille shape is directly related to those cars than the more obvious elliptical mouth that the E-TYPE has. We didn’t have one (E-TYPE) in the studio. It was a subliminal reference. There are little elements on F-TYPE that were influenced by E-TYPE. The low, tapering tail. The taillamp graphic. Those are two areas, where we looked at the car and thought that was unique. If E-TYPE had never existed and we set out to design the F-TYPE with the mindset that we have, the F-TYPE would have turned out very similar anyway.”
“I think we see ourselves living in the present rather than being too burdened by the weight of our admittedly fantastically rich heritage.”