Jazzing up Ferrari design
This is not his answer to a women’s magazine-style question (“What inspires you dahhling, what’s your muse?”) but a response to the fact that he cites music as an integral part of his design philosophy.
As inspired as he is by sculpture, art and architecture in his work – which includes La Ferrari, the 488 GTB, the FXXK and the GTC4 Lusso he unveiled while in Sydney – Manzoni is equally moved by music.
Indeed, he regularly invites musicians to visit the Ferrari Design Studio, which he personally established in 2010, to play live for his team of more than 70 beautifully dressed Italians.
“We recently had Cesare Picco – a famous pianist, especially in Japan – come in and we invited him to teach us how to create in real time, starting from a little idea and exploring the way to evolve it and transform it,” explains Manzoni, a keen pianist himself.
“This is what we actually do with cars; when we start the project, have an intuition about a particularly artistic solution to an engineering problem. Then the question is how to apply it to the car, in an artistic way.
“It’s a kind of discipline, music. When I play the piano I try to create a natural connection between my soul and the instrument. It’s not easy; you have to find the perfect state of mind to do that.
“Music represents the most instant way to transfer your visions, your feelings, into a creative object. The relationship between man and machine – the piano and the pianist – is not so far away from the relationship between a driver and a sporty car like a Ferrari. There is a similar symbiosis between the two.”
And the music that most inspires Manzoni and his team is the fiddly, tricky and seemingly unstructured world of jazz.
You can’t imagine a German car company using anything but Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyrie (aka the helicopter music from Apocalypse Now) or the Koreans anything but god-awful K-pop. Indeed, Manzoni recently gave a copy of a book about jazz – “Harmonic Disorder it’s called; even the name is so beautiful” – to each of his staff.
“Jazz relates to the way our team works,” he enthuses, his foot tapping in his expensive Italian shoe.
“It’s beautiful how, in a jam session, all of the musicians interplay and they play around a theme, a harmonic structure, and the interpretation of each one can be completely different. Even if one musician makes a mistake, it’s no problem because this can just lead someone else to go off in a different direction and reinterpret the piece in a whole new way.
“There is a fantastic similarity with the way we work. We, the design team, are a family that share the same passions, and when we start a project there is a structure and everybody can express his idea, his way to interpret it, and the final result is a team result.”
Manzoni, of course, has plenty of freedom to be chaotic and crazy – look at La Ferrari, for example – because of the company, and the country, he works in.
But he despairs at the lack of courage shown by his competitors, particularly those leaning heavily on retro styling or what he calls the “Russian-doll approach” to design.
“You know the ones, it’s just like looking at different sizes of the same thing,” he frowns. “I don’t personally like this.
“It’s a problem of the car industry globally. People end up thinking that the consistency of a brand comes from the repetition of the same elements, but I don’t think so. For me it’s the wrong approach. It’s not a creative approach.”
Nor is reaching for retro, he believes, dismissing it as “an effective way to compensate for a loss of image”.
“It’s too easy, and it represents a decrease in the risk factor. This is a very dangerous thing. It’s a part of science; if you don’t risk, you don’t invent anything.
“The problem is the ripple effects, because there are now so many examples of retro. So many air intakes and grilles now are fake, but this is not design, this is styling. It’s a totally different question.”