Michele Leonello is a fantastic Italian car designer who was generous enough to give us some insight into the industry. Read on to learn more, and be sure to check out his web site and YouTube videos!
Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Michele Leonello, and I’m a 30-year-old Italian. I live between the cities of Milan and Como with my girlfriend Camilla and my cat Milù.
I started my car design life when I was 19, beginning when I was a student in the University of Architecture. From there I moved up to the Alfa Romeo Style Centre, where I worked with a great team of designers and have collaborated on major products. Today I run my design studio, Leonello Design, composed of important companies in the industry and other great designers.
For 4 years I followed the important Masters of Automotive Design in Italy, took the Polytechnic of Milan and the Scuola Politecnica di Design SPD in Milan, where I teach freehand sketching & rendering. The goal is to train future talent in the industry, and I hope they have the opportunity to live their greatest dream.
When did you begin creating art?
I started making art at 3 years old. The credit belongs to my father Giuseppe, an amateur painter. When I was a child he drew anything for me: animals, plants and objects.
I come from the most beautiful island in the Mediterranean Sea, the Sardinia, and my father helped me to increase my attention to detail, colors and shapes, leading me to draw in the garden or in the country. Over the years he has always been present, and sometimes very critical. But in the end, he has always supported my choice to broaden my education by studying art at the Art School of the City of Cagliari.
My sources of inspiration are varied. Certainly as an Italian, I’m pervaded by the ideas of beauty, harmony, and the elegance of proportion. I call this the Essence of Beauty. My first source of inspiration is women – the proportion of the bodies, eyes, muscles, the harmony of the movements, which I try to convey in drawings when I have to design a new car. When we fall in love or we are struck by someone, it is often because of aesthetic vision. More than 60% of cars are bought for their aesthetic appeal. I also find inspiration in nature, photography, visiting a museum in Milan, or admiring the grace and elegance of my cat. I forgot that a great source of inspiration is to have a great culture in the area where you work – the story, and the people who made it big.
What’s your favorite thing about being a car designer?
To have great responsibility in what you do. Designing a car is not a simple thing. Hundreds of people work on a project, but the style is the final determining factor for the success or failure of the project.
What’s the most difficult thing about being a car designer?
There are many difficult aspects in the field. Many responsibilities, always looking for new ideas and solutions. You are under pressure often because you must comply with the deliveries. The most difficult, but also ironic, is that you always wait so long before you see the project on the road. From the first sketch to production, the process can take up to 2 or 4 years. So we never enjoy the car, because it is old and we’re already thinking of the successor.
Why do you prefer Copic markers for your illustrations?
I was introduced to Copic when I started my career at Alfa Romeo. My good friend Manuel taught me some tricks and techniques. I consider them the best products on the market because the range of color in the final result is fantastic. Being able to create many shades allows you to always achieve a high level of quality.
Sketching and rendering are still fundamental in process work, even if you use a lot of digital tools. Getting your hands dirty, painting, and presenting a beautiful drawing done with Copic gives you more satisfaction than digital work. It is like you are an artist/designer.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m working on some important projects, but for confidentiality I cannot say the name of the client. I can only say that my staff and I are thinking up some beautiful cars that you will see soon.
Any events coming up that you’re involved in?
The most important events for the end of 2011 are the new Masters in Polytechnic School of Design, the creation of a workshop with a famous brand in Asia, the realization of Copic Day Workshop 2011 with my friend Manuel Mondellini of COPIC Italy, and a television series dedicated to the world of car design.
Any words of advice for aspiring car designers?
This is a good question! The biggest advice is don’t believe that you have already reached the finish line after your studies. What comes after is not comparable. At that moment, true professional life begins. It takes humility, determination, respect for those who will help you, and continued creative growth.