Jason Castriota has a reputation for blending the romance of supercar design (Ferrari, Maserati) with the modern recasting of a car's heritage. "I take its philosophy and then push that aesthetic forward," he says. So it's no surprise that, just a year into his stint as Saab's design director, Castriota is revving things up. His bold, futuristic PhoeniX concept car was unveiled in March—and immediately drew a polarized response. "It created a tremendous amount of controversy," Castriota says. "It was a manifesto." The new Saab 9-3 he's designing will hit dealers in 2012.
What does your typical day look like?
A: It depends where I am in the world—but If I am on the east coast my day is as follows:
5:30 a.m.: Wake up and begin to tackle my emails from Europe (approximately 40 per morning by this hour), design images to review, engineering criteria for review, marketing/pr requests, budget planning/revisions, travel itineraries, and journalist requests/questions.
7:00 a.m.: Get online to see what is going on in the world (CNN and various automotive sites).
7:30 a.m.: Sketching while carrying on phone calls to project leaders based in Europe.
8:30 a.m.: Web Review of design models with my two Chief CAD modelers.
9:30 a.m.: Conference calls with the design and engineering teams or more emails to design, engineering, and/or marketing teams.
11:00 a.m.: My hour of Zen—athletic training of some kind to clear my mind.
12:15 p.m.: Leave for NY office (conference calls during drive).
11:15 p.m.: Power lunch with my NY team (discussion on design/strategy/finance/biz dev).
2:30 p.m.: Get into office and work on previous discussion pts/ emails/ design.
5:00 p.m.: Return home (traffic means longer commute but will fill time with phone calls to Europe for end of the day review).
7:00 p.m.: Dinner with my family.
8:30 p.m.: Downtime with my significant other.
10:00 p.m.: Sketching/reviewing of new ideas.
11:00 p.m.: Calls and email exchange with my California based designers—check what is going on in the world.
12:00 a.m.: Bed.
These videos show Castriota's design process for creating Saab's PhoeniX concept car.
Leonardo da Vinci embodied what inspires me most about design—trying to find a beautiful solution to a technical problem.
Who is the most creative person you know?
Paolo Martin, one of the greatest and most unsung heroes of car design. While at Pininfarina in the 1960's, he created what I would argue as the two poles of Pininfarina design—the Dino Competizione, which is soft, sensual, and agile, and the Ferrari Modulo, an extreme geometric speed form that's elegant yet brutally simple. He is the prototypical mad genius: Obsessive compulsive, insanely talented and has an ability to actually engineer and fabricate his designs. One time he was commissioned to design a scooter. When the client came to his study expecting to see design renderings, Paolo burst out of his garage riding on a functional prototype of his design, which he fabricated himself!