Gorden Wagener

Head of design, Mercedes-Benz

Gorden Wagener
2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Headlight

For giving luxury a new look.


With the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Gorden Wagener faced a challenge most car designers would love to have: make a best-selling car sell even better. Here’s how he messed with success.

Gorden Wagener

Scale up and slim down.

The 2015 model is longer and wider, but weighs 200 pounds less due to a partly aluminum body, which also offered more freedom when it came to curves and detailing. “It’s about the materials you don’t see, but you feel and hear through different senses–that’s how we design,” he says.

Focus on the details.

To give the C-Class a self-assured look, Wagener patterned the headlights after a human eye, with the circular torch as the eyeball and a row of LEDs above as an eyebrow (and turn signal).

Make it perform.

Wagener pushed the cabin back, lengthening the hood and shifting the focus of the car to the rear. He also tapered the cabin and raised the back for a classic “dropping line” stance. “We took inspiration from 1930s streamlined design,” he says. As a result, the C-Class is unusually aerodynamic.

About the author

Skylar is an Editorial Assistant at Fast Company. He's previously written for Popular Mechanics, Esquire, Dwell and his hometown Chicagoland suburb newspaper.