Art Of Drive: An Interview With Automotive Designer And Illustrator John Bridge


Our Art of Drive series interviews artists, designers and photographers to find out what inspires them.

Please give our readers an introduction to who you are, where you are from, and what you do?

My name is John Bridge, I'm thirty years old and I am from Coventry (England). I am a designer, 3D software sculptor and fabricator. I currently work at Porsche in Stuttgart.

When did you start drawing and how did your life as an artist/designer begin?  

As far back as I can remember I have always been drawing. As a child I mostly drew strange creatures and made small picture books of imaginary adventures that I would have liked to go on. I don’t really remember drawing cars or motorcycles but I was very passionate about aircrafts and boats. My dad was very good at fixing cars and he always seemed to be fixing or building something in his spare time.

Naturally, from years of watching him doing this I became very interested in this as well. At this stage I never knew that designing cars was a real job. It wasn’t until attending college that this option opened up to me. I was at a point where I had to choose between architecture and automotive design. I was offered an architecture job in London upon finishing college but I turned it down and decided to study automotive design at university.

Who and what have inspired you and influenced your work?

I could name many designers that have inspired me because of their great work but there is one man in particular that has had a huge impact on my career within the automotive industry. I was working at Aston Martin when I was around 20 and I met an old man by chance who was working as an Engineer for Recaro. He was retired but got bored and decided to work part time to keep busy. His name was Tony Cox, he was a Rally Driver in the 1960s, WRC Europe Team Manager and Technical Director of Ralliart. Regularly he would tell me stories of his past and I was completely fascinated, he would review my designs and often tell me it wouldn’t work but this helped accelerate my design skills and my understanding of feasibility, aerodynamics and manufacturing.

Once I was completely in awe of him when he told me Jackie Chan had made a request for Tony to design and build a supercar for him with the prospect of small volume manufacturing. Tony sadly passed away but the 6 months I knew him changed many things. Tony passed his passion and knowledge onto me and I felt like he was giving me the ultimate gift that he knew he could no longer use. I am forever in his debt for this.

How would you describe your style and technique?

My style is very loose but descriptive, I don’t tend to create photo realistic renders because they take too long. I work on impulse and this means I have to work fast. I show gestures of light and shadow so you can read the surfaces clearly, but for me that is enough. I leave the perfect renders for my 3D models where I can really show off the design intent.

Has your work style evolved over time?

I love to use traditional methods. Pen, paper, markers and pastels. Sketches from the ‘70s and ‘80s were very powerful and had so much feeling to them, this is something I feel is lost with the digital methods. Mastering this first has certainly made the transition over to using a digital tablet and stylus pen very easy. Initially I tried to make very smooth and crisp renders digitally but I didn’t like the outcome very much so now I try to artificially recreate the feeling of traditional methods using digital media.

Please take us through the thinking and creative process behind your sketches and renderings.

It always starts the same; quick loose sketches to find volumes and forms with a pen and paper. Sometimes this happens quickly, other times I can go through 20 or 30 pieces of paper. Once found I'll start to work in details and add hints of light and shade. Once happy I’ll either do some quick refined renders or jump into Alias and build in a rough model and study the volume. Sometimes sketches lie as you can cheat perspective or volumes to get the desired look but the 3D never lies.

Are you a production car enthusiast?

Mass production, no. They don’t excite me because they are often bland and toned down in comparison to the concept. These cars have to appeal to everyone so therefore can’t be too daring or bold. I do however like what the Korean brands are doing as they seem to be breaking a lot more rules and not conforming, their cars do seem to be over designed at times and very busy but at least they are different. I have been very fortunate to only work within luxury and sports brands where you have a lot more creative freedom (in style terms) so you can really exaggerate forms. These excite me a lot and I always look forward to what is showcased at car shows each year.

Do you have specific favourites?

My favourite car is the Lamborghini Miura. It's not the most beautiful or the best for performance but there is something about it that I love, it's almost as though its small quirks really appeal to me. Supercars from this era in general appeal to me a lot though.

What design projects are you currently working on?

I can’t disclose what I am doing at Porsche, but in my free time I have been designing and planning a couple of custom motorcycle builds. My mum and my sister make wedding dresses and dance wear so recently I have taken a keen interest into fashion design and have been helping design wedding dresses for them and for friends. It’s a nice change from cars and motorcycles that helps develop my skills and ways of working

I am currently finishing off a few watch concepts that I would like to prototype, develop and then sell in a small limited volume.

What is next for you?

There are only one or two companies left that I want to work for. Once I have achieved that then I would like to set up my own studio/shop designing and building custom bikes and hotrods. I have a very strong passion for the custom culture. I feel as though I have enough experience, knowledge and hopefully a good enough reputation now to make a success of doing my own thing.

Follow John: @johnssketchaday