Art of Drive: Digital Hot Rod Art By Mikael Lugnegard

Interview Craig Metros.

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

Mikael Lugnegard was born and raised in Northern Sweden. Surrounded by mining towns, “Life was pretty boring,” according to Lugnegard. He enrolled into the UID Design School in Sweden to study Industrial Design. Lugnegard was interested in the artistic and conceptual aspect of design. He felt there was too much focus on engineering. After two and a half years, he left the university to start his own industrial design company. He immediately started networking and eventually built a solid client base. He founded Core Body Conceptual Design and Illustration. Like most small design firms, Lugnegard illustrates his ideas of products for his clients. He also holds workshops and speaks at various conferences to promote design, as well as, his business. He uses a combination of traditional drawing on paper with all the latest digital tools including Photoshop and KeyShot software.

Recently, Lugnegard took a break from his clients, workshops and conferences to pursue a personal project. He proceeded to digitally build a low, wide and mean looking hot rod based on a Model A coupe. “I wanted a classic look with ultra modern proportions, simple geometric shapes, and clean lines,” Lugnegard explains.

Working with digital tools as an industrial designer, you can create anything. Why did you choose a hot rod?

I like car design. Cars are a beautiful object to draw. I really like motorcycles and hot rods- anything with a big engine. I love to blend character with technical beauty. I think there is something universal about hot rods that I like. The shape and forms have a purpose. Last spring, I spent five months working on the coupe. I had this idea in my head I needed to get out. It was purely personal, explorational and educational.

Do you like modern performance and sports cars?

I am bored with Ferraris and Lamborghinis. I’m more interested in seeing the mechanicals, the steering, and the suspension. I appreciate the details as an artist.

I’m assuming there aren’t many hot rods around the area in which you were raised. How did you grow to appreciate them?

I started watching Chip Foose on the television show, Over-Haulin. He was a big influence on me. I also kept an eye out for Hot Rod and Street Rodder magazines. The biggest source was the internet. That’s where I learned so much. I also learned about hot rods by building them in data. It took me a week to build the fuel tank and to get the look right. It was fun building the dropped and drilled front axle with drum brakes.   

How do you start to block in initial surfaces?

I start with photos. I have a huge reference file of hot rod images and technical drawings of many details. I start modeling piece by piece. Once I have all the pieces in place, I begin to refine, refine, refine. The Coker tires took me forever. I really like those tires and have never seen one in real life. I have never been to a hot rod show before. I’m not in Detroit or L.A. Once in awhile I see a tuned BMW or a Ferrari

Was your design process the same on the coupe as it would be on a product for a client?  

My design process is pretty much a custom blend of free artistry and classic industrial design. I follow my intuition rather than research methodology. My process revolves around my initial vision, it seldom leads me wrong and is clear enough to guide me through long journeys. With that being said, I rarely show early sketches from my projects for the simple reason that they are not as exciting and flashy as some of you may think. It is often just simple ink sketches that help me capture the initial vision.

Though you held off on client work to pursue this project, do you see this body of work attracting other clients?

As a full time freelance designer, you rarely find time for personal, self-initiated projects, but it’s vital to find challenges and exercises, large and small that allow the creative self to explore, experiment and refine its workflow and the tools being used.

It’s not a simple decision to initiate an internal project that focuses solely on development and inspiration, it gives no given output and doesn’t pay the bills. You may see it as a solid investment and a long-term advertising project. It's however incredibly liberating to put away any performance anxiety and nervousness as you often have towards a client and, for once, act client yourself. This gives you the opportunity to plan, prepare, make decisions, and execute a project with the only goal to develop, learn something new, and have a great time. This is something that many creative professionals should treat themselves to more often.

Do you have aspirations of building a hot rod, maybe your '79 coupe?

Yes. I’m going to own a hot rod. I want to build the 79 coupe one day. I can’t weld or work with sheet metal on an English wheel but I can visualize a concept.

What would you like to convey beyond the hot rod with this body of work?

In a way, similar to how artists within movies and video games work, I hope to convey a clear and strong sense of what’s to come. This vehicle is about racing, passion and appreciation for the craft. Every single element is designed to speak about just that. To tell its audience that this hot rod, street rod or concept vehicle is an expression of love for the metal surfaces, polished bolts, well tuned engine, sculpted headers and roar of attitude.

I want you to be inspired to create and take your vision one step further. Find new tools, invest in your dream and love your job. There’s no limit today.

The engine looks fantastic! Are you designing the engine by eye as well?

The design was nailed in just a few weeks, and in that time, form and design of the engine area was given a lot of the attention. Creating an exciting and logical balance between the various mechanical elements were an inspiring and technically educational exercise on many levels. The details are crucial. Creating an intricate puzzle of "machine design" that feels alive and is well composed requires both knowledge and an aesthetically trained eye for proportion and composition to give it the right character and flow. An element like the headers became a key feature with a lot of thought going into the design through quite a few sketches and mock ups.

Thanks Mikael for your time and killer imagery. Hopefully, you can get to Australia and catch a few hot rod shows sometime soon.

This article first appeared in Fuel Magazine issue 15.

Follow Mikael: @lugnegard.