Tesla employee at Design Center opens up about smart, aggressive innovation

Tesla has a unique success story that can be largely attributed to the creative innovations the all-electric automaker fosters at its Design Center in Hawthorne, California. Pawel Pietryka, Creative Manager of User Interface Design at Tesla, was recently interviewed by job-centric website WorkWithUs and provided some insight on what it’s like working behind the scenes with Tesla’s creative teams. Overall, there’s an “aggressive” approach to innovation that comes from the unprecedented nature of Tesla’s mission in the automotive industry.

“This place is like nowhere else,” Pietryka is quoted at the introduction to the interview. “Driving a Tesla is honestly the most fun thing you can do – and we get to design that experience every single day.”

The team creating the experience that customers have come to expect from their Model S, Model 3, and Model X vehicles, along with related products like Superchargers, is a mixed group of car designers, vehicle engineers, software engineers, ergonomics specialists, visualization specialists, clay modelers, digital modelers, and prototypers. Producing technology-centric cars known for being fun and unconventional requires a special kind of work environment that fosters creativity, and Tesla’s approach to this involves collaboration and a high bar for candidates.

“Our teams are very small and that requires everyone to be ultra-collaborative, non-competitive and just plain smart,” Pietryka commented. “We…like to dabble in creative technologies and come up with some crazy ideas. It’s always exciting to create something new that doesn’t exist.”

Pawel Pietryka with his team at Tesla’s Design Studio. | Image: Tesla

Tesla’s Design Studio also has an environment that produces supportive relationships among its team members which includes accessibility to management, i.e., to Franz von Holzhausen, Tesla’s Chief Designer.

“I value the camaraderie most of all. We care for each other as much as the products we design, and I don’t mean that in a corny way. You really feel something special when you’re here, everyone says that,” Pietryka detailed. “We…have this incredible ability to shift focus and realign priorities in an instant. We’re lean by design and a byproduct of that is vastly more responsibility for everyone.”

The former Art Director for Apple recounts his decision to embark on a new journey with Tesla. “The only other company that I was excited to work for was Tesla, honestly. I care deeply about our sustainability mission and our aggressive focus on innovation, and what we’re doing here is completely unprecedented. I’ve worked on many digital experiences, but none as exciting as an entire car,” notes Pietryka in his interview with WorkWithUs. “Every single day is different. It could start with a lot of meetings or start with a lot of deadlines. Unpredictable, and no two days are the same, which is pretty amazing. It’s challenging at times, for sure, but also very rewarding.”

Image: Tesla

Vehicle design is obviously very important to Tesla, and the teams that form the foundation of its success in the market have proven their worth time and time again.

“Everyone knows good design needs to be functional, simple, intuitive. But more than anything it needs to deliver a great user experience,” says Tesla’s Creative Manager, Product Designer. “That means sometimes an experience needs to be fun, sometimes unconventional, and sometimes that means beautiful typography or other unexpected characteristics. I see a lot of good product and UI designers focus too much on the former. What’s the point of good, clean design if customers are not engaged or bored by it?”

Earlier this month, classified advertising firm Auto Trader dubbed Tesla as the Most Loved Brand in the industry in its 2019 New Car Awards. A survey of 60,000 vehicle owners using 16 key metrics to rate their cars saw Tesla rise to the top of the list by a community of enthusiastic owners that were particularly passionate about the brand. Auto Trader noted that technology was a prominent theme among the feedback from Tesla’s customers, and the style and usability of that technology is a big part of why it’s so valued.

Tesla’s vehicle design has even won over car enthusiasts that are primarily fans of traditionally-powered cars. In December last year, Henry Payne of The Detroit News purchased a Long Range RWD Model 3 and was immediately enthusiastic about the all-electric midsize sedan. His comments made in an appearance on Autoline TV focused on the Model 3’s remarkable combination of driving dynamics and software integration.

“Musk re-imagined the car like Steve Jobs re-thought the phone — as a study in design minimalism that is both gorgeous and more efficient than established platforms. Privately, other automaker execs tell me they admire Tesla for innovations that are pushing the industry forward: over-the-air updates, better connectivity, better user interfaces,” Payne commented.

Tesla’s Design Studio may not be in the spotlight very often or be very forthcoming with details about its operations, but the results it produces in the company’s vehicles certainly speak well of the work that’s going on inside.

Check out the full interview with Pawel Pietryka at WorkWithUs.io

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