By on June 4, 2019


Designers don’t always get the credit they deserve, nor the recognition they usually shun. But without a steady, inspired hand forming the shape of an automaker’s offerings, all the business acumen of the C-suite class adds up to not much.

Jaguar can credit its post-Ford identity to one man, Ian Callum, who moved the company away from unconvincing, reheated ’60s design templates and into a new era for the British marque. Callum, who served as Jag’s director of design for two decades, is now leaving his post.

On Tuesday, Jaguar announced that the 64-year-old Scotsman is leaving the company to pursue other projects. Filling his post is the brand’s current creative design director, Julian Thomson, who hangs the new title on his door July 1st.

While Callum won’t be in charge of shaping Jaguar’s future, how won’t be absent from the process, either. The designer, who joined Ford in 1979 before moving into his current position in 1999, will remain on call as a design consultant.

Before his stint as Jaguar, Callum served as Chief Designer of TWR Design, helping create the Aston Martin DB7, Vanquish, and DB9. It’s his work at Jaguar, however, that Callum most fondly recalls, specifically the creation of a certain model.

“I have had an incredible career at Jaguar. One of my biggest highlights was creating XF because it represented the beginning of a new era moving Jaguar from tradition to contemporary design – it was a significant turning point in our story,” Callum said in a statement.

“Designing the F-Type was a dream come true for me, and I-Pace was an opportunity to create something hugely innovative that would really challenge the perception of Jaguar – and its success is testament to just how far the brand has come. I came into this role with a mission to take Jaguar design back to where it deserved to be. It has taken 20 years, but I believe I have achieved what I set out to do. Given the strength of both our products and the design team I feel that now is the right time to move on, both personally and professionally, and explore other design projects.”

Thomson, who joined Jaguar in 2000 and has worked alongside Callum for 18 years, earned a thumbs-up from his soon-to-be predecessor. Callum called Thomson a “hugely talented designer and absolutely the right person to lead Jaguar design into its next chapter.”


Calling Callum’s designs “Innovative, beautiful, future-facing,” Jaguar Land Rover CEO Dr. Ralf Speth hailed the brand’s design chief for helping the brand forge a new identity

“The contribution Ian Callum has made to Jaguar’s industry-leading design reputation cannot be over-stated,” Speth said. “Ian stands for the most forward-thinking, rule-breaking and emotive approach to automotive design. He has created a new Jaguar design language – and his passion for Jaguar has seen the range completely transformed during his 20 years in charge.”

Callum’s looming departure comes as Jaguar struggles to reinvent itself once again. As sales of Callum’s beloved passenger cars slide, new SUVs like the F-Pace and E-Pace aren’t picking up all of the slack. The brand faces pressures from Europe’s stringent emissions rules. Diesel propulsion, of which JLR heartily imbibed, is rapidly becoming a pariah. Pricey electrification plans are afoot. Meanwhile, these factors and more led to steep losses over the past year. Rumors abound that parent company Tata Motors might soon offload the automaker to another company — possibly France’s PSA Group.

Tata denies this, though the pressure to right the British ship and avoid “consequences” is undoubtedly intense.

[Images: Jaguar Land Rover]

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16 Comments on “Ian Callum, Sculptor of Modern Jaguar, to Step Down As Director of Design...”

  • avatar

    I did not like his sedans at all.
    The original XF has all the beauty of a 2000 Monte Carlo, the XJ looks French (or Chinese) and the XE is so blandly generic many sales should be for TV shows and insurance commercials. His sports cars fared much better although the 2nd XK wasn’t an improvement on the original. The E-Pace is pretty poor too.

    Overall I think Geoff Lawson was a superior designer.

  • avatar

    His tenure is a mixed bag. The F-Type makes me scream in ecstasy every time I see it. I still think the SWB X351 XJ remains the best looking large luxury car in the segment. I just love it. Others disagree. Outside of those and the XKs… meh.

    Design in the luxury sedan world has been pretty meh for some time now though so I can’t blame Jag too much.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Having met Mr. Callum, I will say that he is an engaging person with a great deal of passion for his role/vehicles.

    However, I do tend to agree with the above posters. I much prefer his sports cars/coupes and even shooting brakes/estate cars, to the current crop of sedans which I do not believe are truly distinctive enough to be Jags.

    • 0 avatar

      We live in an age where the only thing that distinguishes one designer from the next is the quality of their line of BS.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Well only two auto designers have ever stood me to a round of drinks. And Mr. Callum is one of them. So I would say that he was personally ‘grounded’, excellent company and a font of knowledge.

        • 0 avatar

          Maybe I wasn’t clear. The designers who make it to the top are men of charm that allows them to say ridiculous and meaningless things in a way that elevates the spirits of their listeners. Meanwhile each and every one of their emperors is naked.

  • avatar

    Loved his 1st gen XF, hate the 2nd gen, way to generic, horrible interior, does not look it’s price. The F-Type is stunning and the F-Pace has a great exterior let down by a mediocre interior. The E-Pace is cute inside and out. The XE was half baked, the refresh is spectacular.

  • avatar

    Any Modern Jag is a better looking car than any recent Lexus or any Infiniti ever. Don’t bother arguing.

  • avatar

    A sad day for Jaguar, not that they have had too many happy days recently. I do sometimes consider buying an F-Type just so I can look at it (and of course drive it), but since I only drive a couple thousand miles a year, having a second car (well, a third, including my wife’s) just does not seem justified.

  • avatar

    The I-Pace has interesting proportions. The XE is too blah for words, especially inside. That blacked-out D-pillar on the XJ… “How much to paint it over?” Asking for a friend.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    By in large I like his designs,what let the XE down was the interior. The XF was watered down by Kia copy cats for their entire lineup except the Stinger.I would’n’t be surprised if his other project is lucrative consulting gig in Korea or China.

  • avatar

    There’ll be caterwauling in the British car blogs now. Considering Callum’s porfolio, he seems to have been a touch above the norm.

    It’s not as if Mercedes, BMW and Audi are doing styling well these days – generic mishmash, strake-adding, new hips, I’m lost in the woods and don’t know what to do next stuff from those guys – but still the best line in automotive BS and self-aggrandisement you ever heard. Mercedes don’t even need a PR team – their chief designer Gorden “Gordo” Wagener has any PR professional dope beaten by a country mile in pseud blathering and high-sounding poppycock.

    Callum has been way better than that, but somewhat sabotaged by lack of company money that could be used for higher-quality interiors.

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