Design boffins talk to Jason Castriota

Is it OK for me to start this off with a mini-rant? It’s my site – of course it is!

What the heck is a design-focused website doing when it’s got an entire screen width at its disposal, yet chooses to actually publish its articles in a column about 180 pixels wide, and in a teeny tiny font? Design’s supposed to be functional, yes?


Anyway, the so-hip-I-don’t-get-it website called Wallpaper* spoke briefly with Jason Castriota, Saab’s head of design.

Some bits (actually, around half of it)

What’s your design vision for Saab?

I’m after that ‘jet on the road aesthetic’. I want to recuperate Saab’s aeronautical roots including that double teardrop shape from its fantastic history that has been diluted in recent years. But it will be done with a thoroughly modern take. Saab has good rivals so we need to do something very distinctive.


So what can we expect from Saab next?

At the LA show this year you’ll see the production 9-4X based on the 2008 concept, followed by the 9-5 wagon in 2011 plus a new concept from me in the same year before the production 9-3 arrives in 2012. It’s a tight timeline to get that 9-3 right! Afterwards my next homework assignment is a new small Saab.

A word about that schedule, if I may.

There will be a very strong temptation for people to see this concept car early next year and take it as being a conceptual version of the new smaller Saab (referred to often as 92).

My understanding is that this isn’t the case at all.

The concept car that Saab Design is working on (to be shown at Geneva 2011) is pure concept. A design statement. It’ll be the bookend to the Aero X concept from 2006. Elements from this car will be used on Saabs that follow, but there won’t be a Saab that follows that looks just like this concept car.

That’s my understanding.

34 thoughts on “Design boffins talk to Jason Castriota”

  1. Wait, this is confusing: I thought the concept is to show a 9-3 with extra “makeup” on- a preproduction model, as you may…

    I’m confused…

    • Not as I understand things.

      The concept will be pure concept.

      There will probably be something relating to the 9-3 Griffin, which will be the runout model for the current generation 9-3. But this concept, from what I understand, will be a design study and not a car for production.

  2. Can you reveal a bit more about this small Saab?
    It will be called either the 9-1 or 9-2 and be a Mini Cooper size and segment rival

    Looks as if Saab have done a backflip on the droping the dash thing. For a while it has been refered to as the “small Saab” and the next 9-3 as ” the 9-3 repacement” but Jason seemed to say directly that it will be either 9-1 or 9-2, sugesting the current naming system will be retained.

  3. “A Mini Cooper size and segment rival” – Does he mean a real Mini, as opposed to the Golf-sized new Mini Countryman? Hmm, that would be a bit smaller than I’ve previously thought. It would be more of a 9-1 than a 9-2. Too small for me.

    Oh, drat. I guess I might just have to set my sights on a next gen 9-3 instead.

  4. The “jet on the road aesthetic” is exactly what Saab needs in terms of design. Hopefully not overdone like some, but subtle and dangerous – just like a fighter jet. 🙂

    • “subtle and dangerous”: OK just as long as Swade can keep his driver’s license. We don’t want it to be too “dangerous”. Remember Swade likes red cars. (smile)

  5. After reading above article, I was quickly re-Googling for Saab 9-X Biohybrid pictures again – found this on SU:

    That car design is still very fascinating – and perfect setting against the industiral background of an old electrical power plant (both car & plant: perfect industrial design for me).

    It’s a pity that the 9-X Biohybrid will never be built, for me the greatest Saab design ever (incl 9-X Air version), together with the 9-4X (which now is a reality !).

    Time to move on, I guess – J.Castriota has very challenging points of reference to match or surpass. I’m looking forward to what he will come up with.

    • That 9-X BH is pure porn to me…:) hahaha…
      Fantastic design and perfect size for a smaller, but still roomy, function- utility driven designed car.
      THAT is how the headlamps/grille and signature light should look like on the NG 9-5 IMHO.

      It sure does look fantastic IRL as well:P

    • Agree Mart L. !
      The sharp, well-proportioned, simple yet significant shape of the 9-XBH and 9-XAir is not just among the best Saab-designs, but the the best modern design of a small-midsize car I have ever seen. The way Saab should go!
      I really do hope J.C. is studying those brillant concept-designs carefully…

      • …and the 9-X BH design still looks fresh. I do not like small cars, but the BioHybrid is one puppy I’d be happy to keep around! 🙂

        (I wonder if it will look good with normal sized wheels?)

    • I don’t know why throw this gorgeous design away, I think this should be in production. It almost hurts me to see it’s not used 🙁

  6. Börjesson: and even worse, I can only hope that the Mini statement is _not_ a sign that Saab will continue to sacrifice utility for style, since the Mini is just style, no usibility.

  7. Thyl,
    JC talks about the Mini segment, which in could also be described as premium A segment (or is it B), where you can find cars like the Mini the A1 the DS3 or the MiTo.

    I expect that the car is smaller than the Golf VII but the size of a Golf I 😉

  8. Swade

    re the issue of column width, that’s for readability, if you ask any marketing expert , say for eg Curvin O’Reilly you’ll find 26 alpha numerics per line in column width enhances readability. I know it doesn’t necessarily make sense to us, the lay people, but that is the theory and practice.

    • But this is not paper, where the dimensions of the display media is known in advance.

      I have a 30″ screen (2560×1600 pixels). Yet I have to scroll down quite a bit to read that article. It’s just a small strip in the middle of my screen. Many words are split, further reducing readability.

      Had they used XAML which is capable of more advanced layout, so that they could display three columns autoadjusted to the width of the display device, then things start making a bit more sense.

  9. I wonder what J. Castriota thinks of the old Saab 95…and if there will eventually be a new version, as a “half-teardrop shaped” Saab variety. Mini got its Clubman version, so…(one can always dream).

  10. Hi Swade

    Theres been talk about the facelift of the current 9-3 for a long time, even confirmed by JC. When will it be released? My associates and me have finally agreed of our next company cars which will be and it will be 9-3 SC:s. It would be nice to get the facelifted version though… Anybody else who knows?

      • Me: Thanx! Probably to late for us.. We will probably have to order the current version then, hopefully we will get a good price since it will tha close to the facelift.

        • I think it would be too much, they will also be presenting the 9-4x in Europe, and in September 2011 the IAA in Frankfurt is also taking place.

          But 2011 will be definitely an other very interesting year from a Saab point of view. 🙂 🙂

    • I´m interested in that answer aswell, It´s very important to the sales that the facelift become an success inside out. Fresh front, more exklusive interior and a 9-5 light ramp in the back. It will boost the sales I think. The diesel in the 9-4X is expensive BUT extremly important and I think it´s worth it or not to say a matter of survival. Saab cars has to sell themselvs with as few downdrops as possible. With no diesel in Europe-No sales. 5-10 thousands more with diesel i think. I get the “money issue” but if saab can afford it they would be cracy not to.

  11. Me: as faf as I can tell, the Mini is smaller (intternally) than the other cars you named. I saw a comparative test against Fiat 500, Renault Twingo and Smart Fortwo. Golf I (internal!) size would be fine with me, sine this car had at least something like a usable trunk, and was able to host four persons. Maybe Castriota meant the Clubman which is also bigger.

    • Thyl,
      I don’t know if the Mini is bigger or smaller internally, but those cars are normally meant to belong to the same segment, that’s it.

  12. Rs: and I thought you meant Rolls Royce. But Landrover should really pay a licence fee for reusing this design in as it now turns out several cars.

    Me: as probably most Saab users, I don’t care about other people’s opinion on “segments”. 🙂

  13. Designs? A man of mystery. Vague statements. vague vague vague. mystery . more mystery than the Trinity. Really tired of listening to vague talk of aeronautics, ikea… swade saw a design and he was not turned on at first. Designs have to be striking.

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