Harald Belker is a force of nature in the area of automotive design with a list of design credits that include the Smart, the Batmobile for the Warner Bros. Batman and Robin film, and the futuristic cars of Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report including the sporty red Lexus. He has over 30 movies to his credit, including vehicle design for Armageddon, Inspector Gadget, Cat in the Hat and recently Tron Legacy and Total Recall 2012.
At 54, Belker has been involved in the design field for over 25 years. “I started dreaming about car design pretty late. I was about 25 and finished a degree in Manufacturing Technology before I even heard of the Art Center College of Design”, he admits. “But once I saw what they did, I was pretty sure that this would be my future as well.”
After graduating with honors from the Art Center College of Design, Belker fell into the dream design job of designing cars for Porsche. “Though my time at Porsche was short”, he explains, “I made some long lasting friends”. From Porsche, Belker then moved to another iconic automotive company at Mercedes Benz Advanced Design in California, where he worked on the Mercedes Smart Car as well as the ‘S’ and ‘M’ class models.
Though Belker’s early work centered on the design of cars, he gained a taste for entertainment design when he was offered the opportunity to design the Batmobile for the Batman and Robin movie. “Since then, I have worked on many fun projects”, admits Belker. “Some of the projects have been hard to watch movies, but nevertheless they were a blast to work on. My work on Minority Report was an absolute highlight of my career because aside from the manpower behind it, it gave me a chance to show a future sense of vehicle design that we had not seen before.”
A glance at Harald Belker’s body of work shows a great range of styles. He describes his visual style as “graphically bold, with the sensitivity and vision to push new forms”. He continues: “I like to design everything and I do. I am working on furniture, sports equipment, bags, toys, cars etc. I don’t ever want to do the same thing over and over.”
He is currently the responsible for all product design of Anki,Inc., a consumer robotics start up company located in San Francisco. The challenge to design Race-cars for a company that was on the cutting edge of innovation, was the perfect marriage of style and technology. “ Taking the forms and emotions you see in a real car and converting them into a 70mm long version was a wakeup call for my creativity and had me draw from all of my 25 years of experience”.
What is good design?
First of all, the design of a new product or vehicle has to have a purpose. Either by the use of innovative technology or better ergonomics and/or materials. On a purely styling base, I look for results that show me a harmonious play of cut/part lines and well proportioned and interesting shapes.
What can kill a design?
Lot’s of things can ruin a design. If transitions of surfaces don’t work and look forced, if part lines come together in unrelated ways to the whole design. It is literally all in the detail.
Don’t fall in love with your first idea.