From hotbed Turin to placid Mjölby

How likely is it for an Italian automotive designer to swap Turin for Swedish Mjölby?


“Me and my girlfriend were looking for a place outside Italy, because we wanted to explore the world,” said Riccardo. To date their exploration project has taken them as far as New Zealand but also to China.

They enjoy seeing different parts of the world, and experiencing other cultures, he emphasised. ”It makes you richer, somehow.”

I was curious to hear more about China.

“It was really a six-month-long business trip, while I was working for a design studio in Turin.” The competition between design outfits in Turin is fierce, Riccardo explained. Presumably because the north Italian town of Turin has been – and remains – the centre of Italian car design and manufacture.

But while Italy is home to many of the world’s most famous and iconic car brands, clients of the multiple design studios in Turin, these days often come from China or India, he explained.

And now as Riccardo and his partner have ended up in Sweden, it would seem the yearning for extending their world is still there. “What I’m doing now isn’t automotive design”, said Riccardo explaining about his present job working for Toyota in Mjölby, Sweden. “But because it’s transportation design, it’s related.”

Riccardo can also add yacht design to his name, which he did for a while when he was in New Zealand. Yet, he had no prior experience with boats, he said, but it was something he’d wanted to get into.

Design claymodel

Childhood dream

Eventually, though, Riccardo might return to automotive design in the future, not least because it was a childhood dream he realised. And it paid off: “Before l left the design studio in Turin I was responsible for the overall design of two cars.” Cars that were being made in China.

Now in Swedish Mjölby Riccardo extols the virtues of working in a small team: “At Toyota Material Handling I have the opportunity to show my skills and experience.” Which he wouldn’t necessarily have had were he part of a bigger operation. “It’s the difference between being in a big company, and working in a small design studio.”

What does Riccardo Bordin consider to be the main challenge of being a designer? A question that I’ve found often generates a variety of thoughts.

Having given the issue a few seconds of thought, Riccardo said: “I think the main challenge for a designer is… to come up with something that looks new, but isn’t over-designed. In his opinion “it’s very easy to over-design…, but it’s very difficult to eliminate and make clean lines and clean design,” said Riccardo, who had obviously given the subject a lot of thought over the years.

Sketches for the Toyota Ultralifter concept

“They end up making it look weird”

He added that to do something different in current car design, designers often end up with something that looks strange. “Just to try and do something new they end up making it look weird…” Riccardo chuckled for a brief moment, before he trotted out the line we’ve heard so many times before – less is more. “Yeah, I know, it’s what everybody says, but it’s true!”

We spent a few minutes trying to pin down what makes designers come up with their strategies. One thing Riccardo mentioned is how long your history is in a particular industry. “If you’re new to car design, for instance, you have to work harder to be noticed. And so a number of newish brands sometimes go to extremes. But,” added Riccardo quickly, “you see it in established brands, too.”

A great source of inspiration for Riccardo Bordin, both privately and professionally, is nature, and Sweden has quite a bit to offer in that regard.

Another thing he appreciates about working at Toyota Material Handling is a sense of freedom. “I’m allowed to do pretty much what I want.”

What also put a smile on his lips was having contributed to the award-winning Ultralifter, which proved a real design challenge, he said. Riccardo was also involved in re-designing the Traigo 80. Both won German iF Awards.

New forklift design of Toyota Traigo 80