When Tomas Jankauskas joined hands with Simone Fremondi on the Traigo 80 project they didn’t know what lay in store for them. Tomas was on Toyota’s Swedish-based design team and Simone, operating from Bologna, was chief engineer for the project. The suspense lay in the fact that the two of them had never worked together before. But when the two gentlemen were awarded the German Design Award 2019 for the Traigo, they knew their collaboration was a success. Here’s how they explained it.

This interview was conducted over the internet, which came with its usual pop and crackle and occasional involuntary log outs. Simone Fremondi, an Italian engineer, was on the line from Bologna in Italy, whereas transport designer Tomas Jankauskas got online from Swedish Mjölby. I asked questions and took notes from Stockholm.

The first thing I wanted to know was why they thought the Traigo 80 so bewitched the German design jury. “First and foremost,” said Simone, it is “because the truck is designed around the driver. It’s got a full-floating cabin that offers great visibility, and where noise and vibrations are kept to a minimum.” Tomas chimed in: “We put a lot of effort into ergonomics. And then, of course, the challenge was putting it all into a design that looked as good as it could.”

The creativity gap

Was the journey to success smooth all along the way? Tomas said their communication worked very well, right from the start. But the process was long. From the point of view of design “it wasn’t just a case of designing something on paper,” he said. “I also had to take into account what Simone and his team wanted.”

“It wasn’t just a case of designing something on paper.”

Simone emphasized the importance of collecting all the necessary information from the market, and then share it with the designer. In the competitive European market, he observed, “it has to be the best of the best, which also includes the appearance of the product.” When you take the needs of all the parties into account, the creativity gap keeps getting smaller, Tomas explained.

BT Reflex R-series truck
The first sketch made of the Traigo 80

Like something out of Star Wars

Looking at the end result, I asked Tomas if he was happy with what he’d achieved? “If we just talk about the pure aesthetics, it’s a never-ending process,” he said. “But, given the requirements, I’m pleased.” So, if there hadn’t been any limitations, what would Tomas ideally have liked to do?

The question caused immediate merriment from both Simone and Tomas. “I think this process started with a sketch that looked like something out of Star Wars,” Tomas said, smiling. Added Simone: “Yeah, sort of like a cross between some fancy Italian sports car and an airplane, if I remember right.” Everybody really wanted to push the envelope, when it came to designing the Traigo 80, Tomas explained. So, he thought he’d start from something a bit mad, to make it look unlike anything you see today. “Because if you start out boring, then you’ll just end up with a product that is – boring! But if you start out crazy there’s always room for a step down…”

Interior design of RT1350E (1982) & Reflex (1995)
Sketch of the Traigo 80

Are you still married?

I read a press release about the Traigo winning the German Design Award 2019. Tomas was quoted saying something like ‘if something looks right, it’ll perform right, too.’ I asked him to amplify the statement. He said it wasn’t enough that something just looked good. Or that the engine performed its task. Proper collaboration, he ventured, was a bit like the biology of evolution: The species that we see now are a combination of what was the most attractive and what worked the best.

“Design and engineering need to come together to make a proper marriage.”

Design and engineering “need to come together to make a proper marriage,” he said. So, I had to ask if it had been plain sailing throughout the process. Or had it sometimes felt more like pistols at dawn? Were they still married, in Tomas’s parlance? “Of course I am, but not with Tomas,” Simone butted in laughing.

truck sketch
Sketching process

Global product requires global teams

How did Simone and Tomas feel about working across language and cultural borders? Tomas recently did a stint at Toyota in Japan, after having worked in Mjölby for some time. And with the Traigo he and Simone had to find a way between Sweden and Italy. Did they think it was an advantage to have input from different cultures? “Oh, definitely,” Tomas responded with enthusiasm. Creating a globally viable product requires multi-facetted teams, he argued. “I found [the Traigo project] an amazing opportunity.”

Apart from winning the German Design Award, the proof that Simone and Tomas had benefitted from working together was something Simone mentioned just before we signed off. “It’s sometimes easier talking to Tomas in Italian than in English,” he said. (I could hear Tomas chuckling politely in the background.) Maybe it’s because he started training as a transport designer in Turin. Or because of all those articles on iconic Ferrari creations I’m convinced he’s laboured through.

Interior design of RT1350E (1982) & Reflex (1995)
Trying out the prototype


Read more About the Traigo 80

Awards. The Toyota Traigo 80 6-8t has won the coveted German Design Award 2019 and the iF Design Award. This is how the jury motivated their decision: “This modern electric forklift makes a convincing impression with its ergonomically designed driver cab, which also provides very good all-round visibility. A clear, functional design whose powerful, distinctive forms are suited to heavy industry, promising pure performance.”

2019 German Design Award

2019 iF Design Award

Previous awards (Italian manufacturing). In 2015 the Traigo 80 2-5t received an iF Award. In 2009 the Traigo 48 equally won an iF Award. In 2000 an iF Award was conferred on the Drago 250. And in 1994 the Blitz won the Compasso D’Oro award, one of the industry’s most prestigious prizes.

2015 iF Design Award

2009 iF Design award

2000 iF Design Award

1994 Compasso D’Oro