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Combining authentic craftsmanship with the latest technology is the essence of Ford Vignale. Sonja Vandenberk, Chief Designer for Colour and Materials at Ford of Europe, tells the story behind the concept.

Interview with: Sonja Vanderberk

Sonja has been designing, sketching and making things since she was a child, growing up in Flanders, Belgium. “I would see something, for example a toy, but instead of wanting to have it, I wanted to make it myself. So I did: I created my own toys from a very early age.”

The fact that she is a renowned designer today comes as little surprise to her parents and others who know her well. Nevertheless, she started studying veterinary medicine but quickly realised she had made the wrong choice. She switched to psychology and was particularly enthralled by the lectures on the relationship between art and psychology. “And suddenly it clicked: this is my world, this is what I want to do.”

After completing her studies in design Vandenberk moved to London and became the editor of an architecture magazine. Through that position she learned about the Royal College of Arts, which was offering a course about transportation design.

And that’s how I got interested in cars, especially the interior of cars. I realized how important the inside of a car is for a driver and how much time we spend in our cars. It’s like a living room. Especially new developments like the self-driving car offer great potential to create a living-room atmosphere inside the car.

Designed for Vignale

She moved to Germany where she got the chance to join Ford of Europe as a car designer and immediately said yes. In October 2013 Vandenberk became Chief Designer, Colour and Material, Ford of Europe. Shortly after her team started working on a new and prestigious project: the Ford Vignale.

Being a designer for Ford Vignale involves constantly searching for balance, creating perfect details and finding the right materials to realise those goals. It boils down to answering the question: how can we surprise our customers?

Ford Vignale Lifestyle Sonja Vandenberk sitting at a desk, hand on a leather seats with hexagonal pattern

Ford Vignale is an experience

It was through this process that the hexagon – used for the upholstery but which has become the icon and trademark of Ford Vignale originated.

You start drawing and making sketches. First in a traditional way, using the diamond form. Then we took a step further until the hexagon emerged. We stretched it and eventually it got a life of its own.

Sonja summarises her passion and mission as a designer: “Ford Vignale is an experience, an adventure. Ford Vignale should involve all the senses. The handicraft and craftsmanship that go into making the Ford Vignale – the stitching, the lines, the materials play a very important role in this. But above all the Ford Vignale must evoke a feeling of harmony, whether you’re looking at the exterior of the car or sitting inside it.”

Vignale Nocciola

An important way to create harmony is through the choice of colour and paint, and Vandenberk is particularly proud of the colour Vignale Nocciola. “The colours of a Vignale should bring out the details and care that go into creating the car and Vignale Nocciola does just that. It perfectly accentuates the accents and shape of the car and gives all that chrome a wonderful metallic sparkle. Mineral mica has been mixed into the paint through a special process which gives the car a wonderful radiance. It makes the car look more glamorous.”


Craftsmanship is another important source of inspiration for creating harmony and surprising drivers. “We are creating a completely new concept of craftsmanship by combining it with the latest technology,” explains Sonja.

For example, the stitching is computer generated which creates perfection. But the driver should still have the feeling of being surrounded by traditional, handmade materials. That’s Ford Vignale: a fine feeling of authentic craftsmanship combined with the best materials and the latest technologies.

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