The combination of a 40-Hour Famine and too much Gran Turismo 2 on the PlayStation lie behind Anton Garland’s current residence—studying for a master’s degree in automotive design at the Umea Institute of Design in Sweden, a seven-hour drive north of Stockholm.
“There are about 150 of us design students locked away in some kind of isolation tank where the weather’s nineteen below outside, which tends to focus the mind a bit.”
Garland still manages to cycle from his dorm room to lectures, although with weather like that he does tend to pray his chain doesn’t come off. But that’s just the latest step in a journey that began almost by accident.
“I loved Gran Turismo 2 and got into the whole Japanese imports scene but I was studying graphic design and really wanted to be an architect. Buildings are these huge pieces of art, in effect, and I always saw them as the largest form of artwork, but in their own way cars are bigger. They’re more intricate, more personal.”
It was after a mammoth gaming session during a 40-Hour Famine weekend that Garland realised he could combine his passion for all things automotive with his love of architecture.
“Something clicked and I decided to head to Massey to a marine design course because in New Zealand where there is no car industry it’s hard to get into car design.” That didn’t put off the born-again petrol head, who visited Bathurst when he was 14 years old. In his third year at Massey he designed an amphibious car and a fold-up commuter vehicle that now form part of his portfolio.
“I showed them to my tutor Dong-Yen [Ryu] and asked if they were good enough to get me into a design school. He said ‘Not yet’ and really challenged me to work on my designs.” Dong-Yen had attended Umea—one of the top four car design schools in the world—and encouraged Garland to apply.
“And now I’m learning about marketing, about psychology about future forecasting of trends and anything that will impact on the design of a car.” Garland says the car world’s design process can be anything up to eight years’ long, which goes a long way towards explaining some of the uglier cars on the road.
A $30,000 AMP Scholarship has helped Garland in his studies. He’s now working on applications for an internship and the project that he hopes will get him there is designing a solution to Auckland’s transport issues in 2030.
“I’m assuming there’s no personal transport allowed in the CBD, that it’s all public transport and walkways and so I’m designing a train and the infrastructure to deliver it.” He’s even got light rail hanging off the underside of the Auckland Harbour Bridge to connect the two halves of the city—surely something that will be music to Mayor Brown’s ears.
But ask him about his favourite cars and, despite his yearning for big metal (“I love Aussie Holdens and American Fords”), it’s Kia he suggests has the lead in the market.
“I just love their whole design ethos, the way their cars are cheaply made but have a style to them. The Koup just looks incredible for a car that costs $30,000 new.” Garland says designers tend to go for the mass market look when they should be thinking about cars that put a smile on your face.
“I think we’re coming out of an era of mass market design and we’re entering into a golden age where cars will deliver so much more. Just look at the move to electric vehicles”—and Garland is off at a thousand miles an hour talking up the next big thing: electric cars that sell well not because they’re environmentally friendly, but because they’re awesome.