Friday, February 13, 2015

Martin Davis: The Black History Maker Behind GM's Snazzy Headlights (Part Two)

Car Designer Martin Davis holding up some taillights. (Photo Credit: GM)

Martin Davis, General Motors' first person to ever serve in the role as the lighting exterior design manager, is changing the way we view the exterior lights on today's vehicles. As we learned in part one of our interview, this young black history maker was instilled with enough confidence at an early age, knowing that he could be one of a handful of black car designers in the world, even when the odds, just based on sheer numbers, were stacked against him. Because of Davis, we're all taking a second look, when looking at GM cars and other makes, as it relates to the exterior lights to see if they sizzle just like the one's in the 2015 Cadillac Escalade. So, with that being the case, here's part two of our extensive interview with the creative genius.

The headlights for the 2015 Buick Enclave were designed by Martin's team.

JeffCars: How important is lighting to a vehicle's design? 
Martin Davis: The first thing we notice about one another are our eyes. A person's eyes can can communicate several emotions and feelings about a person and their intentions. The same is true for the vehicle lighting. When done correctly, expressively styled lights enabled by the latest technology can actually indicate the level of design expertise throughout the entire vehicle.

JeffCars: What statement should the exterior lighting make?
Martin Davis: A person should be able to identify a vehicle a few hundred feet down the road based on the lighting elements (headlights or taillights) at the front or rear of the vehicle. Exterior lighting has become a very prominent design feature.

JeffCars: We know that the 1972 BMW 3.0 CSL is one of your favorite designs of all time. Outside of the GM family of vehicles, what was the first automaker you noticed that made a bold statement with their lighting?
Martin Davis: BMW. I first saw their halo signature light rings when I was in England in 2001. I was amazed that lighting could be so expressive. Then Audi decided that they wanted to get very serious about lighting. Audi started to push the boundary for expression using LEDs to enhance the visage (face) of their vehicles.

JeffCars: How does it feel as a designer, when you know that you're literally had a hand in designing a vehicle, especially one like the super popular 2015 Escalade? 
Martin Davis:Good. I am happy that my and my teams role in these vehicles can enhance the vehicle's appeal and bolster the brand's image. But....I'm already itching for the next opportunity to continue to push just how far technology will allow lighting (design) to creatively tailor the design expression.

(Photo Credit: GM)

JeffCars: Besides the 2015 Escalade, what other key 2014 and 2015 vehicles did you play a role in selecting the lighting?
Martin Davis: Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Volt, GMC Acadia and several others that are coming in the future.

JeffCars: Being that you're only 37, what other areas of design would you like to tackle in the near to distant future?
Martin Davis: Near term I would like all of our brands to have a consistent design statement, while using or developing the latest technology which will enable us to take the lead in exterior lighting. I would also like to complete the design for my home landscaping which seems to be talking forever because for some reason I want to do it myself.....

JeffCars: When you're not designing cars, what are your other interests?
Martin Davis: I love helping interested people come to learn what's in the Bible. There are many principles contained within the Bible that can guide us through the maze of this world. I also love music. I've been piecing together an audio system that allows me to get as close as I can to the music I want to hear in a (music) studio or in a concert hall. I also have an interest in documentary photography.

The exterior lighting of the 2015 Escalade that were designed by Martin's team.
JeffCars: What advice would you give to a teen or young adult, as it relates to finding their passion and following their calling?
Martin Davis: Understand that whatever you want to do there exists a need for it in some form and never assume that your goals, however high, are unreachable.

JeffCars: What was the first vehicle you owned?
Martin Davis: My first vehicle was a nine year old 1986 Mustang GT. That was the first year for fuel injection and the first year for the center stop light (the extra brake light in the center of the vehicle, as required by the government).It was black. It had a busted-out rear quarter panel. It had a hole in the exhaust. It had a soft brake pedal. But, it could do a one wheel burnout for as long as you kept your foot down (on the gas pedal). And I loved it!

JeffCars: Ok Martin, this is our last question. And you know we can't let you go with out asking, "What's currently parked in your garage?" 
Martin Davis: Now, we have the opposite in our garage (referring to the 1986 Mustang GT). My wife has a Chevrolet Volt. It feels like I'm driving a touch screen piece of the future, with a lot of electric torque.

JeffCars: Martin, we'll think of you every time we see very expressive headlights, whether its a GM or non GM vehicle. Thanks again for giving our readers a great education lesson about lighting design. We're proud of you and wish you continued success!

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