So what do you do if you happen to be Global Vice President of General Motors Design and a blogger calls your company out for lacking a modern sense of design? Well, if your name happens to be Ed Welburn, you respond with an open letter of your own.
After Huffington Post writer Gerald Sindell wrote an open letter to new GM CEO Fritz Henderson suggesting that a new design direction should be Job 1 for the reinvention of GM, Welburn felt compelled to respond. As you might imagine, the response is a rather passionate one. So what did Welburn have to say to Sindell? You can read the rest of the story after the jump.
[Sources: GM Fastlane and Huffington Post]
Sindell points out that at his first press conference as chief, Henderson promised "great design" from the new GM. He wanted to know how Henderson planned to do that, wondering aloud "what [Henderson's] process would be for inspiring, creating and recognizing great design." Sindell implies that good design will be at the heart of GM's turnaround if it is to happen, but says he doesn't see anything in the company's new website or marketing campaign to suggest they know how to do that:
I really wonder if General Motors can suddenly start to make stuff that's well-designed, from both the engineering side, as well as the interior and exterior. Can an organization that has made so much truly ugly stuff suddenly start making great design? I went to your new website, gmreinvention.com, and perused the portraits of the top team, just to get some clues about the design sense there. I see mostly corporate-type guys, in ties and suits, and the one thing that doesn't leap out is, "Wow -- great design sense." What leaps out is, "Older white guys wearing suits to the office in Detroit, except for one woman and one black guy."
That "one black guy" happens to be Mr. Welburn, who in his response suggests that Sindell might be a little out of touch. Besides explaining that diversity in design is more about what's inside than out, he points out that he leads, "one of the most diverse industrial design organizations in the world. I have the pleasure of participating, developing and approving every product our passionate design team creates."
Welburn goes on to single out Chevrolet's Camaro and Malibu, Cadillac's CTS and SRX, as well as Buick's LaCrosse as examples of how GM has been getting it right lately. He then goes on to challenge Sindell to go check them out for himself. Welburn adds that Design is a group of listeners, conducting many "research events, nontraditional focus groups, and dialogs with potential customers... all in the name of exceeding expectations." Mr. Welburn sums up his challenge thusly:
Our job today is to recapture, reconnect broadly with consumers, and help them feel good about GM vehicles again. It will be difficult, but not impossible, and our designers have the best chance of rebuilding that confidence. My team is designing some of the best vehicles ever, in studios right here in Michigan and across the globe - designs that inspire me and the customers we've met with - keep your eye on us.
Check out Gerald Sindell's open letter on The Huffington Post by clicking here, and Ed Welburn's response on GM's Fastlane blog by clicking here and decide for yourself.