Lincoln designer works with 2013 MKZ clay scale model

Lincoln showed off its new design center Thursday, the first dedicated studio for the luxury brand since the 1970s.

Company officials say the new studio will let designers focus just on the Lincoln brand – which is in the early stages of a badly needed rebirth – instead of splitting their time between Ford and Lincoln models.

In the new space, Lincoln designers can focus on one thing: Making the brand something customers want to buy again. "We're trying to bring the best talent in the company together in order to move this brand forward," says J Mays, head of Ford's global design.

The new Lincoln design studio is located inside Ford's existing Dearborn, Michigan product development center, where about 150 designers, sculptors, math sculptors (folks who can translate computer designs into clay), and modelers will work to bring future Lincoln designs to life.

The designers utilize computer-assisted design software to help translate sketches into clay models. The computer designs are then fed to a Tarus milling machine, which scrapes and drills clay models until they look like a real car. Then, clay modelers use traditional hand tools to perfect the pieces, which can be changed on a moment's notice.

Lincoln isn't saying how much the 40,000-square-foot space cost, but officials note the studio has been styled to look like a loft apartment, with open spaces designed to let artists and engineers pop in on each other and foster conversation. It was designed by a company named Imagination, but Lincoln's head designer, Max Wolff had a lot of influence in the space – particularly pushing the openness concept to make the cubicle areas seem like a newsroom.

The radically new 2013 Lincoln MKZ goes on sale later this year and the automaker is poised to show two new models in the coming months.

"Our ambition is not to be No. 1," said Jim Farley, head of global sales and marketing. "We'd rather have a few people love us than everybody like us."