Interview: Alena Gersonde, senior colour and material designer, Mazda

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From a spell working as a motorsport journalist to shaping the look and feel of new cars, the German-Italian designer discusses the collaborative aspect of CMF, smart surfaces and transporting European flavours to Japan

Mazda is well and truly embedded in the premium segment these days and one of its latest models, the flagship CX-80 SUV (and in the US, the CX-90) epitomises the brand’s attention to detail.

From the lustrous paint on the outside to the calming mix of materials inside, much of the final look and feel is influenced by the CMF team both at HQ in Japan but also the European studio just outside Frankfurt. We caught up with one of the rising stars from the latter, Alena Gersonde, who spoke about collaboration, trying new things and the nuances of CMF design between different brands.


Alena Gersonde 

Car Design News: You had a brief spell covering Formula 1 as a journalist before moving into the CMF world. That seems like quite the jump!

Alena Gersonde: Yeah. It was at a time where blogs were quite big, and, as someone who was in the sphere of motorsport fans online, I wrote a test article for one outlet and it went from there.

CDN: At that time, did you still have plans to get into CMF? Were you even studying CMF?

AG: I was always drawing and sketching as a child, and my little journalism journey was mainly about finding people I could talk about motorsport with. The design aspect, or the art aspect, was always what I had in mind. After some time in Italy I considered all of my options and went to study design, because I felt it was closest to heart. Even though I loved the motorsport circle, design felt more in my comfort zone.

CDN: Where did you study?

AG: I studied at the technical school for product design in Selb, Germany, which is famous for clay modelling. There were lots of workshops with different OEMs going on, and I often snuck in, talking to the experts that came to visit, handing them over my portfolio…

CDN: So even as you were learning the ropes of CMF, you were also dabbling in clay modelling?

AG: During my first year, we did everything. To be honest, I found the hard modelling part quite nerve wracking because I generally prefer to be able to correct my work and redo it over and over if needed.

CDN: But has that general understanding of the clay modelling process helped you in your role at Mazda now, would you say?

AG: I think it really helps to respect what modellers do. When…

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