This content was paid for by Kadence and produced in partnership with Car Design News


Engineering nous and a reputation for speed, creativity and quality gives Kadence a competitive advantage in the world of independent design studios. Its founder, Antony Ward, tells Car Design News why this, paired with a network of global centres of excellence, sets it apart from the rest 

Founder-led companies are typically led by passionate individuals with a strong guiding mission. For Kadence, it is about merging the interests of design and engineering to make creative projects a reality.

An engineer by trade, founder and managing director Antony Ward carved out a career with both OEMs and suppliers before fulfilling his dream of opening an independent design outfit – Kadence – a name that was chosen to reflect the rhythm of the operation, delivering projects at pace and on time.

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A 1:1 clay model presented on a turntable at the Kadence Master Studio

Ward’s background in engineering has fed into the studio’s ethos, offering not only design solutions but also an innate understanding of manufacturing constraints – balancing creativity with what is technically possible. “We don’t try to out-design the designers,” says Ward. “We want to support their visions, helping them deliver projects faster and more cost-effectively with our world class team and facilities.” 

Combining creative and technical excellence

The studio today is a result of a nearly two-decade long journey. Kadence first opened in 2007 and came at a time of tightening production schedules, increasing complexity and expansion into China. In-house design capacity was under real pressure, and independent studios with local knowledge became gold dust.

We are in a fantastic position to help new brands start their story

Having expanded over the years, the business currently runs two fully-serviced studios in central Shanghai – each capable of complete model builds – with the support of an additional tech centre in the area. Together, this allows Kadence to deliver three primary service lines. The first is to turn initial ideas into digital models; the second covers complete vehicle architectures, including packaging and layout, assembly and manufacturing feasibility, material selection and weight optimisation.

The third pillar is around physical model builds, with experienced clay modellers that work intuitively with creatives and digital teams to manifest the designer’s vision. As Ward emphasises, it is very much a collaborative process that sets Kadence apart from other independent studios.

The diverse team of digital and physical modellers, product development specialists, engineers and project managers means Kadence can handle compressed timelines and technical constraints with ease. It has built a reputation of reliability among UK, US and Chinese brands in particular, and has even been described by one OEM as an extension of its in-house design team.

In China, Kadence already provides turnkey studios for world class OEMs and has a growing UK footprint too. Moving forward, the plan is to tap new markets over the next few years.

“There are some exciting things going on beyond the established markets,” says Ward, “and I think we are in a fantastic position to help new brands start their story.” 

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Three-axis machines at the Kadence Black Projects Studio in Shanghai

Design incubator

Any studio worth its salt needs a balance of experience and youth. To help nurture the next wave of technically-aware designers, Kadence has been running an incubator programme to better equip them for the real world.

Through a partnership with Staffordshire University – not far from Ward’s hometown – students have had the chance to experience a professional studio environment. After an onboarding process in the UK, they are immersed in a new culture and given the chance to apply their skills in Shanghai.

Ward describes the six-week programme as a catalyst that sets students up for success. “We want to help students take that next step in their career,” he explains, “and by pushing them outside of their comfort zones we have found that students return empowered with new knowledge, skills and confidence.”

At its core, Kadence is all about tackling tough, time-constrained projects that might otherwise prohibit players from entering new markets or pushing the boundaries of design. This is done by aligning the desires of creatives with the pragmatism of engineers. “Both sides have a shared attention to detail,” Ward observes, “and at the end of the day the goal is to bring those designs to reality.”

 Look out for more on Kadence as we dig deeper into some of the studio’s latest work, plans for expansion and how it is nurturing new talent.