Future in Motion

A photographer. A designer. A car that connects the future with the past. Sounds like science fiction, but it’s not. A conversation with star fashion photographer Esther Haase and Eduardo Ramírez, Head of Exterior Design at Hyundai Design Center Europe, about sustainability, feeling at home and truly progressive technology.
Text Wiebke Brauer
Photo David Goldman

Ms. Haase, what was your first thought when you saw the IONIQ 6?
Esther Haase: My first thought was: It’s really fast and it’s got real power. And if a woman drove it, it would have to be Catwoman.

What do you think about electric cars in general?
Haase: Even as a child, I always wondered why we have these noisy, dirty machines everywhere. I was a big fan of The Jetsons, and everything there was wonderfully quiet and electric. They could fly, and everything was so clean and tidy.

And what was it like when you got in the IONIQ 6?
Haase: What I find so fascinating about this car is the contradiction between the exterior and the interior. From the outside, as I said, it looks incredibly fast, you expect a real sports car. But once you’re sitting inside, you have this incredible amount of space, it’s really comfortable, a place to simply enjoy – or work, if you have to.

Eduardo Ramírez: That’s the special thing about electric cars – they’re not just quiet with an incredibly dynamic acceleration, they also make new concepts possible. There’s no engine in the front or big tunnel running down the middle. Instead, you have this flat-floor platform. We want to exploit these advantages as much as possible in order to maximise the experience for the customer. That’s why we designed the interior and exterior of the car in parallel from the beginning. Defining the proportions with a very long wheelbase gave us a large interior in which we created a living room atmosphere. We call it a mindful cocoon. At the same time, we defined this curved silhouette for an exterior that spans the entire space. And thanks to the streamlined form with the shorter overhangs and the low front and rear sections, you don’t even notice that the vehicle is actually quite tall, coming in at 1.50 metres in height.

Haase: The sofa is there. All that’s missing now are some plants.

Ramírez: Not a problem. The larger wheelbase allows for more legroom, but it also gives us room to be creative. There are surfaces where you can put things down, just like at home, where your keys, your smartphone or your handbag all have their own place. And you could certainly keep a plant there, if you like. The glove compartment, for example, doesn’t pop open downwards the conventional way; it opens like a drawer, and the occupants can use the surface as they wish.

Haase: That’s one of the first things I discovered. Fabulous! There are a lot of really great inventions in this car. But you also have to give people an idea of what they can do with it. Allow me to make a comparison with photography. We used to have these big cameras, and when we shot a car, it was all about producing these huge posters. Today, everything is mobile and small, and we produce content for Instagram. It’s a completely different visual language. When I drive an electric car, which no longer has all these constraints due to the combustion engine, that frees up space to use. And suddenly you have all these different possibilities about what to do with it. Why not invite over a few friends and have a little party in the car?

Ramírez: That’s certainly a possibility.

Haase: I could bring my tea kettle.

Ramírez: You could. Or an espresso machine. There is a power outlet.

Mr. Ramírez, the IONIQ 6 looks as it was drawn in a single stroke of the pen. Where did you get the inspiration for this car?
Ramírez: When we first started talking about the streamliner form, we were able to draw on clear references from the past for inspiration. There are several examples in automotive history that express this very clearly. The original Saab, for example. It was designed by aeronautical engineers when the aircraft manufacturer decided to build cars in the late 1940s. It is a very free interpretation of the first-ever submarine. You can see the teardrop shape or streamliner form very well and can imagine how the air glides along almost without resistance.

What other features are important to you in car design? What story do they tell?
Ramírez: We genuinely want our design to be about our clients. To design well, we need to understand their desires and ambitions. Only then can we design for them. In a way, we are telling the story of our clients.

And those are different stories? There are quite some different designs in the IONIQ family.
Ramírez: The choice of a car is an expression of one’s own personality. That’s why we treat each car differently, depending on the purpose it is meant to serve. And yes, we are delighted when we see that customers from very different backgrounds have a clear opinion or preference regarding their type of car.

Are there any parallels to photography here?
Haase: I see things similarly: When I take a picture, I have to like it. But a picture is often about someone else’s ideas as well. That’s why I search for a connection to the people who assign me a task, from which I can draw my own inspiration, in order to create my own artistic vision in the end. You could compare it to an actor who is given a role, but then interprets it in his own way.

Ramírez: My work also has an artistic component. Though it is probably a bit more limited in our job, because we have to consider a lot of different aspects and technical specifications. But automotive design also has this possibility to express yourself. In a way, you give the technology an artistic face. And when the whole team of designers and engineers works in harmony, it becomes more than just a functional product. In some cases, it becomes a work of art. And streamlining offers this very beautiful balance between aesthetics and technology.

"We genuinely want our design to be about our clients. To design well, we need to understand their desires and ambitions. Only then can we design for them."

Eduardo Ramírez

What about self-driving cars? Would that be something for you, Ms. Haase?
Haase: That would take a lot of faith on my part. [laughs] But honestly: Could you really sit back, close your eyes and let the car drive you? I don’t know if I would want to do that. For me, driving is also about independence. And I don’t want to be dependent on a machine. Do self-driving cars mean more freedom?

Ramírez: I like to compare it to flying. As a passenger on a plane, I can’t control the pilot either.

Haase: Okay, I sometimes like to let myself be ferried from here to there as well. But just as much, I like being in control of how I travel. Though it is a tricky topic. On the one hand, driving yourself is about personal freedom. On the other hand, it requires your full concentration and attention. But still, I don’t want to become completely dependent on machines.

But the other day you called me while driving because you were stuck in traffic and were able to pull out in just the right place to make a phone call in peace. And we realised that a self-driving car could actually be very practical. Esther Haase: That would be fantastic. It would give you back a lot of time for yourself.

Haase: That would be fantastic. It would give you back a lot of time for yourself.

Ramírez: We’re not that far away from that.

Haase: All true. Like I said, I don’t want to dismiss the future. I’m just worried about certain things.

Ramírez: I think that a key point for acceptance is the issue of control, that people keep the upper hand over the technology. Though I see this in a somewhat broader sense: If you have control over your car, you also determine the manner in which you travel. You choose whether you let it drive you, or if you want to drive it yourself.

Haase: I like that – that you decide for yourself. Sometimes you could just let the technology do the more strenuous things, so you don’t have to think about them yourself. Things aren’t black and white. There’s a lot of grey everywhere – fortunately!

People are already changing their behaviour – especially with regard to sustainability. What role does sustainability play for you in a car?
Haase: Sustainability is an extremely important topic for me. Recycling in particular could be really good for our planet. When I look at the materials, the IONIQ 6 is a really great choice. From this perspective, I also find the design to be important. When you buy a car, you often choose the one that you like best in terms of design – so it’s even better if the design can also make a difference to society.

"From this perspective, I also find the design to be important. When you buy a car, you often choose the one that you like best in terms of design – so it’s even better if the design can also make a difference to society."

Esther Haase

Ramírez: It’s also an important aspect for us. We don’t want to just tell people: “Be sustainable.” For us, it’s more about giving people the right options. You have to give them the possibility to choose a design product that also serves a responsible purpose. That’s why we made sure that the materials we used generated as few carbon dioxide emissions in their production as possible. Wherever we used new materials, we made sure they were made from organic sources like sugar cane. In the end, however, the options are all about colour and texture. It doesn’t just have to look good – everything you touch has to feel good as well.

Haase: It’s a bit like vegan food. If it doesn’t taste good, you don’t want to eat it. I mean, it just has to be delicious – for the simple fact that you usually don’t choose things only because they’re good for you. You have to create desire, and you have to feel that desire too. In general, I think it’s important to create things that are desirable, things that people want. And if there’s a good cause involved as well, that you’ve got a really great product.







Esther Haase was born in Bremen in 1966. Her father was a professor of photography and design, her mother a designer and illustrator. After training in modern dance at the State Academy in Cologne, she spent two years working as a professional dancer before studying graphic design with a focus on photography. Since 1993, Esther Haase has worked for international clients and magazines in addition to publishing her own photography books – and winning numerous awards.


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