SUSAN SWEK: FORD’S COLOR GURU FINDS CREATIVITY IN EVERY AVENUE FROM CARS TO COOKING TO CORPORATE
- Susan Swek is Ford’s group chief designer, Color & Materials and Program Interiors, responsible for production, advanced, strategic and mastering designs of all Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands
- Growing up in the Motor City led to the melding of art and automotives for Swek, who graduated from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit
- The ever-changing world of color and trends helps motivate Swek, who finds inspiration both inside and out of the workplace
For Susan Swek, life is about creating. She creates art, food, poetry, even better lives for the stray animals she rescues. Inquire about her wide variety of interests, and she’ll just laugh.
“An artist is always an artist at heart,” she says. “I’m always working on something.”
Her work at Ford Motor Company might well be proof. Since 2005, Swek has been group chief designer, Color & Materials and Program Interiors, overseeing teams of designers who create bold color strategies and lush, touchable interiors for vehicles that allow consumers to express themselves.
This fall, she says, those colors are particularly bright. While core choices like white, black and silver continue to remain top choices, she notes that stronger hues are making a comeback as well – like the Molten Orange on the new Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, Grabber Blue on the 2010 Ford Mustang and snazzy colors like Squeeze and Hot Magenta that have been turning heads on the European Fiesta. (The U.S. version of the Fiesta arrives in 2010.)
“Colors have typically been tied to the economy on some level,” Swek said. “Are brighter colors a hopeful sign? I think so. And now that people are becoming even more aware of their choices on a global scale, I think color is even more important. Color helps people connect; they form an emotional bond. The color, the type of the material, that all becomes more important to people as they become more aware of the impact of their purchase.”
Personal Insights and Fun Facts
- Growing up around the Detroit area, Swek eagerly embraced the car culture that infuses the city. She graduated from the College for Creative Studies with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1990, beginning her career working for Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design, working a stint at DaimlerChrysler and joining Ford in 1999 as a senior color and trim designer.
- On the job, each day is different, says Swek. “The motivating thing is the innovation and the energy and the diversity,” she said. “How do you keep that going? How do you keep that strong in a corporate culture? That can be a challenge; that’s something you need to work on every day.”
- At home, she keeps the creative spark burning as well – through interests as diverse as oil painting, Asian-inspired cooking, poetry writing, metalworking and even animal rescue, a passion since childhood. “That’s as important to me as anything else,” she says. “I volunteer when I can, I foster animals, I write letters to my legislators – I want to make sure my voice is heard.”
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About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 201,000 employees and about 90 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit www.ford.com.
Nov. 2, 2009