Workshop with Frank StephensonJune 17, 2022

Between 23 and 27 May 2022, Vilnius Academy of Arts in partnership with AKO Technical organized a design workshop with a special guest mentoring the students, Frank Stephenson, who has worked for companies like BMW, Mini, Ferrari, Maserati, Fiat, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, and McLaren. Frank was called “one of the most influential automotive designers of our time” by Motor Trend magazine.

Frank Stephenson

During the workshop, students had an opportunity to re-imagine the three-wheeler AKO Trike concept from the ground up. For the first few days, the focus was mainly on the exterior and interior while on the third and fourth days, Frank introduced the students to the main rules governing the ergonomics of the control systems as well as the evolution of dashboards.

By motivating the students to do a lot of sketching and providing them with 1-on-1 feedback throughout the process, Frank has done an incredible job — over 150 sheets of paper, full of sketches, were displayed by the students. Students’ journeys with their designs were presented and given feedback by Frank himself, Dominykas Budinas (Lead Designer, AKO Technical), and Artūras (CTO, AKO Technical).

Vilnius Academy of Arts workshop with Frank Stephenson

Juozas Brundza, the head of the Department of Design in Vilnius Academy of Arts, when asked about the impact of this workshop, said:

The workshop was in fact a unique experience for Lithuania from a variety of aspects, one of them being the creation of design concepts for AKO Trike in general. It is important to understand that the vehicle itself is nothing like we’re used to seeing on the streets, therefore the students had an opportunity to work on something fresh and different, without typical constraints surrounding the automotive world.

When asked about Frank’s participation in this workshop, Juozas mentioned:

Frank is a well-known world-class designer, and the way he approached the workshop is really impressive. Despite being a very busy person, he took it very professionally & seriously. It was a pleasure to see how involved he was in the process, how much time he spent on getting to know each designer personally, and most importantly – how every single idea from the students was being discussed and evaluated. I believe the workshop was indeed a total success for everyone, and together with Vilnius Academy of Arts we’ll continue to implement similar approaches in the future as well.

Frank also made some comments regarding the workshop:

I think this was a fantastic opportunity for the students to explore a new direction in mobility. It allowed them to experiment with a design that doesn’t need to have an established or accepted look. This freedom offered them a wide range of creative interpretations which is what I saw in their final results. The process they followed was compressed but still a true replica of the professional approach used today in the industry – namely research, conceptualization, packaging, and theme presentation. The students all seemed quite enthusiastic and creatively inspired throughout the week and I was pleasantly surprised by their energy levels and output.

When asked about tips & recommendations for being a great designer, Frank noted:

The most important human feature that I would recommend for being a great designer is to be true to yourself. Design things in a way that makes YOU happy. If you like your design, your positive energy will be reflected in it and that will always gain the respect of others to who you present your project. My single rule/approach to facing the many challenges I’ve experienced during my career is to always expect that something great is about to happen. For that to occur, preparation must meet opportunity, luck doesn’t just happen. Work hard and be diligent, and great results will follow.

Design workshop with Vilnius Academy of Arts, AKO Technical and Frank Stephenson

Vilnius Academy of Arts has been collaborating with AKO Technical since 2016, when one of its students, Lukas Avėnas, with the help of Artūras, introduced the very first concept design for a tilting three-wheeled vehicle as his graduation project.