Despite rational thinking and the enlightenment, the human worldview remains a symbolic one. For us humans everything is a sign. And that’s exactly what Lamborghini is all about. Picking up on this idea, we created a space identity filled with symbols heavy with meaning for Lamborghini and its iconic sports car the Murciélago.
From brand to religion
In terms of sports cars, there has always only been one dominant religion in Italy: Ferrari. According to legend, Ferruccio Lamborghini, then a tractor manufacturer, complained about his Ferrari sports car and was rebutted by Enzo Ferrari. The latter told him he didn’t know what he was talking about, because he only knew how to build tractors. This incited Ferruccio to build a better, faster sports car. In 1963, he founded Lamborghini Automobili. The logo featured a Taurus – Ferruccio’s astrological sign. From then on, he named all his cars after famous bulls. When we spoke to Lamborghini about their brand identity they asked us for nothing less than: “Make Lamborghini a religion.”
The lost form
At the time, Luc Donckerwolke was head of design at Lamborghini. At the turn of the millenium, he designed the first Lamborghini of the next generation. It was named after a Taurus that survived a famous bullfight in Córdoba with 24 lance blows, the Murciélago, the Spanish word for bat. In consequence, everything related to the car had to be pitch black, just like the night.
Luc’s idea of design consists of something he refers to as ‘the lost form’: “A Lamborghini’s form looks as if it’s driving underneath the asphalt.”. His definition of form reflects our idea of space and brands. It’s the surrounding space that describes a brand, the space identity. Thus, when we were working on the Corporate Design, we gave the Murciélago’s mark its three-dimensional shape, with the letter ‘U’ mimicking a bat’s wings.
A stage for the driver
We also decided to put the brand mark on the car’s sill. A Lamborghini’s sill carries special meaning: it’s almost like a stage, enhancing the driver – and passenger – while getting in and out. Particularly when the passenger is a woman (Ferruccio Lamborghini was even said to have designed the upward-opening wing doors especially to frame a women as she exits the car). While staging an event with famous actor Catherine Deneuve, she was photographed sitting on the sill. When she got up, everybody could see that the Murciélago lettering had left a mark on her thigh. Once again Lamborghini showed itself as the lost form.
A myth as a space identity
Everything surrounding the brand should be laden with deeper meaning and archaic wisdom. Extreme, uncompromising, aggressive yet luscious and italian – how do you reflect this in an exhibition space? The answer was a perfectly symmetrical monolithic triptych altar built out of burnt steel. The altar served as the brand messenger and universal system for trade fairs and exhibitions worldwide for over 15 years
An event on top of a volcano
A religion of a black car, named after a Taurus, immortal by its elemental force and as the eternal number one – there’s only one perfect place in the world to host an event for it. At the top of an active volcano, Etna, the ancient black mountain situated on the eastern shore of Sicily, more than 3,000 meters high. I asked Manfred Fitzgerald, then head of marketing, if we needed a plan B for this risky venture. His reply? “Lamborghini has no plan B.” It was destined to happen. The moment the Murciélago was unveiled – at midnight, just like a bat – to all of our surprise Etna erupted, spitting fire and lava streams. Imagine the dramatic scene of 300 people, all wrapped in gold survival blankets, surrounded by swirling snowflakes descending the mountain.
Adam Award 2001: bronze