Previous Competitions / Interviews / Interview: Thomas Jankauskas

It started my entire career

September 1st, 2021 - Voice of Design

Hailing from Lithuania, it would seem Tomas knew even as a kid that he wanted to be a car designer. “I always used to destroy every school book by drawing in them,” he confessed. Architecture also fascinated young Tomas, but he ultimately felt “design seemed more interesting, and there’d be more variation in that discipline”. Back where he grew up, “everybody took me for a real nut”, he said. People did not think he’d ever become a car designer. It was just too far-fetched. “Usually, when kids tell their dreams, adults can be very demeaning.”

Years later, after Tomas had completed a rather heavy stint of design studies – first at Istituto Europeo di Design, in Turin, Italy, then Automotive Design at Coventry University, England, where Tomas got a B.A. , and, finally, Automotive Design at Pforzheim, in Germany – he managed to realize his dream of becoming a car designer. He’s currently doing exterior car design for Toyota, in Japan, but I also detected he may have lingering thoughts of returning to Europe.

“Oh, I’m getting scared… I joined the first TLDC competition in 2014”, said Tomas, chuckling. “It was a looong time ago.” The competition theme was airport vehicles, and I asked Tomas how he went about dealing with the challenge. “It was sort of just joining up the dots, and there was so much technical stuff I didn’t know.” He said that if he’d been presented with the task at this stage in his life, “I’d probably overdo things, make it much more boxy and boring.” So, how long did it take Tomas to come up with his contribution? “To be perfectly honest, I did it during the weekend just before the deadline,” he said with that keen sense of delivery of his. “But, yeah, I was brainstorming for months… But when you’re a student you tend to postpone things, and do things in that last second.” Anyway, Tomas won third prize for his contribution, which led to him being offered an internship at Toyota Material Handling’s Design Center in Sweden. And look where that’s taken him. “It started my entire career,” Tomas concluded.

Did he encounter any particular difficulties, while working out a solution to the problem? “Yeah, for me it was connecting the airplane with the car.” One is really tall and the other is kind of bulky, he said. “It’s a bit like connecting a bird with a pig.” (Chuckles on both sides.)

I wondered if there was any kind of formulation that would sum up his take on the competition, what he liked best? “I think I will just repeat myself… that as a student you need to go with your gut. You need to be brave,” he said. Would he recommend the TLDC to other people? “Yeah, absolutely! I just took my chance, and because it was Toyota, I made an extra effort,” said Tomas.

I had more questions for him: like, where did he find his inspiration as a designer? “Definitely not engineering requirements,” was Tomas’s curt and characteristic reply. “Actually, it changes from place to place… Like when you’re in Sweden you want warmth and a bit of sunshine, but when you’re in Japan it’s all sweaty, and you think of Sweden in September, it’s all good.”

So, by way of concluding this interview I asked what he thought of this year’s TLDC challenge. He’d obviously given it a fair amount of thought, because this is what he said: “You don’t want a ten-tonne truck come round to your house delivering a pizza.”