Who We Are

Local expertise, global experience

We’re a design strategy consultancy that works closely with the creative groups of many automotive OEMs and other organisations.

Our core team is based in the UK, but our associates network – and the projects we deliver – are literally all over the world.

Our Team

Our core team

We know first hand the pressures and constraints that go with designing a car. But while several of us have OEM-side automotive design backgrounds, we also have high-level experience in consumer research, HMI design and architecture. We’re richer for this breadth of backgrounds. Ultimately we think it makes us a stronger partner for you.

Sam Livingstone


Sam Livingstone

Sam’s first word was ‘car’ and he was passionate about design through his childhood. These interests took him through product design and design management degrees where the strategic use of design, and particularly car design, became his focus.  Professional experiences in marketing and management consultancy followed, before becoming a Design Strategist on the OEM side for Daewoo Motor Company in its pre-GM days. 

Having establishing Car Design Research in 2000, Sam has led automotive design strategy projects for many Asian, European and US automotive brands, working closely with many of the world’s design directors.

For the past ten years he has also been a tutor at London’s Royal College of Art on the Vehicle Design and sits on the judging panel of several important design awards: ‘World Car of the Year’; ‘Louis Vuitton Concept Classic’, ‘iF Design’ and ‘Scuderia Zagreb’. He is also an award winning critical writer on car design.

Thomas Ridge

Product Strategist

Thomas Ridge

Thomas brings a high level of experience and abilities in automotive research — drawing from finance, engineering and sales experience to the creative process in new vehicle development programmes and particularly advanced product planning.

Thomas' automotive OEM experience includes managing multi-million pound programmes, leading long term planning process and competitor analysis for the C-suite, and also had responsibility for looking into emergent trends in both the traditional automotive and new mobility sectors. 


Ian Mbote

Product Strategist

Ian Mbote

After completing a masters degree in Automotive Engineering, Ian spent two years working for automotive startup Mobius Motors in Kenya. There he oversaw the reinvention of the car from the ground up — developing a modern vehicle rugged and powerful enough to traverse African terrain, yet simple and cheap enough to offer mass consumer access.

Realising that his passion was more for design and innovation than pure engineering, he then undertook a masters degree in Design, Strategy and Leadership at Cranfield University in the UK. During his studies he led projects for, and received recognition from, several major public and private institutions including Jaguar Land Rover.

Ian brings a unique combination of technical background merged with design thinking to his work at Car Design Research.


Our consultants add expertise on a project-by-project basis. This helps give us depth as well as breadth, makes projects richer and draws on deep expertise. Our consultants have expertise in wide ranging fields – from fine art to research ethnography to communications and PR.

Sarah Douglas

Experience Consultant

Sarah Douglas

Sarah is a fine artist, continuing to paint in her own studio and lecturing in the subject as well as working with CDR. She brings to the team a different perspective – as our resident ‘non-car’ person, she acts as an internal voice of the customer on many programmes. 

Her expertise lies in running co-creation workshops with clients – programming and facilitating mixed discipline creative team sessions that deliver powerfully in short periods of time.  She also curates experiential programmes where our clients gain insight, inspiration and information from leading practice across a spectrum of fields.

Simeon Tiller

Semiotics Consultant

Simeon Tiller

Simeon has a background in documentary making and TV production. He is primarily a researcher, specialising in semiotics and ethnography at London-based research consultancy, Year Zero, which he co-founded and directs. He has worked with numerous consumer brands including Cadbury, Unilver and Nike conducting brand audits and conducting deep dive research focusing on better understanding of the consumer and painting a picture of their lives.

Simeon is CDR’s resident motorcyclist and has a passion for 60s British sports cars. He is frequently found behind the camera, having been instrumental in one of CDR’s key research approaches – bringing the consumer into the design studio via the medium of video.


Miika Heikkinen

Design Consultant

Miika Heikkinen

Miika did his first degree in Industrial Design with a years scholarship to Stanford University to work on a cross disciplinary project for Cadillac.  He then focused on car design at the Royal College of Art, and after worked as a designer at McLaren and Ford before returning back to Finland to set up Northern Works.

Northern Works specialises in all types of vehicle design with focus on the conceptual side of design, with projects ranging from concept cars to boats to production cars. Having worked with CDR for over five years, Miika also majors on delivering design that connects to a wider strategic context to enhance that commercial value it brings to client projects.

Miika also regularly lectures at Umeå, RCA, Lahti and even at India, and is also passionate about water colour painting

Joonas Vartola

Design Consultant

Joonas Vartola

Joonas holds an MA in Vehicle Design from the RCA in London from 2008 and a BA in Industrial Design from the Lahti Institute of Design in Finland.  

He is now a partner in Finland based vehicle and concept design consultancy, Northern Works. Prior to embarking to consultancy world, Joonas worked five years for Tesla in Los Angeles, California primarily as a senior exterior designer while contributing to all other in-house design projects and even occasional SpaceX design support. He has also worked several years for Mazda Motors as a designer and done stints at Pininfarina and Daihatsu. Joonas holds an MA in Vehicle Design from the RCA in London from 2008 and a BA in Industrial Design from the Lahti Institute of Design in Finland.

He is driven by conceptual thinking, emerging technologies and the ever changing vehicle landscape with a keen interest in fast developing autonomous transportation. 


Global Perspective

Experts in every space. Delivery in any place.

Car Design Research is a registered, “Ltd” company in the UK, but we’ve worked globally for all of our business life. In fact we’ve run projects in most European countries, the US, South Korea, China, Brazil and Japan.

Our core team runs every project. But we think local information and expertise makes things stronger. Over the past thirteen years hundreds of smart, uniquely qualified (and fun to be with!) people have helped us with our projects and we’ve consciously grown this extended family.

They provide a uniquely robust platform of knowledge and perspectives to many CDR projects. They also help us keep our finger on the pulse with what’s happening and run projects locally, be it in Delhi, Shanghai, Sau Paulo or Moscow.

Below is a selection of just some of our Associates. We expect you’ll recognise some of them, but there are many more that we call upon regularly.

Below is a selection of just some of our Associates.

We expect you'll recognise some of them, but there are many more that we call upon regularly.

David Mingay

London, UK

Executive Creative Director, Native Design
Previously Creative Director, ustwo

Peter Stevens

London, UK

Designer Mclaren F1,
Previously MG Rover, Lotus

Fabio Filippini

Turin, Italy

Independent automotive designer and strategy advisor
Previously Vice President of Design and Chief Creative Officer, Pininfarina

Satoshi Wada

Tokyo, Japan 

President and Art Director, SW Design co. ltd
Previously Audi, Nissan Senior designer.

Ajay Panchal

Los Angeles, USA

Founder and Director, PanchaL
Previously Nissan Design America, designer Nissan 350Z

Adriana Monk

Cote d'Azur, France

Director, Monk Design,
Previously Jaguar, Lincoln, Wally

Geoff Wardle

Los Angeles, USA

Founder, OnGoing Transportation, Director of Advanced Mobility Research, Art Center College of Design.

Neal Stone

London, UK

Founder + Director, LeapSTONE
Previously Design Director, British Airways

Tom Matano

San Francisco, USA

Executive Director, School of Industrial Design, Academy of Art University, Previously Mazda Design Director (MX5, RX7).

Dale Harrow

London, UK

Chair in Intelligent Mobility, Royal College of Art

Marek Pawlowski

London, UK

Founder of MEX, the initiative for enhancing digital user experience

Jason Hill

Los Angeles, USA

Previously Porsche, Samsung, Mercedes Benz, Aptera 

Demian Horst

Umeå, Sweden

Deputy Rector for Strategic Collaboration, Umeå Institute of Design, Umeå University 

Cecilia Wee

London, UK

Writer, Curator + Broadcaster in Sound Art

Brian Baker

Detroit, USA

ex-Senior Design Manager, GM
Speaker + Writer on Auto Design; Adjunct Teacher at CCS 

Peter Naumann

Munich, Germany

Professor, Fakultät für Design, Hochschule München
Owner, naumann-design

Contact Us

We're friendly. Come say hello.

We’d love to come and meet you – in your studio, at an auto show or wherever you happen to be in the world. Drop us a line, give us a call, or let’s meet up and we can explain more about what we do and how we could be useful to you 

Drop us a line: info@cardesignresearch.com

Call us: +44 (0)1223 709299

We help our clients to design more successful cars.