Furious Enamor of Car Design

Genesis Mint Concept by Samir Sadikhov. Photo by MICHAEL SIMARI / CAR AND DRIVER

Interview with Samir Sadikhov. Written by Eva Moss

What comes to mind when you hear the term "car designer"? A tall, high-rise office building made of steel and glass? Maybe a football field-sized manufacturing assembly line? Ultra-modern high-tech equipment? Or do you imagine a warehouse filled with gigantic flat screens illustrating a platera of contemporary design concepts?

Does a disheveled concept artist bent over a drawing board with an inspired gaze come to mind? An inspired gaze that is covertly hidden behind a mountain stack of dirty coffee mugs?

Or, on the contrary, you imagine the sterile cleanliness of wide drafting tables with pristine overhead lighting?

Genesis is a relatively young brand on the global market, which makes you take a double take and raise your eyebrow in eye-catching bewilderment. Allow me to tell you just how the synergy of the Genesis DNA concept was born.

In front of me sits a handsome guy, carefully open-faced, exploring the world around him. He takes his orders leisurely, easily shifting linguistic gears from English, German and then conversing with the waiters in fluid Italian. And yet his native language is Azeri. He has worked with such luxury brands as Lamborghini, Rezvani Motors, Ford and collaborated with Ferrari. His name is Samir Sadikhov, and he is responsible for the flesh and blood of the Genesis car designs for the Hyundai Motor Group.

Failure is not an option.

Samir is paradoxically modest. He does not acknowledge his own achievements and constantly mentions designers whom he perceives as far more talented than him. Designers over the years, he has learned from and sees these inspirational peers through the lens of Olympian gods and goddesses grandeur. But this is not blind admiration with a huff. Not at all.

The more I asked questions and the more I learned, the more there was a conflict in my head. A conflict between what I heard and what I actually saw. The paradox is that Samir doesn't recognize himself as a genius, but he possesses all the characteristic traits of one. My fascination grew stronger as time passed by in his company.

What would you do if you were absent from the liberty to make a mistake in your life? A strict family, an intellectual society, and a constant fear of failure? What if I told you you had no right to make a mistake? What if you couldn't admit the "mediocre" results of your work to yourself? What if I told you that you would be denied by your family if you failed? Sounds pretty tough and grim, doesn't it?

Ever since he was a child, Samir has worked like a maniac. His early years were more like a military soldier. A rigid upbringing where a strict schedule was combined with maximum performance demand and a constant focus on success. I've never heard of a child so motivated that they didn't allow themselves to be distracted for a moment. Video games? Engage in the many follies of youth? It wasn't all fun and games for this extremely determined young man growing up. Samir still only reads paperback books in complete silence.

How about 5 hours of sleep before he's 30? Can you imagine working that hard? And he laments this trait by examining other highly successful people. Samir became frustrated that he could not reduce his sleep time to a mere 3 hours! Unsuccessful in his attempts to do so, he complains that his body was physically unable to work effectively. Is it noteworthy to mention that Samir was accepted immediately in the second year of the Istituto Europeo di Design? A prestigious private design school nestled in Milan, Italy.

Samir Sadikhov

What is your secret?

So what is the secret? Maybe it's to be known as a total geek, so much so that even quite successful classmates look at you strangely when you refuse them for the tenth time to go to a nightclub or a bar.

Or maybe the secret ingredient is that as a kid, Samir exposed his ears to the inexpensive music player in his grandmother's room. Listening and absorbing completely different music expanded his imagination. Queen, Michael Jackson, and the Beatles all became his personal guides to a new world. Fast forward. Now he has a huge library of recordings that ignite the sparks of creativity and soothes him in the right frame of mind. A personal music catalog compiled into neat lists and always at his fingertips. There are playlists for working at night, during the day, on the road, for rest, for focus, and a couple of dozen other topics that are too numerous to list. I've never seen a man so deeply passionate about music and so furiously able to use it in his work and life. Samir candidly recalls how he begged his mother to send him to piano lessons. His sister could attest to the numerous failed requests falling on mother’s disapproving ears. How many boys do you know who really wanted to learn to play the piano? Samir cherishes the hope that one day he will be able to find time to study music as well. In fact, it would be rather fitting and poetic. Why not? Thanks to his love of music, Samir met his beloved wife.

Besides music, Samir is interested in everything related to film and photography. When your wife is a professional photographer and seems to know everything about architecture, it allows you to form an even closer bond.

I accidentally opened Pandora's box by asking about his favorite movies. In response, I was flooded with the names of his favorite directors and composers. I was surprised that he did not mention any actors at all! Typically of many geniuses, Samir likes to watch new movies by his favorite directors alone. Samir enthusiastically references the aesthetics of films by Danny Villeneuve, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, and Ridley Scott. He admires the models of spaceships seen in the films, the air crafts, and the land vehicles in terms of functionality! It is not surprising to discover that his visual concepts and real cars are used in blockbusters films and episodes of many major streaming services today? He slightly criticizes the fact that the aircraft in the movies are rarely beautiful if they were created by non-profile designers.

He discusses aerodynamics, waving his hands around and describing the amplitudes of the working surfaces of the blades of another rotary-winged machine.

And I can't call Samir a romantic genre enthusiast because he's also interested in real documentary stories of serious espionage. Not the familiar Hollywood style running around with guns stories, but professional mind games where your own intellect is at stake. Unbelievable.

The formula of beauty.

What do you think is the most difficult thing about designing a car? What's the hardest type of car to design? It turns out that the most challenging design is created for a simple silver sedan whose wheels will hug the roads for millions and will probably be eventually parked in your driveway in the not-so-distant future.

What guides the creator of an ordinary car? The problem is that you must turn an ordinary shoebox into an immaculate work of art. There are so many restrictions and rules! You must prohibit yourself from using standard solutions to separate yourself from the pack. Admittingly, it's a vaillant challenge to create something new from a list of restrictive requirements and technical regulations. It sounds crazy, but it's so much easier to create a supercar. I love it when Samir talks about the “too fancy" but “typical boring design” of mainstream sports cars. Sleek and stylish vehicles which almost everyone on the planet dreams of owning.

Samir believes there is a formula for universal beauty. Only if you choose the right parameters and consider a slew of very complex factors can you get close to perfection. Any artistic creation is based on the idea of the symbiosis of complexity and elegance, and Samir is not one of those people who are trying to flirt with simple forms and commonalities. Samir creates art even though he humbly denies it, and this is another paradox.

What will you spend your second life on?

We all have two lives. The second begins when you realize you only have one. - Confucius.

Samir is a man who works like a machine. Samir systematically, step by step, has built himself a most effective, versatile personality capable of penetrating deeply into the very essence of car design. And please do not take these words as an advertising slogan. Just facts and achievements are enough to realize that behind Samir's success is a gigantic “hell of” hard work, effort, and unwavering discipline every day.

Samir Sadikhov

No doubt Samir is a human being, just like you and me. With his fears and his complicated past, what makes him different? Where does he get that feeling of time slipping through his fingers like sand on the beach? How does this man know how to be most effective at what he does? The key to understanding him is synthesis. Samir believes that the human brain cannot invent anything from scratch. Creating something new is always based on past experiences, perhaps even childhood. And so his task is to absorb and immerse himself in as much context as possible to understand and let the ocean of information and inspiration flow through.

Wherever your next adventure leads you, let your previous failures and triumphs guide you to newer and brighter tomorrows. Synthesize your efforts to collaborate with your past experiences to inspire new creations of tomorrow.

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