There’s no question that the new 911 is a high-tech work of art, but it might surprise you to know that it owes something to a low-tech solution: a pencil. Design director Michael Mauer uses pencils almost obsessively, sketching away to relax and get the thought processes flowing. Computers speed up the design process, and he appreciates them, but “when it comes to drawing, I belong to a generation that was educated in doing renderings in a conventional way with paper and pencils,” he says. “I tried to do sketches on a tablet with an electronic pencil, but there’s no connection.”
When I spoke with him on the phone to his office in Germany, he admitted that he was sketching all through the interview, and later sent me a copy of what he’d drawn. The P’3125 on it indicates that he was using a Porsche Design P'3125 Slimline mechanical pencil—an excellent choice, but just one in a long line of what he uses. If he sees a pencil lying around, he has to try it. “It could be good, but then the next one is better,” he says. “I’m still searching for the perfect pencil.”
He sketches so much that he sometimes doesn’t even realize he’s doing it. He’s often accused of not paying attention in meetings, since he’s busy drawing. It’s actually the other way around: he’s so busy listening, he’s not paying attention to what’s on the paper. “It’s kind of automatic behaviour, but it helps me to visualize my thoughts,” he says.
As head of the studio, Mauer primarily oversees a staff of talented designers, and he likes to give them breathing room. “I try to avoid participating in the sketching process or in the design development process, because as soon as I put my sketch on the table, all the designers believe this is the direction (I) would like to see,” he says. “I keep (my sketches) for myself.”
And what about that 911? All was going well until they got to the rear, where the design just didn’t look right. The team was trying everything possible with computer sketches and models, but the solution wasn’t there. And then, during a meeting, Mauer’s compulsive sketching—with a pencil—resulted in the solution that led to the finished car. All of which makes us wonder, ultimately, why there isn’t a standard exterior shade of Graphite available.
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About the author: Jil McIntosh is a freelance writer based in Canada. Although she primarily focuses on cars, both new and classic ones, she also writes on a variety of subjects including collector pens and pencils. Stay connected with Jil via her own site WomanOnWheels.com