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Jerry Hirshberg, Founder of Nissan Design International
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Jerry Hirshberg

Jerry Hirshberg

Founder of Nissan Design International

“While ideas are conceived in individual minds, they are seldom born in isolation and rarely realized alone.”

Now retired, Jerry Hirshberg has designed or inspired more than 100 styles of cars, pickup trucks, and sport utility vehicles. In 1980, he left General Motors to create Nissan’s first design studio in the United States. Nissan Design International has produced a stream of trend-setting innovations and won countless awards.

Sometimes the right person for the job is two people. At NDI, designers are hired in pairs.

After Nissan recruited him from GM, Hirshberg hired two designers he had worked with in Detroit--Tom Semple and Allan Flowers. Semple loves the freedom of a blank sheet of paper. For him, design means inventing new forms. Flowers starts by assessing potential components and materials, schedules and priorities. For him, design means understanding how things work.

“Bringing these two together created an immediate vitality, a crackling intensity. Each approached a project with utterly different priorities and workstyles. The pairing was so successful that we said, ‘Let's keep doing this.’”

“I believe in creative abrasion. And I mean abrasion. We have titans in their fields going at each other: ‘I’m sorry, I see the project this way. The way you’re approaching it is just absurd.’ That friction can produce wonderful creative sparksÄ.[NDI’s designers, modelers, and engineers] get a kick out of the pairings because they feel valued for their own quirks. They see that the boss doesn’t just tolerate divergence--he courts it. So they feel free to be themselves.”

Next: What’s Tough about Working in Teams? ›

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