“Albaisa’s father was a building architect and so as a youngster the budding designer spent a lot of time at the office.”

AS Alfonso Albaisa-01

It would have been no great surprise if car designer Alfonso Albaisa had become a designer of stationary objects – you know, buildings!

The Infiniti Executive Design Director fell in love with design as a young boy living in Miami, Florida.

As he recalls his childhood, he mentions that this wasn’t the beachy part of Miami that might come to mind when we think of the city. Albaisa’s father was a building architect and so as a youngster the budding designer spent a lot of time at the office.

“I remember this as if it was yesterday, that the shadows would move on the streets and I’d sit in the entrance of my dad’s office playing with the little buildings and models.”

Then one day, sitting on the steps of his father’s office, fate changed his life’s ambitions. It was then that he heard and saw it for the first time.

“One day, I was seven or eight, I heard a rumbling and it pulled into the office,” Albaisa explains.

“It was an E-Type Jag convertible. And that really changed it for me… It was just so beautiful. Because this was the early 70s. Miami wasn’t Justin Bieber going down the street in a Lamborghini. You never saw these these kinds of cars, so it was shocking for me, that a car could be so beautiful… And then I started drawing cars.”

From then on, he knew that designing vehicles would be in his future.

Then again, that wasn’t without exploration into other mediums of design.

Albaisa says, “Life takes its course and I really got into art also, so I studied art in the beginning.”

He holds a degree from Pratt Institute in New York and he attended the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit. While still in school, Albaisa was hired by Nissan Motor Corp Inc. even before he graduated and hasn’t looked back. He has been with the company more than 25 years.

“Every day is different in this company,” he explains. “My first two or three years in the group, I worked on the J30. And I did a yacht, I was designing TaylorMade golf clubs and I played beach volleyball competitively, so I had this crazy life.”

He designed furniture on the side, as well.

“As an artist, change causes change and changes your mind,” he states.

His roles over the years have evolved, too. Albaisa joined the Nissan Design team in San Diego in 1988. From 1997, he held a number of senior Design positions within Nissan leading up to his appointment as Design Director, Nissan Design America, in 2004.

In 2007, he was appointed vice president of Nissan Design Europe and in 2011 returned to the U.S. as vice president, Nissan Design America. In 2012, Albaisa was named design director of Nissan global Design, Nissan brand passenger cars, including Zero Emission Vehicles. That’s his current role as we’re sitting in the rear of the spacious Q70L sedan at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto. (Albaisa will be sending the Infiniti Q80 Inspiration concept to the Vancouver International Auto Show.)

Perhaps it’s an unconventional setting for an interview, but then again, he’s not a particularly conventional individual!

And it’s a quiet haven from the bustle of the exterior commotion.

Though he’s a veteran in his role, he tells me, “It’s quite a difficult job. You’re constantly an ambassador for the dreams of your people.”

He adds, “Ideas are not demonstrable. You’re always worried that the call is going to come before the idea is ready to be shown. This is probably the only thing that really worries me. I have a lot of really talented people and I want to keep there.”

Aside from the same emotions that we all feel concerning our respective roles at our workplace, he embraces the changes, the ups and downs and the notion to create brand unification through the sketches on a notepad.

When it comes to describing his role, Albaisa remarks, “I still feel like I just started.”

Contact: alexandra [dot] straub [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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