Storyboard: Dave Marek

The four-year old that caught the car

I have a little thing I call the “ten-second rule.” I didn’t invent this concept, but I try to adhere to it most of the time.

The ten-second rule dictates that a customer generally knows within ten seconds whether or not they like something enough to buy it. As a designer who creates things intended for mass consumption, you must take all five senses into account when considering the ten-second rule. In a sense, you’re putting yourself in the buyer’s shoes.

Eliciting the goodwill of anyone involves some suspension of disbelief. Everything that is now considered innovative was once considered wrong. At some point, it will be universally accepted… but someone has to do it first.

The idea is to push the envelope, but in a way that people can understand. You don’t want to shock your audience, per se, even if your ideas may shock their system being simultaneously new and classic.

My creative urges began early. I was an eccentric kid. Ask anyone who knew me back then. Go ahead, ask my mother. When she called me eccentric, she was just being polite.

I remember being four years old, standing in front of Obexer’s General Store in Lake Tahoe when I saw my first Corvette. I had never seen such a compelling, alien design. So, I did what I thought made sense at the time: I ran after the car. Literally. Ran down the street, dashing toward this car. My dad had to chase me down on foot and rescue me before I got myself hurt.

After I had this visceral reaction, I started drawing cars. This was my introduction to the idea of automotive design: that cars could be something that were envisioned and built from the ground up.

On the weekends, my dad would take me to Harrah’s Auto Collection in Reno. My curiosity was restless. Nothing was ever enough, and I wanted it all. Oddly enough, I was into sports as a young man and sometimes I suspect my mom would have preferred that I go into politics or something more quote-unquote “respectable.” But that just wasn’t happening: cars were my life. That was all I cared about.

I’m not sure how many people know that I was adopted as a child. My dad, when he passed away, was the only one who had any actual background on my biological parents. From what I understand now, they were both creative, intensely driven people. My adopted father was an amazing talent: he could sketch, draw, build, and more. He was a huge influence on me during my formative years, and he continues to guide and shape the work I do to this day.

One day, he said, “Let’s take a trip to LA and go look at ArtCenter.”

I’m not shy about telling people that ArtCenter saved my life. It may sound like hyperbole, but it’s not. My dad suggested ArtCenter at a time in my life when I couldn’t have needed it more. Upon first seeing the gallery work on display at the College, my first thought was: “What have I been doing with my life?” I didn’t realize such creative perfection was attainable; I needed to see it with my own two eyes.

When I was accepted into the vehicle design program, my competitive streak kicked in something fierce. If one of my fellow students was going to do ten sketches, I was going to do thirty. I didn’t sleep much at ArtCenter – and to be honest, I don’t sleep much these days. It’s hard to turn my brain off when it seems to have a life of its own.

ArtCenter taught me that the act of creation (sketching, drawing, making) could be the path to a profitable and spiritually fulfilling future. More importantly, it taught me how to formulate a vision of myself and who I wished to be. That’s part of how I ended up at Honda: I willed myself towards a destiny I saw with clarity when that Corvette flashed down the road before me back in Lake Tahoe. I’ve been chasing that ten-second feeling ever since.

By the time I joined the ranks at Honda, my father had passed away. These days, both Honda and ArtCenter act as a family to me: a clan of kindred spirits, all motivated by the same devotion to perfection. ArtCenter is both a school and a family. They save lives. They saved mine. And that’s not something I will ever forget.

Dave Marek
BS 87 Transportation Design
Executive Creative Director at Honda R&D
Host of “Man Seeks Adventure” Podcast

The idea is to push the envelope, but in a way that people can understand. You don’t want to shock your audience, per se, even if your ideas may shock their system being simultaneously new and classic.

Dave Marek
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