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Volkswagen’s Remarkable Design Choice

While it might have seemed a bit of a stretch to hire a candy-box designer, VW clearly made the right, bold choice


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VW Golf interior

(Images: Volkswagen)

Back in 1964 the Volkswagen Department of Fabrics and Colors, based at HQ in Wolfsburg, hired a porcelain painter and chocolatier candy-box designer.

One might think that the people in that department were really rolling the dice in hiring Gunhild Liljequist, a porcelain painter and chocolatier candy-box designer, but if that is the case, then they came up big, because her work is the stuff of legends among the VW GTI faithful.

Porcelain, candy & plaid?

Back in 1976 the original Golf GTI was launched. Liljequist was tasked with working on the interior.

She came up with the idea for the seat fabric.

“Black was sporty,” she recalled, “but I also wanted color and quality. I took a lot of inspiration from my travels around Great Britain and I was always taken by high-quality fabrics with checked patterns.”

Gunhild Liljequist

Gunhild Liljequist brought the plaid and the golf-ball shifter to the VW Golf.

And so she came up with the idea to use plaid for the seating surfaces. The pattern is now known as “Clark plaid,” and GTI enthusiasts associate it with the vehicle in a big way.

As you might imagine, there was some pushback to the tartan idea. But sometimes it is worth taking the road less traveled.


Then there is another contribution that Liljequist made that is even more whimsical than the plaid.

Speaking about the other iconic interior element of the Golf GTI, Liljequist said, “That was a completely spontaneous idea! I just expressed my sporting and golf associations out loud: ‘how about a golf ball as the gear knob?’”

While in retrospect this seems natural, imagine how it was received by some of her less-imaginative colleagues on the program. . . .

In addition to which. . .

Among other contributions she made during her 30-year career at VW was the 1987 limited edition ‘Etienne Aigner’ Mk1 Golf Cabriolet.

Liljuquist retired in 1991.

Clearly, her contributions to Golf design continues to resonate.



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