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February 19, 2014

Inspiration drives auto designer

STILLWATER, Okla. — Pinky Lai, chief designer for Porsche, addressed the campus on Wednesday at the ConocoPhillips OSU Alumni Center as part of the annual Research Week at the university.

Lai’s multimedia presentation focused on his experience in the automotive design business. Lai said he started his career as an interior decorator, but decided to start fresh and made his way to Rome.

“I decided on studying architecture,” Lai said. “I just wanted to start from scratch.”

Lai finished his degree in 1978, and decided to go to Germany. Lai struggled to find work, but Ford in Germany offered Lai a design position if he would go back to school. Lai accepted the offer, and in 1981, his first design was manufactured.

“Most of us were so happy to be part of the design team,” Lai said.

Lai said he didn’t select which of his designs would be manufactured, but he would create many options.

“You try to produce as many, as good as possible ideas, and then someone else will make a selection,” Lai said.

Lai went on to work for British Motor Works in 1984, and then, in 1989, he joined Porsche.

“I think everything happens for a reason,” Lai said.

Lai became chief exterior designer for Porsche, and has spent the rest of his career with the company.

Lai said his ability to design cars like the Porsche Boxster and the Cayman has come from his constant inspiration in designing excellence.

“Honestly, if you start looking for inspiration, then it’s too late,” Lai said. “Inspiration is a continuous thing.”

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