After earning a degree in architecture and specializing in industrial design, Ferrari’s Chief of Design Flavio Manzoni began his design career in 1993 working at FIAT’s Lancia Design Center. In only eight short years, Manzoni’s talents allowed him to rise through the ranks to become the chief designer of the FIAT Group Design Center.

With an eye for futuristic high-performance aesthetics while staying true to a traditional brand language, Manzoni has led the design process for some of Ferrari’s most recent notable creations ranging from the 458 Italia to Ferrari’s first hybrid, the LaFerrari.

Earlier this year, Ferrari and Manzoni were awarded the prestigious Compasso D’Oro Award for the F12 Berlinetta. The car was the most powerful Ferrari road car ever built at the time of launch and was praised by the Compasso D’Oro jury for its ‘flowing, dynamic forms that use innovative aerodynamic solutions in a true marriage of technology and aesthetics, the prancing horse epitomizes the perfect balance between maximum efficiency and elegant proportions typical of ferrari’s front-engined V12 sports cars’.


The ultra-performance road car was featured earlier this year on the popular BBC show Top Gear and was met with great enthusiasm by host Jeremy Clarkson:

YouTube video

In a recent interview with Design Boom, Manzoni gives us a little more insight into how the F12 went from a concept sketch to an award-winning automobile design:


DB: What was the inspiration for the F12 Berlinetta?

FM: The concept of the car is to be found in the essential values of the classic Ferrari front-engined V12 2-seater coupé. pure, efficient, aerodynamic, lightweight. The fastback proportions with the rearward position of the cockpit work perfectly with the long bonnet and low overall height. The forward slant of several lines in the side view confer it additional purposefulness and character.

There was no straight inspiration from the past when we set out to design the F12, but if there is one Ferrari Berlinetta which I admire and which helped us set the tone, it would be the 250 GT SWB. There is an unmatched balance in that car between a clean volume, elegant lines, simple yet full surfaces, pronounced muscle, fantastic stance and proportions which define an ideal formula still worth aiming for today.


DB: What design elements were emphasized on the F12 Berlinetta?

FM: The front is characterized by a potent, open radiator intake, with the bonnet stretching above two side keels ahead of the wheels. This generates a floating effect, akin to that of a catamaran, breaking up the mass of the hood and generating a feeling of lightness. On the sides of the main intake grille we have two ducts which open and close electronically to improve brake cooling when required, reducing air resistance when shut.

The other defining elements of the front view are of course the headlights, which extend vertically atop the crest of the fenders. The DRL arrangement emphasizes the wide stance and further enhances the lighting signature typical of current Ferrari road cars.

The aero bridge and deeply carved flanks create downforce and, by guiding the air to the flanks, reduce drag. The rear theme is a new take on the truncated tail concept. Here the idea was to marry it effectively with the design of the rear diffuser, to create a dynamic T-shaped link between the two. It results in a pleasant integration of key elements which would otherwise have had a very static relationship.

Allow me to also mention the interior briefly, as I think it is particularly successful in expressing lightness and sportiness, yet it is greatly enhanced by fresh elements such as the crisp aluminum air vents. They were influenced by aeronautic details, combining to create a very technical but, at the same time, a richly crafted look, very fitting for Ferrari.


DB: How do elements from formula one directly influence the design of Ferrari vehicles?

FM: I would say Formula One influence is generally more subtle than your question suggests. Of course, if you take the example of the F12 Berlinetta’s central rear fog light, it is a direct re-interpretation of a formula one detail, which I think adds a nice touch, as it fits very well with the design of the rear diffuser. But such direct citations are the exception more than they are the rule. It’s more a case of our design language sharing, for example, the general philosophy of carefully shrink-wrapping smooth surfaces closely over the mechanical parts to generate a very efficient and slippery skin.

You will also notice that, contrary to Formula One, we integrate aerodynamic functions on the bodywork as seamlessly as possible. On a sports car like the F12 Berlinetta, surfaces are sculpted carefully in function of air flow with an aim to avoid the need for any appendages. Such appendages are more suited for what we call special models, like our track-oriented XX programme. What we share with F1 is also methodology – in other words, the way we approach the aerodynamic design of our models, with extensive use of CFD software developed by the F1 team as well as fine-tuning in the wind tunnel.


DB: How would you describe the design process at Ferrari?

FM: The creation of a new Ferrari is always a very special occasion. We go searching after a shape which can capture and transmit the very essence of the brand. this represents a challenge to ourselves, while in doing this our mind is turned towards future scenarios.

In practical terms, the design ideas are expressed very freely at first, then quickly we seek a first convergence with the aerodynamic engineers to select the concepts which seem to have more potential for development. the general design process is not dissimilar to that of other automotive design studios, but I would say the development of aerodynamic concepts takes center stage early on and on the F12 Berlinetta is an example of the positive effect this can have on the design. We are available to develop innovative and highly original solutions like the aero bridge (between the bonnet and wing) which add value to the overall design.


Fascinating indeed.

Be sure to check out the rest of the interview over at Design Boom.


Simon is a Brooklyn-based industrial designer and Managing Editor of EVD Media. When he finds the time to design, his focus is on helping startups develop branding and design solutions to realize their product design vision. In addition to his work at Nike and various other clients, he is the main reason anything gets done at EvD Media. He once wrestled an Alaskan alligator buzzard to the ground with his bare hands… to rescue Josh.