Women takes the Wheel for Buick: Health Scalf Leads Design on Buick Encore


A large crowd has gathered around for the Buick news conference at the 2012 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). Eagerly anticipating journalists are waiting to get a glimpse and a photograph of things to come from the North American automaker. In this case, the glimpse of things to come is the 2013 Encore, a small luxury crossover set to rival the BMW X1 and Audi Q3.

The remarks are made. The vehicle is introduced and unveiled. The flashbulbs go into a frenzy. Then journalists rush the stage to get a more intimate view of the Encore’s exterior and interior.02x197_7a7f_9

Heather Scalf, the lead creative designer of colour and trim on Buick vehicles, stands by to watch the reactions. After all, it is her work, combined with the collaboration of a global design team that has been debuted for the masses to feast upon.

Born and raised in Detroit, Scalf recalls visiting the NAIAS as a kid. “I grew up coming to the auto show,” she says. “But automotive was never really my focus.”

With her Bachelor of Interior Architecture degree from Lawrence Technical University in Southfield, Mich., Scalf went on to intern and then collaborate with local residential designers before being extended the opportunity to work at GM in the company’s colour and trim studio.

It was her first corporate job out of school and she has been there ever since, which was more than a decade ago. Initially, her projects included working on Chevrolet sedans, but that soon evolved into a more global venture.

For a while, Scalf supported Chevy and Buick brands at the same time, but, after the studio strategically split the products up, her talents were directed specifically toward Buick.01x004_7c41_9

Working with a worldwide team, whil    e being based in Detroit, can have benefits and drawbacks, she says.

“It has been really enjoyable working globally the last several years,” Scalf says with a big smile. “For me, I really love working on global programs because communicating and working with my regional counterparts, I find very exciting. Being able to collaborate with them on a daily to weekly basis is great, but also being able to travel and work face-to-face with them is, too. Seeing their culture and how they live and meeting very unique and interesting people from all around the world, I just find that to be fulfilling.”

The travel schedule can sometimes be rigorous, but it is essential to a project’s fruition and success.2014-Buick-Encore-photo-colors-espresso-brown-metallic-GYO_1920x1080

“At times, there has been more of a need to travel, which is really great, because it is easier working face-to-face with someone when you’re trying to explain to them your points and ideas,” Scalf says.

“For everyone to come and rush up on the stage, and try and take pictures, it’s definitely thrilling to see the excitement and energy they have, and the interest,” Scalf conveys. “To be part of that, I think it’s wonderful.”

She adds, “After working on a program for a couple of years, being very intimate with that vehicle, paying attention to all the little details and wanting it to be executed in a certain way, and then actually seeing it on the road, in production, with somebody driving it, it’s definitely great.”

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