2013 Buick Enclave Design: behind the scenes

2013 Buick Enclave Design: behind the scenes

Buick lead sculptor Nick Barkley explains how he and his team evolved the exterior design of the Buick Enclave, the model that introduced the brand’s current design philosophy.


The official document reported here gives some insights on the design work done by lead sculptor Nick Barkley, who also shares some comments on his job and his personal work.

The Buick Enclave was the originator of the brand’s current design philosophy. For the new 2013 model, designers evolved the vehicle’s sculpted exterior by refining details while preserving the overall identity.

“In the design world, improving a successful product can be a bigger challenge than starting with a clean sheet.”

2011 Buick Enclave 2013 Buick Enclave
The 2011 Enclave (left) and the 2013 model (right)

The new exterior includes revised front and rear fascias, LED lighting, a new hood and black-chrome waterfall grille, integrated exhaust outlets, new wheel designs, and more monochromatic design elements than the current model.

2013 Buick Enclave 2013 Buick Enclave

Working with the nuances of the car fell to lead sculptor Nick Barkley and a design team.

In addition to manipulating full-scale clay models, much of Barkley’s creative work is done digitally with three-dimensional modeling programs.

2013 Buick Enclave “Buicks have been some of the toughest work I’ve done because they are so sculptural,” said Barkley, a General Motors designer for 12 years.

“There are so many concave and convex forms. To make an organic, hand-shaped look show through the forms is both difficult and rewarding.”

Asked to name the most-challenging element of the Enclave’s design, Barkley pointed to the traditional waterfall grille that went through countless iterations before a final form emerged that met both the design team’s standards and manufacturing capabilities. The production part remains true to the earliest clay mockups.

Barkley is most proud of what he calls the “check mark” along the bottom of each headlamp and the recessed intersection in the fascia just below.

“Designers start with two-dimensional sketches where surfaces aren’t fully imagined. It’s my job, and really my signature, to add surface quality and execute form and intersections in 3D. It’s like completing a puzzle.”

Buick Enclave Sculptor Nick Barkley Buick Enclave Sculptor Nick Barkley

In his free time, Barkley uses his skills in a home studio to create life-size clay and wood sculptures inspired by works of iconic artists like Michelangelo and Bernini.

“My work at home is completely free of constraints and lets me work with my hands more, but I’d like to think my art benefits my work on car design.”

“Some cars I see seem to be designed around lines and the surfaces between them feel forced. Inspired by my art, I like to create vehicles that instead have the surfaces influence the lines. The Buick Enclave is a great example of that.”

Speaking about the work done as a design team, he adds: “A car designer is like a composer,” he said. “Sculptors like me are the first violins of the design organization. Our job is to play the music.”

(Source: Buick)

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