Head of Design at E1 Series

Asher Erskine

Asher Erskine (Head of Design at E1 Series)

Asher is Head of Design at E1 Series, the first all-electric raceboat World Championship. Previously he worked with advertising giant Dentsu and materials science company PANGAIA.

England, UK • March 15, 2024

What led you into design?

My parents. My mother is a painter and my father is a sculptor. Some of my happiest memories growing up are the hours drawing, painting and making. At that age, it all just felt like playing. My art teachers must've noticed and sent me for a session at Chelsea College of Art, which is where my mum studied. I loved the thought of being in the same environment that they were.

My two older brothers and I would watch my dad work in his studio and each night read from their incredible collection of art and design books. I can still remember some of those pages so vividly even now. Creatively, we had a go at just about everything. That's the wonderful thing about trying lots when you're young - you're not worried about making a mistake, because you're not old enough to understand the rules if there even are any.

I found a list of the top design studios in London and wrote to them all about a summer job when I was at school. I joined architecture studio AL_A during their projects for Sky Central (coincidentally where my brother works), and the renovation of the Exhibition Road Quarter of the V&A Museum. It was the best first role you could dream of - an intro to sketching, model-making, CAD and a wonderfully encouraging team.

What does a typical day look like?

I like to be up early for some form of exercise, either a swim or a walk if the weather is nice enough. I read or listen to a podcast on the way to the office, normally psychology or philosophy - I find it hard to focus if I’m not learning something. Then into our office in West London, which is home to three electric racing championships under one roof; Formula E, Extreme E and us at E1.

Our office is also home to a wonderful pup called Luigi.

The beauty of a startup is that every day is different. One day might be preparing visuals for a new team owner like Perez or Tom Brady. If we’re leading up to an event, it might be city branding like we've done in Venice or Monaco. My background is industrial design, so it’s always a treat to work on something physical. The variety of work does keep things interesting. It’s a wonderful mix of brand, graphics, print and visual design.

What's your workstation setup?

I use a 13" MacBook Pro M1 because of how portable and powerful it is. It's the perfect backpack-sized laptop. I use a second screen at home and the office, with a Magic keyboard and mouse. I keep a notebook at hand for quick scribbles, either a Moleskin, or Field Notes if I'm on the go, and a Rotring Rapid Pro ballpoint pen. I've got a thing for writing in full caps and black ink only. I'm a lefty so quick drying ink is a must.

Above my desk at home is an original print by Barrie AF Clarke. There's also a model Aston Martin and a 3D-printed SpaceX Dragon 2 that was a gift from my friend Felix.

Working in racing, it's great fun to get out of the office and work on-site. We recently had a shakedown of the RaceBird (our electric foiling race boat) on Lago Maggiore in Milan, a famous proving ground for boats. Our workspace was also home to a helicopter - it felt like working on the set of a Mission Impossible film.

Where do you go to get inspired?

Wise words on inspiration from anywhere

Inspiration can come from anywhere. Books, music, museums, nature, films. Especially films. You can learn so much from just watching a great film. Even from a great title sequence or movie poster. Composition, typography, lighting, colour theory, storytelling. These are all the important ingredients.

If it's a place, then it has to be Duxford Air Museum. I've been going since I was little. It's full of aircraft, military vehicles, and simulators. Unlike most museums, you can get right up close and even inside lots of what they have. Playing in the cockpit of a Spitfire and running down the aisle of Concorde as a child made an impression.

Having an archive of the things that inspire you is just as important, which is why I'm really happy Apple has launched Freeform. It's exactly what I've been wanting for years now. I find it helpful to work on an infinite canvas and it's great that you can collaborate with shared boards. I've got my team using it now and it's working well.

Freeform is Apple's solution for digital moodboards. These notes were during a research phase for a motion graphics teaser project.

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

Apple Vision Pro. I love the outside-facing screen to break the physical barrier between the wearer and the outside world. It's such an Apple touch to go to all that trouble for something that will inevitably feel so natural it goes unnoticed by most. Those are the touches that make things special.

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

We just had our inaugural race in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with the E1 Jeddah GP. It was an incredible feeling to see three years of work come to life on the waters of the Red Sea.

We also launched our first-ever VIP hospitality, Ocean Club. Designing the look and feel was a dream come true - I've always been obsessed with spaces and details. Expansive floor-to-ceiling windows offered breathtaking panoramic views of the racing action on the Red Sea, while rippled metal adorned surfaces throughout, bringing the mesmerizing allure of glistening water to the inside. A sophisticated palette of striped fabrics, neutral hues, and rich natural materials gave a subtle nod to the timeless elegance of nautical themes and our cherished Italian heritage.

What design challenges do you face at your company?

We're a small team with a huge vision. E1's mission is to deliver a world-first electric series in iconic cities around the world, all underpinned by vital environmental action. Working on a project with such massive ambitions means working together. You can have all the best plans and processes in place, but sometimes you just have to be reactive and triage tasks.

What music do you listen to while designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

Be tough. It's so simple, but you've got to back your ideas and your work. It's the infamous 'design by committee' battle every creative faces. My dad has a great line that goes something like, 'you'd never ask a doctor for help and then offer your opinion'. People see something and immediately make a judgement - we're wired this way. It's your job as a designer to defend your thinking.

That is not to say shut off outside input. The opposite is true, it's always invaluable. Be receptive to what matters, but take care to focus your attention on what really matters. Pleasing everyone ultimately pleases no one, especially not you as the designer who should be steering the project.

My favourite story about all this comes from Michelangelo. Working in Florence on the statue of David, a notable official came to see the work in progress and pointed out that the nose needed fixing. Too important to ignore, Michelangelo climbed 17ft to the head of the sculpture and faked some adjustments, banging his chisel against the stone to create a flurry of falling marble dust. The official proclaimed it was now perfect and left happy, unaware that nothing had changed at all. It stands today unchanged, universally recognised as a masterpiece.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

Say hello on Instagram, see more work on my website, and stay up to date with E1.