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Exclusive: Sean Bull on designing the DRAGON livery

We spoke to livery designer Sean Bull on creating the colour schemes for Dragon Racing and the methods behind conceiving the perfect livery design.

If you’re a racing fan and you use social media, chances are, you’ve probably seen Sean Bull’s work. The livery designer is well known for his Fantasy F1 livery designs that he frequently shares online, garnering him a strong following on social media.

No doubt, a man of his talents will quickly be taken notice by those at the top. So, it’s not surprising that for someone who has only been designing liveries professionally for a year, Sean Bull’s CV boasts names such as Red Bull and DRAGON.

What started off as a hobby has quickly turned into a dream job, Bull recently landed a job in the graphic design department of the Renault Formula One team. “Formula One has always been a lifelong passion and my goal to enter since I was a child,” he says.

“I studied automotive design at university to give me a better and more complete understanding of 3D form. It really started as a hobby. I was creating liveries, mostly retro ones to start with and I started posting them online. In the last year, my work has really taken off and it’s good to reap the benefits for the hard work gone into my out-of-hours work.”

The first livery he fell in love with was the blue and yellow Renaults of Fernando Alonso’s from the 2005-2006 era. “The cars, the noise, the shapes, were all just perfect and I loved that era of Formula One,” says Bull.

“The R25 and R26’s livery just flowed beautifully across the car and did a good job of using the cars’ shapes and sections to ‘give’ it the livery, very simple blocking of surfaces and colours but it worked brilliantly, and has remained iconic until this day.”

Formula One is not the only championship on his radar, after attending the first Formula E London ePrix, Bull has since been keeping a close eye on the all-electric series. It wasn’t long until his designs caught the eye of DRAGON Team Principal, Jay Penske, and Sean was contacted and assigned to design the team’s season 4 livery.

“He was very encouraged by my work, and he wanted to really push the DRAGON team’s branding and identity back to its roots after last season,” says Bull on working with Penske and the DRAGON team.

“He’s great to work for and gets really involved, and brings a massive amount of passion and enthusiasm to every aspect of the team. The best part is that he is always open to new ideas and gave me a lot of freedom with the teams livery and other branding elements.”

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”We worked through loads of proposals and little tweaks and alterations. I must have over 100 different design files for the creation of this year’s car!”[/perfectpullquote]

What was the design proposal given by DRAGON? “It really started with a return to the classic metallic “DRAGON red” and we developed it from there,” he says.

“We initially moved away from the split liveries, then right at the end, came back to it, and with great effect! The reception from the fans has been great for both liveries. We worked through loads of proposals and little tweaks and alterations. I must have over 100 different design files for the creation of this year’s car!”

“One of the initial moodboard images sent over by Jay and the team was the Red Porsche 917, with the flowing white lines following the contours of the bodywork. So, that was always in my mind throughout every stage, not trying to copy it, but replicating the same feeling of motion, energy, speed and elegance with the striping following the bodywork across the Formula E car.”

DRAGON has always been big on personality, so it’s crucial that their cars reflect on this aspect. What’s also unique about the DRGAON colour scheme is that it’s the only team in Formula E to have a dual-livery for each car, which reflects the team’s identity and disruptive ethos, while also showcasing and differentiating its drivers.

“DRAGON is a very proud American team, so the little detail of the minimalist ‘flag’ adorning the car and team garage shows a strong sense of the team’s national pride and identity. These elements are in keeping with the design being as clean and elegant as it can be. The absence of too many obtrusive shapes and distracting patterns across the car is a reflection of the team’s approach to both business and racing.”

Looking at Bull’s design portfolio, it’s fair to point out that he’s somewhat of a perfectionist. The attention to detail he gives, even into his “out-of-hours” work is impressive. This is a useful trait to have when working with DRAGON, as the design process had to be meticulously carried out.

“All my work is done on photoshop for the speed and efficiency in changes so that I can turn around for the team. As I mentioned, Jay has a very keen interest in every aspect of the team, especially with ‘relaunching’ the DRAGON identity on this year’s car, that was more important than ever, so I worked very closely with Jay and the team in every step of the way until we reached the final design conclusion, eventually I prepared a CAD livery to better visualise the design for the team and show the design from any angle, a big learning curve for me with such a large task, but I loved every second of it.”

[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”My design approach is to keep it simple and use the shape of the car to give you the best results.”[/perfectpullquote]

Was there a lot of challenges in designing the livery? “Not many, such was the freedom given. The new Formula E identity though, did prove a challenge to integrate smoothly with the massive box outlines on the side, nose and mirrors of the car, as it impacts the design quite a lot,” he says.

His approach to creating a good design is quite straightforward, “My design approach is to keep it simple and use the shape of the car to give you the best results. The DRAGON livery embodies my design ideology from this perspective.” He says.

Speaking of which, what does he think of the Gen2 Formula E car? “I love it! There’s some great shapes and surfaces to play with and will be interesting to see how they all line up on track next year!”

He has already conceived a concept livery for the DRAGON season 5 car, giving us a taste of the striking colour schemes we can expect to see when paired with the second generation Formula E car, and it’s definitely something that would make the wait for season 5 worthwhile.

Images courtesy of DRAGON Racing.

About Noor Amylia Hilda
Noor Amylia Hilda is a journalist based in Kuala Lumpur with bylines in titles such as Women's Health, Esquire and ELLE. She is also a freelance motorsport journalist covering the FIA Formula E championship and Formula 1.