Automotive Design Course:
Automotive Design & Marketing Management
Welcome to the second post of the introduction. In the previous post we saw that automotive design can be interpreted in many ways. Each student who has asked about the course has different motivations, so we have make different groups: Vehicle performance, motorsport, styling, vehicle design and development (engineering). In the first post the first two points were discussed and in this the last two will be clarified.
What does a car designer do?
3 - STYLING
To draw cars, a common path is to study engineering, and then do a Master's degree in automotive styling to improve your artistic skills. However, the reality is that much of the design work on a car is done without handling a pencil. One thing is engineering itself, and another is the artistic field in which the sketches are made, called styling.
Styling is part of the car development process, but it is only one of the design phases. Now we are going to see it in a summarized way, but later will see a post dedicated exclusively to car styling.
Styling involves areas such as car sketching. People with any kind of degrees can work in this area, and even without formal training. The most important thing here is the portfolio. Participating in contests and getting good positions also scores points. Most of the workers in this area have a Bachelor of Engineering, since the drawing has to meet a series of technical characteristics, but it is an accessible position for any level of studies. Fine Arts is also a very common path to work in Automotive Styling, and, to a lesser extent, architecture. Studying, with or without previous training, in a car design school would be the ideal way.
The fact that this job position is open to any level of studies makes it a world of very difficult access, since many people know how to draw. Due to this it will be an advantage to obtain additional knowledge to learn to argue your designs and that they are not simple isolated sketches.
Here it is necessary to understand a harsh reality. Hand-drawing a car is a necessary step in car design, in fact, about 2,000 sketches are made for each car. But a single car drawing, in isolation, is worth nothing. What has value is the study behind this sketch, its argumentation, a study of trends, initial calculations and forecasts, etc.
We have to keep in mind that a car brand usually invests between 600 and 1.2 million euros in a standard car development over a period of three to five years. It employs between 1,000 and 5,000 people, with hundreds of engineers; in addition to a plenty of suppliers that will employ many people indirectly. In other words, the production of a vehicle moves many jobs and a lot of money. These figures have to help us understand that no sketch, in isolation, justifies a manufacturer to move that immense amount of resources. But it is also true that sketching is necessary in the design phase, but there is much more behind it, and it is worth knowing.
So it is very different to make a sketch for the modification of a particular car, which is perfectly correct, than to mobilize entire factories to produce thousands and thousands of those cars. In the same way, it has nothing to do with designing a car for video games, than for its production.
A very interesting option for students is to present their sketches to Low-Volume Car Manufacturers, that is, independent car manufacturers, which usually work with much lower figures, both in terms of staff and financial investment.
This does not mean that a sketch is worth nothing, in fact, on very specific occasions, cars have been produced from a sketch that has won a design contest (Audi TT), or from the chief designer's sketch (Jaguar XJ220). But always after an extensive feasibility study behind it. So, on the one hand it is important not to drop the pencil and take all possible styling courses, but on the other hand, it is vitally important to know how to justify your designs since a brand risks a lot if a model is not successful in the market.
Car Design Books
As usual, I will be suggesting some books, because the area of design is really extensive and each person wants to delve into totally different topics.
4 - Car design and development
In car design and development usually work engineers, although there are also other kinds of professionals. It is in the area that we will focus on in the course, which includes the styling phase.
What matters most is to be clear that there are no closed paths. Although it is not the usual thing, there are people working on car design and development with a Bachelor's Degree in History, because they knew how to argue how they can bring a different point of view to the current team and complement it.
In addition to training, a clear way to differentiate yourself and gain some experience is to participate in different projects, some examples are the following:
The most important thing is to know what area you want to dedicate yourself to in vehicle design: engine calculation, vehicle dynamics, aerodynamics ... or if you want to dedicate yourself to car styling. In the latter case, study what you study, never leave the pencil, it is that simple. There are architects and psychologists working on car design. The key is to find your site and have a very clear understanding of the car design phases, to know in which area you can specialize.
The Automotive Engineer
This course is mainly oriented to engineering students, but not exclusively. The main functions of the automotive engineer are to design and calculate new vehicle parts, or modify existing ones due to vehicle upgrades. In large manufacturers, no engineer designs the entire vehicle, but rather large teams of engineers work on specific parts of the vehicle. This work is highly technical, so in most phases of car design the creative work is lost.
Moreover, an engineer doesn't have to know anything about cars. This will surprise you, but it is the reality. The engineer who calculates the torsion of the chassis must have a deep knowledge of structural engineering, but he doesn't need to have an automotive culture. The same applies to the specialist in each of the technical areas. Of course, having automotive knowledge will make a difference. Above all, it will give you options to move up in decision-making positions. Conceptual vehicle design is one of the few areas where automotive culture is almost a requirement.
In addition to the functional and technical scope, the designer must ensure that the new part can be easily used in the other group car brands, or in other brands with which it shares a platform. It is also very important to reduce costs, increase quality, production speed and profitability. Something that, a priori, is not taken into account in the design when we speak in a purely aesthetic sense.
If you are a student, you are looking for your first opportunity and wondering how to work as a car designer, these tips can help you, since you will know exactly what brands are looking for and you will be able to differentiate yourself from your competition. An engineer must not only know how to design parts that resist certain efforts, but also know how to optimize costs and times.
Technological trends are becoming increasingly important, we are in a historic moment in the automotive industry due to the disruption of new technologies. So, if you want to enter this industry and you are a student, sometimes it will be hard for you due to lack of professional experience. But if you master one of the new technologies, your profile will be highly demanded because most professionals who have worked in the sector for years don't usually update their knowledge due to lack of time.
The main trends in the car are: autonomous driving, connectivity, electric vehicle (EV), smart design for the car interior and infotainment, autonomous driving. Mastering just one of these branches will make it easy for you to work on car design. Another important change will be car-sharing, so the design of the car must understand this business model concept and adapt the vehicle for shared and intuitive use for people.
In the MBAs of highly prestigious business schools, executives of large companies are usually invited to guide their students. At drivingyourdream we want to do something similar, and contact really important people in the sector to give us a series of tips.
This course wouldn't be possible without the support of other professionals who tell us about their experience and their day-to-day work. Today we bring the advice and vision of a truly special person: Chema Terol - President and CEO of Mazda Automobiles Spain.
From drivingyourdream, we thank you very much for his participation and the interest shown by the new generations of students, committing to help and spending his time to share his experience. Since his current position involves a really high burden of responsibility, it's appreciated that he have found a gap in his busy schedule for us.
Chema Terol - President and CEO of Mazda Automobiles Spain. Original text in Spanish, translated into English
- How do you think the design of the car of the future should be in order to be aligned with future consumer trends, digitization and the new marketing trends? What key elements should it include?
In my opinion, of all the trends that are emerging in the automotive industry, the most probable and that can most condition the development of future automobiles are the following ones:
· Decarbonisation: the effort to progressively reduce emissions of CO2 and other gases and particles are already allowing a rapid rise in electrification, either through 100% electric cars (BEV) or Hybrids in different configurations: Hybrids (HEV) , Plug-in hybrids (PHEV) and Microhybrids, as well as electric ones with autonomy extension.
Electrification inevitably entails batteries of greater size and weight, which will considerably condition the design of the vehicle by having to consider its site, protection, weight, as well as all the systems and ways of protection for passengers; for their repair or for the intervention of firefighters and emergency services in case of a fire or an accident. Currently, the high cost of batteries also indirectly affects the car design by forcing manufacturers and designers to save costs in other areas to compensate for this excess cost. The lower cooling needs in BEVs also play a role in allowing better aerodynamics and designs that need smaller or no front grill or air intakes.
· Safety: We are still far from fully autonomous vehicles becoming a reality, and even more so from their sale becoming widespread.
However, the growing concern for safety and for the accidents reduction, as well as the progressive aging of the population in the most developed countries is producing a rapid growth of driving assistance systems. Thus it seeks to cut the possible effects of mistakes made by drivers to avoid accidents, by adding laser and infrared sensors, radars, cameras, etc.
The incorporation of all these systems and sensors, as well as the vehicle adaptation to the fulfillment of an increasingly demanding regulation (EuroNCAP), will also condition the car design.
· Connectivity: Although the need for increased car connectivity is a reality, I'm not sure that this will lead to significant design changes. Perhaps the proliferation of entertainment systems and the digitization of gauges and controls through the use of touch screens has a greater influence than connectivity itself.
In an environment in which semi-autonomous driving systems are increasingly proliferating, and with greater restrictions and speed controls, further development of infotainment systems, comfort, soundproofing and interior design of cars is also foreseeable.
· Integration from the earliest stages: Another current car design trend is the integration of design teams, manufacturing and purchasing managers from the early stages, and not to follow the linear process: design - purchase - manufacturing.
This makes it possible to find possible cost and manufacturing problems earlier. This allows for changes at an early stage of the design, reducing unnecessary costs and delays in later stages.
- What principle should a car designer know about the business of car marketing and distribution in order to design a car according to the real consumers interests?
In my opinion, although the previous points are going to be important insofar as the incorporation of these new technologies is going to powerfully condition car design.
There is one aspect of car design that will not change, and that is one of the eternal keys to good design: The designer's ability to create a design that emotionally connects with the client.
It's the artistic component of the design, which makes some cars connect with the vast majority of customers, while others don't like or leave the majority indifferent. Perhaps the biggest novelty in this regard is the growing importance of interior design, ergonomics and comfort.
With this second post we complete the course introduction. In the next one we will see, in a summarized way, the phases of car design and product planning. In addition, we will enter the first phase of car development.
We are not native English speakers, so if you see any typo we apologize, and we would appreciate it if you would indicate it to correct it.