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.