Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Career in Automotive Design

Probably every neighborhood from New York to California and Maine to Florida has a kid who likes to draw cars. And maybe those kids will proudly announce that when they grow up they are going to be car designers. For many, that dream will fall by the wayside but for a select few it will become reality. In the early mid-forties, Giorgietto Giugiaro and Marcello Gandini were a couple of Italian kids who like to draw cars. Today, they are Italy's top designers.

The vehicle designer is responsible for creating the exterior and interior appearance of over the road vehicles. Generally, these are automobiles but trucks, vans, coaches, and motorcycles are also included.

The designers usually work in teams. One person does the exterior, another the interior and a third works with colors, materials and trim. The working environment and working conditions are pleasant. It is a risk-free career that does not usually require overtime or weekend work.

A design begins with a set of digital or manual sketches. Once these are approved by management, more detailed drawings follow. Then clay models or digital models are developed. The same procedure is followed for exterior, interior, and color and trim design.

However the road from car sketches to the design studio is paved with hard work beginning in high school. Auto design is one of the most competitive careers in the design industry. Consequently the competition to gain admission to the colleges that offer transportation design classes is fierce.

Prospective designers need to begin in high school with all the two-dimensional drawing classes they can fit into their schedule. But it isn't enough to just be able to draw a car. They also need to understand aerodynamics, engineering concepts and ergonomics. They will be working with figures so knowledge of math and physics is required.

And throughout high school they need to work on building a drawing portfolio. All colleges require a portfolio. And it goes without saying that the better the portfolio, the better the graduate's chances of being accepted by a prestigious institution.

While many schools offer majors in industrial design only a few specialize in transportation design, which is the recommended career path for future vehicle designers.

It is important to make a wise choice of colleges. One needs to examine the credentials of the faculty and the reputation of the courses. Most important, the institution should have a strong industry connection. Part-time faculty members who work in the industry are of immeasurable help, in guiding students' work to meet industry's demands and assisting them in finding employment upon graduation.

Once in college, the students will pursue a four-year design major. During the first years they will study drawing and design theory. In later years they will concentrate on computing and model making. Some schools provide an internship in a design studio during the third or fourth year. These are valuable since internships are often a direct path to an entry-level job upon graduation.