Passionate about design and cars, have you always dreamed of becoming an automotive designer? This dream job, which allows you to participate in the long history of the car industry, requires many skills, both artistic and engineering, and it is important to know every facet of this career, in order to be able to consider it with its advantages and disadvantages. Here we are giving you some tips on how to become an automotive designer.
What is car design?
Automotive design is a broad term that defines the shape of a car's body as well as its interior design, but also the colors and materials that will be used for a range of cars. That's why the profession of car designer requires to be aware of all the trends, to keep an eye on the work of competitors, but above all to be creative, in order to create the trends of tomorrow. Obviously, more or less freedom will be possible depending on the specialization. While a designer working for mass-market cars will have to work in the real world, with design cars, but keeping a practical and ergonomic side, the one specializing in concept car and prototype design will have a greater artistic freedom, in order to imagine the car of a more or less distant future.
Automotive design: a very special category in the art world.
A threefold role requiring specialization.
Exterior automotive design.
The exterior designer will have the heavy task of realizing the overall look of the car. It is the designer who will often imagine and create the aesthetics of the car, with the bodywork and external accessories, that all potential buyers will see first. That's why he or she will regularly work with marketing teams, who are aware of the trends, and will have to be up to date on the current trends and desires of the public for which the brand is intended. He or she will also have to work closely with the engineers in order to match the car to the different elements that will have to be integrated into it, but also to respect several mandatory standards imposed by the authorities. Creative and resourceful, the designer must be able to adapt to the requirements of other disciplines, while knowing how to convince others of their vision.
Automotive interior design
The difference between a classic car and a high-end designer car is usually in its features and interior. The interior designer, as the name suggests, will be the person in charge of creating the internal elements of the car. Dashboard, gearshift, seats, ... All these elements are the responsibility of the interior designer. A true goldsmith, with an extreme precision in the drawing, he or she must be full of ideas to make the car as aesthetic as possible and as pleasant to live with as possible, according to the manufacturing costs allocated. This is why, like the exterior car designer, he or she must be in constant contact with the engineers, ergonomists and the color and material designer, who will give their expertise on the feasibility of the project, but also on the costs of materials and manufacturing, as well as with the marketing team, which will make sure that the car corresponds, both visually and financially, to the intended target.
The color and material automotive design
A well designed car also means quality materials and colors at the forefront of the current trends. This is where the color and material designer comes in, who, based on the sketches and models of the exterior and interior designers, will finalize the work by proposing a whole range of colors for each element, from the gear knob to the bodywork, including the control buttons on the dashboard, but also by selecting materials in accordance with the desired look, but also with the price at which the car will be sold. He or she will also work with the engineers and the marketing team to come up with a final version of the project that meets the needs of each department.
Automotive designer: a job requiring specific skills.
An understanding of digital design is required.
When talking about design, drawing and creativity is the first thing that comes to mind. The automotive designer, although working on paper for his initial sketches, does not stop there, and must also have a knowledge of digital drawing and 3D modeling, in order to make the project more understandable for each discipline, and to be able to defend his or her vision more easily during team meetings. If tablets such as the ISKN Repaper make his or her task easier today, by allowing ideas from paper sketches to be transferred instantly to the computer, he or she must nevertheless master CAD software to perfection, in order to submit a completed project, where the car's design will be emphasized.
Engineering notions allowing to work on the car design with intelligence.
Car designer, unlike other design sectors, is a job that requires specific skills, especially in terms of engineering. Without being an expert in the field, he or she must understand the basics of this discipline in order to design cars that take into account the constraints imposed by engineering. Knowing how an engine is made to allow room for it, knowing how materials react to heat or cold, knowing how to link automotive design and safety, optimizing performance and air intake... All these parameters must be taken into account when creating a coherent vehicle design and gaining efficiency in its creation.
A good background, creativity and an understanding of current trends.
Car design requires creativity, in order to be able to create innovative models, but also to be aware of each new trend in terms of car, but also fashion, decoration, colors of the moment, ... Responding to the needs of buyers, and their desires is an integral part of this creative profession, and one must be able to offer designs in line with their time. Whether it is for the size of the cup holders, for the features available in one country but not in another, for a color that is fashionable in France but not in China, for a car adapted to American highways but not to busy cities like Tokyo... The design of a car must take into account all these parameters and therefore requires a general aesthetic culture, but also on the habits and customs of each country in order to meet these constraints.
A passion for the automobile above all else.
What makes a good designer, beyond his or her technical skills, is above all his or her knowledge of the automotive world. Knowing the rich history of this industry, the tops and flops, the mythical cars, those that have marked their history, ... All this is essential to recover only the best, and to show a creativity without limit from this knowledge.
How to become an automotive designer?
There are many ways to study to become an automotive designer.
As we have seen, becoming an automotive designer requires a variety of skills that require a complete apprenticeship. If there is no training in automotive design for the general public, such as a BTS in automotive design, leading to a "diploma in automotive design", alternative courses are still possible. With a BTS STD2A, a BTS product design, a DSAA option industrial creation, engineering studies in industrial design, or even through classical art courses, it is then possible to redirect to this profession, these courses are commonly accepted as studies to become an automotive designer. With the same talent and knowledge, the real difference to enter this closed world, will be to be a real car enthusiast, and to know each specificity of the cars of yesterday and today, as well as their history, in order to adapt yourself as well as possible to the constraints imposed by the car design.
What evolution can we expect in car design?
As a beginner, the salary of an automotive designer will be around 2,500 euros gross, but prospects for evolution are possible, and after a few years of experience and successful projects, it is possible to expect up to 5,000 euros gross, or even more as a design project manager for a mythical brand for example. Concerning the place of work, if it is possible to work for a manufacturer, where it will be necessary to keep the artistic line of the brand, which leaves little room for varied projects, but which can be a real objective for enthusiasts, some will choose to opt for a research department specialized in car design, in order to answer calls for projects and to work on many models of cars totally different from each other. Eventually, it is possible to become a project manager for a car manufacturer, or to set up one's own car design agency, and to lead teams and carry out projects from A to Z. The most creative can also specialize in the design of concept cars, but positions are scarce and only those with experience in the creation of more traditional cars can hope to work in this specific field.
Becoming an automotive designer requires many skills. Between creativity, knowledge of CAD and digital drawing, engineering notions and a general and automotive culture without fault, it is important to train and to go beyond the essential knowledge that your studies will provide, in order to be able to integrate the design teams of a car manufacturer or of a specialized agency, and eventually, to evolve and be in charge of your own projects.
Get into creative businesses.
It is important to realize that choosing a creative profession is first and foremost choosing a profession that you are passionate about.
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