To save some time and be equally helpful to many of you who are interested into chasing a career in the car design, I spent time writing this FAQ page (Frequently Asked Questions). Here you will find answers to common questions such as design schools, getting into the industry, workflow etc. If you feel like leaving a comment, or ask another question – you can do that on the bottom of the page. I hope you find this FAQ page useful!
1. How do I become a car designer? How to start and what do I need?
The first thing you need to know is that being a car designer doesn’t mean you have to draw, think and sketch cars only. A simple pen/pencil and a piece of paper is all you need for starters. It is of considerable benefit if you’re already studying in an art school or art college, where drawing classes are essential and you’re surrounded by creative people. However, it is often the case that people who work hard on their own and improve their artistic skills can later on get into Car Design School. Why do you need to draw well? Because this is the way Artists and Designers communicate, this is the language we speak and the language we all understand. Therefore, it is essential that you know how to draw anything that is around you – from a cigarette box to complicated organic shapes, such as the human body. When you master the line quality and you start seeing on the paper what your eyes see – then you’re on the right track. But before jumping straight to, cars you need to have a good understanding of volumes and proportions, and know how the lines work – this will come only by endless practicing and drawing many, many other things – including cars of course. Never give up and be patient, practice makes perfect!
2. Design Schools?
There are not many design schools in the world offering education in transportation design. For me, the most important thing the school needs to offer is connections with the industry. This will allow you to get an internship while studying, and open up vital relations with real designers from the studios – something which is very important when you start looking for a job after graduation.
In my opinion, in the recent years there are two schools which offer the best chances to get into the industry: The Art Center in Pasadena, California and Pforzheim in Germany. They’re both placed close to many independent design studios and car manufacturers. The schools have very strong relations and often invite professionals to teach class. The Royal College of Art in London is also a great school, offering Masters in vehicle design, but it doesn’t seem to have the same level as before. Together with the Royal College of Art and the Art Center in California, Coventry University is one of the oldest schools offering a degree in transportation design and although many design chiefs have graduated from Coventry University, in the last years the school has lost a lot of its presence in the industry. You should also consider UMEA University in Sweden which is definitely a very nice school, CCS in Detroit USA, Scuola Politecnica di Design and Instituto Europeo di Design – both in Italy. Car Design News & Car Body Design have put good lists of schools offering transportation design courses, check it out:
Make sure you visit the website of the desired school, there you will find all the information you needed for your application.
I graduated in 2005 with BA Automotive Design from Coventry University and I think we had one of the best degree shows the school ever had.
3. How to create a good portfolio?
The portfolio is a selection of 20-30 slides describing your best work. Usually, behind this presentation there are many days of work ad hundreds of sketches and renderings to choose from. Once you have all the material ready for your portfolio, you have to make a good selection and arrange it in a way people will understand. The selection must include everything from 5 minute sketch to detailed 3D Alias model of your designs. The wider your range of skills, the better it is for you. You must be able to show quick & fast pen sketches, handling of the traditional techniques such as pencils and markers, as well as Photoshop re-touches and Hi-Res detailed renderings. If you have decent skills with 3D software, it could be only to your advantage.
Regarding the projects in the portfolio, you have to display the ability to work on production-ready designs, featuring a lot of feasible solutions. On the other hand, we have to see that you have advanced thinking. This is the place for more crazy and conceptual designs – and it is always very welcome! Finally you can add a few pages showing some traditional or conceptual art…or anything that you consider relevant to your work & skills – Architecture, Product Design, Graphic Design, Fashion Design, Photography…etc. Put a small description of 1-2 lines where needed, but don’t write novels that nobody will read! Keep the layout clean and away from fancy “graphic enhancements”.
4. What types of media & materials do you use?
My workflow is a combination of traditional drawing on paper with the use of digital technology. My work desk is equipped with all types of pens, pencils, brushes, full sets of markers and anything else a designer needs and I enjoy using them on a daily basis. On the other hand, I always have a working PC that I can use for things like quick sketches, digital colouring of a sketch or Print-Ready work. I think the use of traditional techniques is quite essential and still is the foundation of any digital technology.
Some Materials I use:
Ball Point Pens: Pelikan Stick, Bic Medium, Pentel BK & Hybrid Series, Schneider 505 Fine, Pilot BPS
Pencils: Fiber-Castell, Derwent, Berol – Karismacolor, Prismacolor
Markers: AD Chartpak Markers (the ones I prefer), Copic
Bleedproof Marker Pads: Letraset, Canson, Copic etc.
5. Wacom Tablet. How important is the Wacom Tablet and which one is the best choice?
One thing that you must be clear on – the use of a Wacom tablet won’t make you a better designer. It is not a problem if you don’t have one. I learned how to design & work on Photoshop long before I could afford Wacom. I even did my diplom work without the help of it, so don’t feel obliged to get one. If you’re not sure and want to try it first, buy a cheap model or second hand Wacom. However, if you’re heavily involved in digital painting and you use Photoshop & Painter on a daily basis then it is a “must have” tool for you. Without the use of tablet digital painting and sketching is impossible. I use my tablet to colour my drawings/renderings or even create a sketch from scratch directly on the Photoshop canvas.
I have only used the professional series of Wacom in my design work – Intuos & Cintiq. I use Intuos3 A4 model at work and at home too. I’ve worked on the Cintic too but I didn’t enjoy it in long term design work. The Intuos is far more precise, responsive, fast and intuitive. Much better in terms of ergonomics and leaves you open to choose your own screen too. Yes, the Cintiq is supposed to be the new top level, offering you the amazing world of “digital paper” but for me it’s not quite there yet. On top of that, it costs as much as several Intuos tablets together.
I would suggest Intuos3 A4 or A3 size, they’re both fantastic. If you enjoy working while on the move, you may consider small sizes like A5 or A6; they’re a good solution for non-professional users too.
6. What resolutions do you use when working?
While the dimensions always vary (but never bellow 2000px wide – both for digital sketching & rendering) the image resolution is no less than 300dpi. I always tend to go for higher resolution, because that allows you to look at crispier image and enjoy high-quality print of your work. With nowadays computers, there is no problem working and processing hi-resolution images. When you need to, you can easily resize them down and send the images via e-mail or so on.
7 . What Hardware & Software do you use?
Good and powerful hardware is always very crucial, especially working with hi-resolution Photoshop images or CAD models – it will save you time, and ease your work process. On the other hand, nowadays PCs are powerful enough to offer a satisfying productivity for any designer and anything in the mid to high-end range will be enough for you to do your work and there is no point in spending a fortune for hi-end workstation. At work I use a proper HP workstation connected to 24″ screen, while 15.4″ HP mobile workstation with the same 24″ widescreen display is perfect to do my work at home. I have the same Intuos3 A4 tablet on both computers.
2D Software – I mainly work with Adobe Photoshop. I use it for anything from scanning, sketching, rendering, digital manipulation to presentation-ready boards. Sometimes, I also switch to Corel Painter and Alias Sketch Book Pro.
3D Software – Like most professional car designers I use Alias Auto Studio to translate my 2D design into complete 3D model (still not good enough with this Software). This is probably the ultimate program that allows you to create and control amazing 3D model that later on can be rendered with different shaders and materials. You may consider other programs working with NURBS such as Rhino 3D and ICEM for example.
8. I see you’re preparing a DVD with Car Design Tutorials. When it will be available?
Yes, I am working on a DVD featuring several video tutorials. Inside, you will find lessons on basic principles in drawing and rendering, as well as advanced techniques used in sketching and rendering of a car. The DVD will be available some time in the late spring 2009. If you have any questions regarding the upcoming DVD, feel free to ask me.
9. Can I email you for some advice? Can you teach me some car design tricks?
Many of you have reached me in the need of teaching you some car design principles and tricks. Unfortunately I am unable to give you a hand with this because car design is something you cannot teach online via e-mails, etc. It is also very time consuming and it is practically not possible to pay equal attention to everyone who asks for a feedback on his work.
However, I will try to be as helpful as I can when publishing online, some of my works or sharing my knowledge and experience. If you have a particular question that needs special attention, feel free to contact me, I will do my best to help.