FAQ

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:
http://www.cardesignnews.com/site/careers/design_schools/

http://carbodydesign.com/directory/car-design/car-design-schools/
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?

As a professional designer I can not legally review your copyrighted materials. You must first submit a copyright release waiver before sending me any creative work. Please refer to the terms of use before taking any action.
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.

9 Comments

  1. I think the work you’ve been doing with this blog and your main page is fantastic. This section is really good for beginners to know what it takes to be succesfull in this competitive field. One of the most important things here is that you tell people how hard work and practice are important. It’s good for people to know that there’s no miracle and no way to learn these things without many sleepless nights of practice and passion. Thank you for sharing this kind of information with everyone!!
    I’m looking forward to your DVD!!

    Good luck!!

  2. hi dimi i dont know what 2 do, am an african a nigerian 2 be precise i saw ur page @ designers techniques.com its xplanatory tanx.i do some designs but i have a problem in gettin the desired shades and sketches.i also read ur faq on not able to share ur tutorials online but some how am helpless dats why i look onto u4 help.i have a dream2 become an auto engr and designer just like u ar and i also wish to compete in d any designin competition but due to underdevelopment and poverty in africa such professions ar not recognised so d only way to reach 2 u is 2ru d net cos i dont hav d means4 study abroad.sir dimitrov please ineed ur help cos i am determined 2be jus like u ar i know its stressful tendin 2 all ur mails also on ma part 2 i will have 2 be readin mails,tutors,techs,correctin ,viewin sketches its alos d same 4 me but its all 2 a blissful end pls sir dimi pls ponder about this.am at ur foot i need ur help

  3. thanks for the sharing. u inspire me to become car designer. thanks!

  4. Im currently a senior in high school. I’ve had a passion for cars ever since a little kid. My question for you is what do I do now? I know the career I want to pursue, but how do I make progress? What classes should I look to take in college? And I am thinking of attending the Art Institute. Is that a good idea for the first two years to go to an art college or should I just go to a normal college?

  5. Hi Dude . . . .
    I wanted to know what are the ways to prepare for the entrance exams for the entrance tests of the design schools…. (what type of questions are asked and what level of designing are they looking forward to from the students.)

  6. I’m a struggling artist and can’t afford the luxuries of going to design schools nor even copyrighting my drawings, but I know I can design good original concept producible cars and have in fact e-mailed my concept using only a pencil on an A4 paper ( next-gen Chevrolet Corvette – exterior/interior ) here at Holden Australia ( Sydney – where I reside ) and they in turn replied that I copyright them.. I also have a lot of other concepts that I want to submit ( especially to Subaru but as I said don’t have the means to get them internationally copyrighted and don’t know where to send them as Subaru doesn’t have any design studios – I even tried going to their Fuji and STI website ).

    I do not know what to do anymore and quite disappointed that all my efforts have been all for nothing.

  7. Hey sorry about originally posting this question in your portfolio. And here I tried to trim it down.

    I am thinking of applying to Tokyo Communication Arts school for car design but I am apprehensive. I studied Japanese and lived in Japan for part of high school and college so I’m not worried about language barriers or culture shock.

    My problem comes from the following thoughts. Is it a little too idealistic? I’m already 24 years old. As much as I would love to learn from professionals and get better at car design, I really can’t afford to get another useless degree that isn’t going to get me a job. If that happens, I’ll be 30 and still working minimum wage with tuition debt from two schools.

    So is this field too competitive? Do many talented designers end up unemployed because they don’t have any connections? Do design schools help students get jobs? Are car design jobs stable? Does Tokyo Communication Arts have a good reputation/do you think companies who hire designers consider it a good school? Does my being American and speaking Japanese/going to a Japanese school give me any sort of edge do you think?

    Again I’m really sorry this is such a big and complicated question but I really can’t find anyone who can answer it. I don’t know where to talk to car designers. If hard work pays off, I can put in the effort and the man hours, but if this is just going to be something that puts me in more debt and won’t help me get out then I need to know so I can avoid it.

    Thank you so much for any advise at all you can give.

    MikeW

  8. Hi Mikew,

    Sorry for the delay in the response. I prefer answering here than e-mail, because that’s the purpose of the blog. Needless to say, this could be quite useful to other people too.

    – Being now 24 years old and graduating at the age of 28-29 is nothing to worry about. Yes, some people graduated much earlier, but that doesn’t guarantee them more successful career. There is no age limit in this job. There is also people who have degrees from other universities and decided to persuade a career in Car Design in the late 20s and they still succeed! Of course, being younger is better and will give you a slight edge over the older guys, but as already mentioned don’t worry about this too much. If you’re good you’ll make it at any age!

    – Car Design is SUPER COMPETITIVE! Imagine, the population of this planet is 6 billions and counting, at the same time car designers are 1500-2000 people only (roughly speaking)! This is very very rare job and going on the quest of being a car designer you must know that there are only few jobs available (if any) and you must be prepared to face the facts that you may never make it. For example…If you’re an estate agent, dentist or an accountant there will be thousands…even millions of jobs available out there. Therefore you make the safe and boring choice of chasing a job that will always be available and consequently risks are much smaller and you don’t have to worry about finding a place for yourself. The choice is yours alone! So, if you think you’re really good and ready to make some sacrifices to become a car designer then go for it! I always say people must follow their dreams and if this is what your heart tells you…then DO IT!

    – Connections. Here is how the system works:

    1. Well connected & talented guys find place first.
    2. Well connected guys find place second.
    3. Non connected but talented guys find place 3rd and last, if there is anything left for them.

    I would suggest choosing a school with good connections over anything else. Schools with strong links to the industry will help finding place easier and quicker. There are schools like the Art Center in California, Pforzheim in Germany and RCA in London that have strong positions in the industry which in turn makes it much easier for getting a job after graduating. However, the school alone won’t make you a better designer and if you’re good you’ll make it regardless the school. I don’t really know much about the Tokyo Design School.

    – Jobs and money. Car Design is relatively well paid, but that is quite variable as it depends on your position in the company and the country. In England Car Designer is in the top 10 best paid jobs! There are companies like Renault that have studios in the Not-So-Well-Developed countries around the world and they pay 3 times as less to designers doing the same job as the ones in their Headquarters. This is discrimination!

    Stability – car design is directly linked to the automotive industry. As long as the auto world is stable…car design will be stable too. In the moment of crisis car design isn’t protected any better than other jobs.

    To your question: being American and speaking Japanese doesn’t make you more spacial. It is just only to your benefit that you speak Japanese…and that’s really good! I wished I could speak Japanese!

    It’s a tough race to become a car designer but in my eyes it is worth it! There are many people who failed, but there is people who greatly succeeded! Once you make it and make your dream come through, the pleasure is second to none!!!

    Good luck!

    miro

  9. miro, thank you so much for taking out your time for me. you’ve definitely given me a lot to think about. I think I just need to do more research into the subject. It seems like rushing into things will not help me. Anyway keep up the great work on your blog. Can’t wait to see how your Aston concept comes out. I really love what I see so far. Take care.

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