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How Car Designers Work in a Design Studio

Luciano Bove is a car design manager working at Renault Design. Born in Italy, he graduated from Art Center College of Design in California.

What actually goes on in a car design studio?

What actually goes on in a car design studio?

Car Designers at Work

Being a car designer is a job anyone is lucky to land. To land this job, you'll need a combination of talent (without talent, you'll never get the job) and a willingness to play the industry's game. In general, car designers work in design studios in which they have all tools to perform at their best, paper, colors, markers, chalks, color pencils, computers, and all sorts of computer illustration programs like Photoshop, Paint, Illustrator, and so on. They also have Alias, Blender, and 3D digital modeling programs all on the same computer working station.

The design studios have plotters and printing devices to print in big sizes like 150 meters by 5 or 6 meters long on which we can have a big presentation from ideation sketching to final renderings all well organized on paper. Every designer has his working space with a nice big desk with a drawer a nice lamp and an ergonomic chair; the design studio is organized to put on the walls all sorts of drawings and big printed presentations. Naturally, there is always a coffee machine area with some design chairs and a small coffee table. Moreover, there is also a spot (area) with special design and car magazines. In design studios, we also have some scale models of important projects realized in the past as decoration but also as a trophy!

Clay Model

One of the first things designers do is make a clay model of the car

One of the first things designers do is make a clay model of the car

The day starts between 8 and 9 o'clock with coffee and croissants few words with other colleagues and then everybody at their working area, in the design process we start a project with ideation sketching and brainstorming which is done at the beginning in group and later each one continues by him/herself, will follow the step of first real proposals until proposing renderings. After this 2D stage, we get to the 3D virtual stage which means starting to work with Alias modeling programs to see the car volumes and completing it until the smallest detail. The chosen designs (3 or 4) go to milling to see them in 3D real volumes, real models with wheels. At the final step go 2 of them which will be corrected again in Alias (virtual 3D) and later re-milled and finished with all the details painted to resemble real cars for the final presentation! The finished product will go to production process with design managers, expert designers and engineers, and suppliers.

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Now all those steps are possible thanks to presentations to move on to the following steps, and they are done with studio design managers, directors, etc. Designers live those phases with excitement, but also frustration, with passion (following models) and concern about being on the right track with their design in relation to the project briefing. Competition is high, but friendship and good relations are also very good. We all work in teams, and education, personality, and good insticts are important to work together without causing problems for the team and the system.

Alias Generated Model

What a car designer sees when designing

What a car designer sees when designing

Designers go to work full of excitement each morning. That said, it's not all fun and games. It takes big efforts, professionality, and patience to explain that there must be a different way to problem-solving without changing the proposed design. In a few words, one of the best parts of a designer's day is the creative conception (sketching, searching, doing design), however, they also have another part of the day during which they must push the system to change...and this part is a bit stressy...for some (like me) this part is a challenging one: to help the system to change!

You should also know that designers do travel for business to suppliers for follow-ups, to design schools to follow sponsored projects or workshops, to cities around the world for cultural purposes to nurture their brains, to auto shows to see other colleagues' models and concepts (like in Geneva or LA or Tokyo). I believe that car designers, after all, have an awesome job!

Of course, this designer job life is not for all designers. In big design studios, it is more or less as I wrote, but there are also a lot of designers that work in smaller studios or for suppliers, and for them, life can be less exciting. Different are the reasons, smaller studios equal smaller budgets, so before making a scale 1 to 1 model the competition is really hard, or, some of them design only parts of given projects (door panel company design studio will work on door panels only). Some designers are also in very prestigious design studios but working for years on the same project evolution: Porsche for example! Ferrari! Bentley! Rolls Royce!

Anyway, the bottom line is that a talented car designer will always be happy because she/he is paid for what she/he loves to do!

© 2010 Luciano Bove

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