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Making a Professional Car Design Portfolio

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

Image by Akoz Szaz

Image by Akoz Szaz

How to Improve a Professional Car Design Portfolio

Hi friends, at the end of my summer vacation in Italy, I met a young ex-student from a British car design school who wanted to show me his portfolio for some tips before looking for a job. As usual, I told him that I was happy to do it, and so we did. He came with his portable PC and showed me a sort of PowerPoint presentation with all the selected projects and his CV at the end. I asked him to show the presentation again. At the end of the second round, I started to give him my constructive critique.

A Good Car Design School Should Help With Your Portfolio

Usually a good design school has some courses about how to put together design portfolios. The Art Center in Pasadena, California, and the IAAD in Italy do. But for this young former student this was not the case. The British school had only existed for about 5 years which means that it is very young in the design education business and can't guarantee a good training. The transportation design teacher was basically telling students to format a portfolio the way he would format it, and his taste did not have anything to do with an automotive design book. According to the story I heard about this school, students were not able to be creative and try alternative methods because this famous teacher would get upset.

Problems With the Portfolio:

Bad design school choice: I was sorry to let him understand this, but it is true. The teachers did not have an automotive design background, but rather a background in Industrial Design, specializing in boat design. Their experience was too far outside the culture of the car design industry.

Main Portfolio Problems:

  • The PowerPoint presentation did not have his projects in the best order.
  • The selection of products was not car-oriented (a lot of boats and accessories).
  • The editorial graphics on every page was 90's style, too old-fashioned and competing in style with the sketches and renderings.
  • The overall result was confused. In the end, he would need to re-do the book before applying for a job.

The Good Thing About This Student

The good thing is the talent of this Italian guy, his determination and strong will to make it as a designer, ready to discuss how to improve and progress. We talked for about two hours. I explained to him that a professional portfolio is mainly a personal presentation of ourselves, and for this reason we must personalize it. Our teacher should just help us not to make obvious mistakes that might penalize our effort. With the right book a student will sell himself; he will convince someone to hire him.

Key Elements Not to Forget

Content is the key: Good sketches, a history for each project, and nice color work for the final presentation.

Check out the order of your book. It has to provoke emotions, so what is the best order to do so?

We must choose from among our projects in order to give a message. If the message is car design, we want more car projects. If the message is industrial design, we want more ID projects. And so on.

Do not forget that we (professional designers) remember the mistakes we find in portfolios! Sometimes they are the easiest thing to remember! So make sure that your book is perfect!

Sketch by Denis Cherdantsev

Sketch by Denis Cherdantsev

How to Make a Portfolio

3 Important Tips for a Good Portfolio

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2009 Luciano Bove


Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on May 20, 2018:

I totally agree with you, this is exactly what I try to explain everytime i make my Live sketching session on youtube. Thanks for reading and commenting.

dznr723 on May 20, 2018:


Having served on the Portfolio Team at GM Design for 25 years, and now teaching the Portfolio class at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit, I've looked at many , many portfolios. The one thing that's been consistent over the years is most of them all blend together and look the same.

Most students believe slick renderings are what land you a job. That's not the case at all. I've seen more students get hired with one or more sketchbooks + their portfolio. It's the thinking process, and the creative ideas that get the job, NOT the showy renderings. We can teach a monkey how to 'render', but you can't teach a monkey how to think.

The ideas and thinking process are the things most design organizations look for. It nay have taken several weeks to do a full blown rendering. I have no way of knowing. But a sketchbook doesn't lie. You can tell the thought process by looking at a good sketchbook. Looking at slick renderings doesn't tell me anything other than you know how to render.

Keep up the excellent work in educating the future generation of designers.

HW on July 30, 2015:

Dear Luciano,

I love your work...especially the Renault Twizy!!

I want to pursue a career in Transportation Design and I'm preparing a portfolio to get into a design school...i have the following questions:

1. There are 2-3 personal projects in my folio which are not associated with any car manufacturer. Is it important to include projects FOR a particular car/motorbike/bicycle brand?

2. Where do you find inspiration for your next concept? Most designers seem to find it in outside objects and then they transfer those qualities into a sketch. But for me it works the opposite way....

first i sketch something and then it looks like an object from which i was supposed to get inspired from. Why is this happening to me?


Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on June 13, 2015:

yes you can contact me on FB via chat!

Erick Leyva on May 13, 2015:

Hello Luciano, I'm a student trying to get into the trans program at Art Center. Is it possible to send you a copy of my portfolio for help first?

Juan Vásquez on March 04, 2014:

Grazie, Luciano.

Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on March 02, 2014:

The SPD school is not a bad school. However if you want to be successful you will have to work very hard because not matter what you will have to conquist that master with your hard work and if you have talent and passion chances are you will make it!

Juan on February 28, 2014:

Does anyone more can give some comms about the SPD, I´m interested in the Master of Transportation design, and the comm of cryboy makes me feel very sorprised. Thank you.

Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on August 18, 2013:

Thanks for your comment.

cryboy on August 18, 2013:

Speaking about car design schools, SPD in Milan is one of the worst for sure. I did the master few years ago in collaboration with VW Group and Lamborghini who were the sponsors of the master. I won't spend a lot of words to talk about my experience because everyone is different in his way in terms of behaviour, skills, etc...... I can say for sure that in SPD they don't give a s**t about the "student" in general, the only thing the care about is to please the VW, to show them the we (SPD) are a good school so you can trust us and keep investing your money on us. They want to make money like everyone else, but they forgot one simple thing : SPD is school (at least it should be), a place where to learn and improve yourself, but unfortunately their approach doesn't work. They teach you very few things, you have to learn everything else by yourself, so if you are not so strong at the beginning you won't have to many chances to show youself to VW as you really can. Every year they give scholarships but the way they assign them is not so clear ;).. for example they told me that my portfolio was very good but because i had a background not related to car design, i was not eligible as a candidate for the scholarship (ahahaha, so funny and so sad......), for sure they priviledge russian guys through the "sketch fighter" contest. I can talk forever ,so i just want to tell you guys that if you want to pursue a career in car design industry, choose a good design school like RCA or Phorzheim for example.

Laurentiu on December 29, 2012:

Dear Luciano,

I really find your advice useful, I think that every teacher should talk like this! You are a great designer and I found Renault Twizy truly inspiring in my City Car project.

I am graduating from Coventry this year (3rd) with my head up. I will not give up until I will be a respected designer!

Anyways, I am also working on my portfolio and frankly I struggle a bit with the layout of the projects and I don't know how much content to put for each. I was wondering if it is possible to send you the PDF for a short feedback (I can imagine how busy you are and if it is not possible then I will understand)

my email: br_laur@yahoo.com


Laurentiu Bradea

Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on November 21, 2012:

Dear Richesh, design schools and colleges are institutions dedicated to car designer training. If you have some talent the school will help you to develop it and use it at your best advantage....best thing to do is: send your drawings to professional schools for a feedback and understand if your level is good enough to start a design school. OK?

Richesh on November 21, 2012:


Actually I love to do Transportation Design, But I am not sure whether I am good at it !!

DO you think these schools would really help us to develop on every skill like sketching, creativity etc ??

I am not someone who sketches great I can do a work

Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on April 28, 2010:

Dear Dominik ,

having developped more than 12 car design projects with 4 production cars int/ext and some concepts I believe I do know a little bit about how cars are made and a bit about your "amazing details". The point here is another, I am addressing myself to young car design students and at this stage they do not have to know about your " amazing details" to let their creativity to be developped correctly. Got the point now?

Just in case you wonder if I really know about " amazing details" go visit my professional profile on Linkedin.com OK?


Luciano Bove

Dominik on April 28, 2010:

Have you ever wondered how a car is really developed and built? Maybe if even yes, for sure you don't know those amazing details!

Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on September 21, 2009:

OK I get the point and you are right, I know several schools for which the main thing is to make money and they are creators of future frustrates! The point is to get info about a school to understand how serious it is, one of the best way is to see 2 things: do they make entry portfolio interviews? Do they make a real entry selection? How many start and how many end the course? Are the classes made of 10/15 students or are them of 30/40?

I think also that an alumni that sees his school going bad has to protest! I participated to the late events about Art Center and the president controversy.

Keep in touch

Cov_Graduate on September 21, 2009:

well to be honest, i do agree with you but the fact remains that someone right at the top of that institution is only interested in minting money off international students and sadly even the professors admit that the student to teacher ratio is crazy! (160:1)

also last year there had been a massive revolt by the ex-students who opened up a website and just laid the bare facts.

Call it unnecessary or unprofessional but its only to help out the prospective students who not only shell out a lot of money for 4 years but their career suffers as well with the wrong choice

Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on September 19, 2009:

Sorry for you but it is not that one and anyway I'll never say the name. The point is how to make a choice and with which parameters.

Coventry lately is not that bad do not be too hard on them.

Thanks for your comment

Cov_Graduate on September 19, 2009:

and that british school would be without doubt the very famous yet superficial COVENTRY UNIVERSITY which spends more money in putting up advertisments in the London subway rather than hiring a qualified automotive design tutor and at the same time takes about 160 students!

Luciano Bove (author) from Paris on September 19, 2009:

Ciao Danny,

no Giulio's work is a good example to better explane what I wrote.

Danny Chhang on September 19, 2009:

Thanks for posting up the great advice. Is this post about Giulio Partisani? Giulio's work is amazing.

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