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10 tips for aspiring car designers by Patrick Lecharpy and Luciano Bove
Ten exclusive tips for design students and aspiring industrial and transportation designers, by Renault VP Design R&D and Nissan Synergies Patrick Lecharpy and Renault Design Manager R&D design studio Luciano Bove
During the presentation of the Twizy design story held on last May 10th at Milan-based SPD, and during our following interview, Patrick Lecharpy and Luciano Bove gave some interesting insights and suggestions targeted to design students and aspiring car designers.
We have collected them and we are now presenting them here as a useful resource for anyone who is interested in pursuing a design career.
PL: Today’s design world is much more complex: students need to be internationally open. Even if the history of design is traditionally centered on Europe and United States, the future will have no boundaries.
This is an extremely important aspect, as you will be involved in international design environments. Competition will be open worldwide and not just among three or four design schools in Europe or in the States.
Things are evolving very quickly: in emerging countries like India, today it is possible to find competences that could not be found just five years ago.
LB: I had the chance to attend the Art Center College of Design in 1984, and I came back and started working in Italy in 1989. Three years later I began teaching car design.
Back then, the first European design schools were just opening, conscious of the importance of providing a transportation design specific education, in competition with the long established schools in the United States and in Japan.
Today we have a lot of new design schools and in emerging countries like China there are also a few State universities offering transportation design courses: they are doing extremely well in a very short period of time.
When I started teaching in Italy, we launched the first transportation design department in Turin, and it took us almost eight years to reach a very high quality. Today design schools in China have managed to achieve a remarkable results in just three years.
Today competition is much, much higher.
2 – Open mindness
PL: Sometimes it’s difficult for young creatives to realize they don’t work alone: the basis of creativity lies in the designer’s personality, however while in the past this could have been enough, it is not enough today.
In the professional world it usually takes 4 to 5 years to young designers in order to be operational within a team. During this period they are requested to interact with different competencies and mindsets.
It is important to find the right balance between having a strong personality and a charismatic attitude – which are necessary to build a creative mind – while being open minded towards diversity and not being too egocentric.
LB: In order to get a job in the car design industry you’ll need to be able to integrate in a team a lot faster than it used to be back in my times.
Today students cannot focus solely on sketching and rendering ability – which are still essential skills; they have to become manager of themselves in order to be able to manage projects and be autonomous.
If you want to survive in this competitive field, you need to be open to everything during all your career, not just during the time spent at school and internships.
3 – Teamwork
PL: Don’t forget: automotive design is teamwork. It’s difficult for us designer – especially when we are young – to accept we are not at the center of the universe.
Being proud of yourself and having your own ideas are necessary aspects, but a vehicle is so complex that it will never be only your own success.
4 – Time management
LB: Having good drawing and modeling skills is essential, but the most important thing – as a student and as a future designer or design manager – is being able to respect deadlines.
When you are in design school, you are not much concerned about time. You want to be the best, so it is important to show the teacher or the client a very good sketch or a perfect model.
But when you are in the real world and you are facing a deadline, it’s quite different.
And often the most talented and artistic designers are the ones who have the most difficulties.
However, this difficulty can be reversed and time can become your best friend when seen in a constructive way: it can motivate you and can help you to find the best solutions given the constraints and the tools you have at your disposal.
PL: [In order to succeed] you need to make a proper analysis first, and then ideas will come quickly. After that, you have to carefully choose one clear idea and go for it. Don’t spend too much time tuning the idea or trying to deliver perfect quality.
5 – Selling ideas and presenting projects
PL: The cleverness of a new concept is obviously the most important aspect of a design project, but often young designers underestimate the importance of selling their work – whether to a teacher or to a final customer.
A new product will not produce emotions spontaneously: you’ll have to make people react emotionally and this is a very important aspect of a designer’s job.
For example, during business meetings you will face very busy top managers and it is crucial to catch their attention by creating an “advertising” on screen, better if with a short story behind, with some music and a scenario: if you manage to do it, then you “have won half the battle”.
When presenting a project to a teacher or to an interviewer, focus on one or two messages, and no more. Don’t get “everywhere”: be focused, choose and be efficient.
6 – Making design decisions
PL: When you create a new product or concept you need to think about what it is for and what it is not for, what you want to achieve and what you don’t want to achieve.
Making these choices will allow you to create something that gives answers to specific questions.
Don’t try to solve all problems, make choices, even if this can be difficult for designers. If you are able to make the right choices you will create a successful product, otherwise you are very likely to end with an average result.
7 – Hand modeling
LB: Today with digital CAD models we can arrive up to 90% of the product. When you have milled a model and you put your hands on it, you will always find out areas that need changes; and when you apply a layer of paint on it, sometimes you’ll realize that reflections are not as you had imagined.
In those cases you’ll have to sculpt and work with clay: it is still a very special, artistic aspect of a designer’s talent that computers simply can’t do.
8 – Honest design
PL: Don’t over-promise by design, be honest with your customers. Don’t design a car that looks fast if it isn’t.
9. Being Curious
PL: We don’t have to overestimate our role of designers: we have the ability of visualizing ideas by sketching and prototyping, while engineers, market researchers, managers have different yet very important skills.
When you start you usually have little knowledge of these fields, and that’s something you can develop with time.
As a designer you’ll need to be curious and look at everything: engineering basics, international trends, fashion, graphic design, customer satisfaction. This will allow you to understand enough to put the elements together and to concretize the ideas.
10 – Training creativity
PL: Creativity is not spontaneous. Like every other skill, creativity needs to be trained during the whole life.
We thank Patrick and Luciano for their time and for the these precious tips!