How to be a car designer Pt1: Turning passion into a profession

21 October 2015 | by Luciano Bove

How many times have you heard people say they don't love their job but have no choice other than to stick with it? If you're in a position to choose what you do for a living, working without enjoying your job is extremely hard.

There are many exciting jobs around, particularly in design. However getting a design job isn't straightforward – you must have a dream and a vision to pursue it, work hard at school and fight hard to get the job you set your heart on.

If you achieve your goal the design world is full of rewards. Being a designer means you have the power to change society's behaviour, hopefully for the better. It is a state of mind, a way of thinking and its own specific culture.

Design has a lot to do with innate talent, meaning very few people can become fully-fledged professional designers. But if you think you have what it takes, this guide will help you take the first steps to getting a job you'll love.

Taking the first steps to becoming a designer

You are young. You draw cars because you love them, but what really interests you are their designs. You love an interesting reflection, great proportions, well-measured forms and shapes.

At home, you take a pencil and start sketching your dream car. Your parents tell you to study, not waste time on your drawings, but as soon as you can you go back to working on your design. We have to listen to our parents – they naturally have our best interests in mind – but you should also know that drawing cars can be a real job.

The next step is discovering that there are transportation design schools out there that allow you to reach your potential and give you the next step on your way to becoming a designer.

Design School vs Engineering University

The idea of being a car designer is still difficult to understand and be taken seriously by some people and that might include your parents. It may be seen as too artistic to be professional and even the most well-meaning advisor could be forgiven for assuming that to work with cars you should study mechanical engineering. In their head it is logical: cars equal mechanics or engineers.

In India, for example, a large number of engineering university students dream of becoming car designers, and will try to apply for a Master's degree in transportation design schools abroad after finishing their engineering degree. However, things are already changing, with several design schools making excellent efforts to change this state of mind by encouraging young people to begin by studying design, rather than try to convert their skills later.

In Europe and the US especially there is a very well established network of schools and courses with alumni that design virtually every new car produced today.

School teaching methods

As you might expect, transportation design is a very particular discipline, and some schools are better than others. The key to success is a school that has a very well thought-out teaching methodology delivered by a good team of design teachers.

It's also worth considering a school with good relationships with car companies, as this will help you get good internship opportunities, create a better portfolio and help you make that all-important transition from student to professional designer.

You can find a list of schools in our Directory.

Planning your school career

When choosing a transportation design school to follow your dream, here are some key questions to bear in mind:

1. The pre-selection interview – how good is your entry portfolio?

2. Teaching team – are there real or former designers teaching?

3. Internship possibilities – what are the options, with which companies and where?

4. Sponsored projects by car companies and design studios – are there more chances to build your portfolio and reputation?

5. How good is the school’s reputation on forums, social networks and in the press?

6. Very importantly, how do you feel when you visit the school?

By now you should understand that becoming a car designer is a real possibility, but it takes some careful planning and decision making in order to make it happen. You need to find a good design school that will help you achieve that goal, carefully checking the key elements to help you make your choice. You will involve your parents in this important task, as they will help you work out what's best for your future, and the process will also help them understand why you've made the decision to become a car designer.

Importantly, you must have talent, even if it is still raw. Show your drawings to school teachers for feedback, or even to me via Facebook and I will do my best to give you help and advice. There are also other designers you can easily find and communicate with on social networks.

Making the dream a reality

In my professional life as a design educator and as a designer I have met many people who do a job they love. Some of them had a hard time starting their adventure but they were curious enough to try and determined enough to succeed.

This article is intended to help you understand how you could turn your passion for car design into your future career. It isn't an easy decision and the path to becoming a car designer is rarely a straightforward one. But if you are talented you should try your best against all odds, as the reward is one of the best jobs in the world. Best of luck.