Automotive design as an industry is unique and is fueled by creativity, acumen, engineering, and safety. It involves the design of any form of wheeled transportation – developing the appearance and ergonomics of motor vehicles. The field includes various disciplines within itself that form a large team and come up with functional designs for motor vehicles. The primary concern of the automotive design field is to develop the visual appearance or aesthetics of the vehicle and create a befitting product concept.

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Automotive designers take on the challenge of fitting in together all the components of a vehicle while keeping up with the comfort and aesthetics.

Career Guide: Automotive Design - Sheet1
Concept sketches ©essencedesigns

(Source: https://essencedesigns.wordpress.com/tag/automotive-design/ )

Evolution of the field

The automobile industry has been around and has constantly changed through the years, under the influences of technology, lifestyle, and culture. Ever since the time of animal-driven carriages, automobile design has played a role in creating an emotional expression of speed. The evolution of the automobile design industry reached its apex with the adoption of missile designs of the 1950s. 

Car designs have evolved to incorporate faster, safer, and stable cars, with the constant improvement in the technology of engine power and performance. With the need for weight to be reduced in new designs, the aesthetics and practicality of automobile designs are highly significant.

Career Guide: Automotive Design - Sheet2
Isotta Fraschini by Fabio Luigi Rapi (1910) ©Xerjoff

(Source: https://magazine.xerjoff.com/the-evolution-of-automotive-between-graphics-and-design/ )

What do Automotive Designers do?

Automotive design is a field that provides vast opportunities to aspirants. An automobile designer is required to do the following:

  • Draft layouts of automobile components, assemblies, and systems.
  • Determine factors that affect the design proposal using models, prototypes, and sketches.
  • Have a basic understanding of manufacturing limitations to collaborate with automotive engineers.
  • Develop designs based on formulas, calculations, and computerized work aid.
  • They oversee the selection of materials for different parts of a vehicle: fabric, plastic, metal. They are also in charge of trim packages that include a set of adornments fitted on the car such as paint patterns, bumpers, wood trims, etc. 

Qualifications required to be an Automotive Designer

Like in the case of every other field, an individual needs to meet a certain set of eligibility criteria to become a successful automotive designer. Holding a degree in an undergraduate program is of utmost importance before setting out on the journey of becoming an automotive designer. Industrial design or transportation design can be pursued for a bachelor’s degree. Admissions to these programs are given based on entrance exams like Uni GAUGE-E, SAT, MRNAT, JEE Mains. 

Necessary skills such as 2D and 3D drawing, research, model making, computer-aided drafting, and technical knowledge of vehicles can be inculcated with a bachelor’s degree. Some universities offer a course in Automobile Design while others offer Transportation Design and Automotive Engineering. A master’s degree in Automotive Design can also be considered after graduation. Certain schools and organizations also offer courses in 3D design, design theory, drawing, CAD, model-making, and industrial materials. Taking up these courses lends an upper hand in the industry.

Top 3 countries to earn a degree in Automotive Design

Automotive design is offered as a master’s degree in many universities. These universities provide students with an important and advanced level of knowledge about the field. The following table mentions the best countries and colleges to pursue a master’s degree in automotive design.

Country Course Duration Fee per course/annum Top Colleges
India 4 years Rs. 160,000 – Rs. 5,20,000 • National Institute of Design, Gandhinagar, Gujarat

 

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• DSK-International School of Design, Pune, Maharashtra

 

• MIT, Pune, Maharashtra

USA 4 years USD $40,000 – $50,000 • Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California

 

• College of Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan

 

• Pratt Institute, New York City, New York

Europe 3 years £30,000 – £45,000 • Royal College of Art, London, UK

 

• IED, Turin, Italy

 

• Strate School of Design, Paris, France

Skills and Tools required 

The skillset required in Automotive Design includes the artistic orientation of mind along with the knowledge of interiors and theory of designing. An aspirant must have sufficient knowledge of vehicle body part design, ergonomics, and design software. Ideas spawn by a designer are first translated onto paper in the form of hand-drawn sketches, after which the design is drafted, modeled, and rendered digitally.

A designer is expected to be cognizant of digital sketching and modeling techniques. Some of the most widely used manufacturing tools and computer-aided design software by automobile designers are listed down below:

  • AutoCAD
  • Revit LT Suite
  • ZBrush
  • Alias
  • 3Ds Max
  • Lumiscaphe Patchwork 3D
  • Blender
  • HDR Light Studio
  • SolidWorks
  • Adobe Photoshop and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro
  • Creo Parametric
  • ICEM Surf
  • Rhinoceros
  • Car Sketch Tool
  • MODO

The demand of the industry now is computer-aided design. Taking up CAD courses will add to your skills, helping you save time and increase your job prospects.The final stages of design, however, involve displaying original ideas in a physical form. The designers carve out a full-scale model of the automobile to translate the look and feel of the final product. Along with aesthetic considerations, these models are used for aerodynamics testing.

Career Guide: Automotive Design - Sheet3
A5391 Automotive design as a career

(Source: https://www.behance.net/gallery/104292963/Spectre/modules/606895867 )

Online Courses Available

Acquainting with the subject is an added benefit before setting out on the journey to automotive designing. There are various online courses that will help you build your skillset and be well versed with the required tools. A few are listed below:

Clay modelling (2015) ©Nick Hull

Career Prospects and Opportunities in Automotive design

Automotive Design is a suitable field for undergraduates or graduates who are highly passionate about vehicles. Automotive Brands such as Eicher, Ashok Leyland, and TVS have their design & development centres located in India and often employ candidates who hold a bachelor’s degree in industrial design or transportation design. A huge demand-supply gap is expected soon, with the escalating numbers of localized design centres of various companies. 

Manufacturers such as HONDA, Altran, M&M, Tata Technologies, BMW, Maruti, and several others are very likely to localize their centres, creating countless opportunities for automotive designers. A person having experience of more than 10 years can easily acquire a salary package ranging between INR 16 to 20 LPA. Architectural firms, Graphic designing firms, IT firms, and production firms also provide employment opportunities. 

Summer internships provided by various universities benefit students by helping them inculcate research skills while working with experienced designers. Having good experience and a strong skill set is important to excel in the field. An innovative professional portfolio can be built during the graduation years showcasing design skills and experience in an innovative and creative fashion. 

Aspirants working in other fields of design such as architecture, product design, and engineering can easily transpose to automobile designing.

Top 5 countries to pursue Automotive Design as a career

The prospects in automotive design are fascinating and are worth exploring. Salary packages for automotive design greatly depend on an employee’s designation and geographical area. The below mentioned countries are considered the best to pursue a career in automotive design.

  • India: Average Base Salary of ₹10,01,539 (INR)/year
  • USA: Average Base Salary of $100,209 (USD)/year
  • UK: Average Base Salary of £57,191 (GBP)/year
  • Japan: Average Base Salary of ¥9,165,602 (JPY)/year
  • Germany: Average Base Salary of 76.430 € (EUR)/year

References

Ondrej Burkacky, Johannes Deichmann, Stefan Frank, Dominik Hepp, and André Rocha (2021). When code is king: Mastering automotive software excellence [online]. (Last updated: February 17, 2021). 

Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/automotive-and-assembly/our-insights/when-code-is-king-mastering-automotive-software-excellence [Accessed date: 5 August 2021].

Nick Hull (2021). Clay Modelling – An Alternative career? [online]. (Last updated: 17 November 2015). 

Available at: https://www.formtrends.com/clay-modeling-an-alternative-career/ [Accessed date: 5 August 2021].

Essencedesigns (2010). Car design career [online]. 

Available at: https://essencedesigns.wordpress.com/tag/automotive-design/ [Accessed date: 6 August 2021].

Shutterstock (2016). The Evolution of Car Design From 1910 to Now [online]. Last updated: 8 August 2016).

Available at: https://www.shutterstock.com/blog/car-design-throughout-history [Accessed date:  6 August 2021].

Luliciano Bove (2019). How Car Designers Work in a Design Studio [online]. Last updated: 24 January 2019). Available at: https://axleaddict.com/auto-industry/Car-designers-at-work-how-is-it [Accessed date: 4 August 2021].

Univariety. Automobile Designer [online]

Available at: https://www.univariety.com/career/Automobile-Designer/06d460a2 [Accessed date: 4 August 2021].

Manavrachna. Become a Car Designer: Courses and Scope [online]

Available at: https://manavrachna.edu.in/blog/become-a-car-designer-courses-and-scope/#:~:text=Car%20designers%20are%20professionals%20who,particular%20car%20segment%20of%20customers.  [Accessed date: 3 August 2021].

Car Body Design. Car Design Software [online]

Available at: https://www.carbodydesign.com/directory/car-design/car-design-software/ [Accessed date: 3 August 2021].

The Art Career Project. Automotive Designer [online]

Available at: https://www.theartcareerproject.com/careers/automotive-designer/ [Accessed date: 3 August 2021].

Author

An undergrad architecture student and a conservationist who is super enthusiastic and tries to learn from every opportunity that crosses her path. She comprehends her areas of interest through research and journalism. She aspires to tap into human behaviorism and bridge the gap between Architecture and community psychology.

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