Career as an Automobile Designer

If you are passionate about cars the way some are about music and movies, if you can tell the make and model of a car with only a fleeting glance and if your favourite magazines are Popular Mechanics, Road Track, Motor Trend, and Car and Driver, here’s the most suitable career option for you!

A creative profession, Automobile Designers ideate and design automobiles and their components. Based on the client requirements and specifications, automobile designers in consultation with their team and supervisor draft layouts of the automobile and its various components (most often on CAD software.) From appearance to personality, automobile designers work on every aspect of a vehicle’s design and are responsible for making a car look good while ensuring optimal performance.

Most companies that hire automobile designers prefer candidates who hold a bachelor’s degree in industrial design or transportation design. Automotive engineers are also considered for the role. Students with sculpting and drawing skills have a natural edge in this profession.


Top Colleges

The best automotive design colleges in the world are in the cities which are popular for automotive manufacturing. And although there are several engineering colleges which offer courses in automotive engineering, there are only a dozen few which offer degree programs specific to automotive design. Most times, automobile design courses are included under two program categories – Transportation design and Industrial design. As the name suggests, transportation design is specific to the design of vehicles whereas industrial design includes the entire gamut of manufactured products which are mass produced. Hence, in industrial design courses, automobile design is only a part of the course curriculum. 

Most good colleges for automotive design have strong ties to the auto industry which leads to good internship opportunities with renowned companies. After passing out from the institute, many students are later recruited in various positions within those organizations.

Engineering design, CATIA and Autodesk AutoCAD are some of the core technical skills taught in the design schools. Other topics taught during the course include drawing, 3D design, design and colour theory, model-making and industrial materials. Most universities also teach  students to create a portfolio of their work showcasing their artistic and design abilities. 

In the US, TheIvy League Universities offer excellent courses in automobile engineering. Alumni from the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Michigan Technological University are found in most automotive-related companies in the USA. Similar is the record of University of Texas at Austin, the University of Texas at Arlington and Texas A&M University. However, some universities in the US are exclusively famous for their Bachelor in Design (B Des.) courses, admission to which is based on ACT or SAT scores and TOEFL.

The UK and the European countries of France, Italy, Sweden and Germany also have some of the best automobile design colleges.For example, IED Turin, Italy offers an undergraduate BA Degree in Transportation Design accredited by the Italian Ministry of Education Research (MIUR) as an Academic Diploma Level I certification.

In India, some of the top colleges offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses in automotive and transportation design. B Des. andM Des.courses are available at IIT - Guwahati, Delhi, Bombay and Kanpur. National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad offers a 4 years B Des. program in product design. IDC at IIT Bombay offers a course in ‘Mobility and vehicle design.’ It also offers an M Des. degree programmes in Industrial Design, Visual Communication, Animation and Interaction Design and even a PhD programme in Design.Admission to the M Des. programmesare based on the Common Entrance Exam for Design (CEED). DSK-International School of Design, Pune also offers 3 years UG programmes in Industrial Design and 2 years PG programmes in Product Design & Transportation Design.

INDIA

Duration : 4years

Fee per course/annum : Rs 160,000- 5,20,000

INDIA

US

Duration : 4years

Fee per course/annum : $40,000- $50,000

USA

UK

Duration : 3years

Fee per course/annum :  £30,000-  £45,000

UK

 

Career Prospects

An automobile design course will equip you with the technical skills, knowledge and aptitude to create innovative vehicle designs. As an automobile designer, you will create layouts of automobile components and assemble the vehicle using prototypes, models and sketches made with mathematical precision. 

Often you will be working with a team of 25 to 40 members consisting of a chief designer, exterior and interior designers, a trim and colour designer, a clay model team, a digital model team, a studio head, managers and prototype engineers.

Following are some of the job profiles that automobile designers work as:

  • Interior and Exterior Automotive Designer
  • Automobile Accessories Designer
  • Motorcycle Designer
  • Aeroplane Designer
  • Watercraft Designer
  • Recreational Vehicle Designer
  • Alternative Personal Transportation Designer
  • Transit and Urban Planning
  • Specialist Vehicle Designer
  • Aircraft Interior Designer
  • Automotive Design Strategist
  • Transportation Product Strategist

Jobs & Salary

Automobile designing is a niche area of work and when compared to other careers, jobs in this field in the US are expected to grow only at the rate of 2% between 2014 and 2024. However in India, the prospects appear bright considering the overall automobile exports in India grew by 15.81% year-on-year between April and February 2017-18. Some of the top international companies that hire automobile designers are:



New York and D.C. are the best cities in the US in terms of pay – an average of $8,500 a month. At an overall country level, the average monthly salary for automobile designers is $7,000. Typically, the highest salaries in the western part of the US are earned in California ($7,600 a month) and the lowest in Hawaii ($4,500 a month.) Besides the geographical location and the company size, the pay obviously depends on the individual’s experience and expertise.

In India, Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors, Force Motors, Mahindra and Mahindra, and Hindustan Motors are some of the Indian companies that make passenger vehicles. The manufacturing units of foreign companies like Volkswagen, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, Honda, Chrysler, Fiat, General Motors, Ford and BMW are also present in India. Eicher Motors and Swaraj Mazda make commercial vehicles. Manufacturers like Hero Motocorp, Bajaj Auto and TVS make two-wheelers. The manufacturing units of Royal Enfield, Vespa Scooters, Yamaha, Suzuki and Honda are also present in some major cities in India.

The starting salary of an automobile designer in India is around Rs.25,000 a month. Automobile designers with 6 to 10 years of experience can get paid up to Rs. 100,000 a month. Employees of Tier 1 companies (which supply components to original equipment manufacturers) get paid Rs. 5000 lesser than those in the top companies.  Many times, automobile designers travel to client location for projects. In such cases, they make additional money through daily allowances and other perks.

Pros & Cons

To become an automobile designer, you must possess superior drawing skills. Automobile designers work in teams. Hence, you must be a good team player besides having excellent communication skills. Since most work is based on client requirements, you must develop good listening skills and learn to take criticism. Knowing how to handle steep deadlines, finding innovative solutions to complex issues, and staying updated with the latest in the changing auto industry (both software and technology) will take you a long way in this career. Knowing a foreign language can be an asset especially on assignments abroad.

Pros
  • Work satisfaction in designing vehicles for practical use.
  • Opportunity to travel abroad and work from client’s site.
  • Allows for regular creative outputs.

Cons

  • Heavy reliance on creativity becomes a hindrance when inspiration is lacking.
  • Limited job growth opportunities.
  • Increased competition due to increase in number of automobile designers.

Harley J. Earl

The first amongst the corporate design leaders, Harley Earlwas responsible for the shapes of about 55 million cars during his time as the head of General Motors design between 1927 and 1958. Many top American car designers who later went on to create a name for themselves were hired during his tenure there.

Giorgetto Giugiaro

The car designer of the century who has designed more than 160 cars as well as motorbikes, cameras and watches, Giorgetto Giugiaro is a legend and an inspiration to a generation of designers. His notable work includes BMW M1, Fiat 850 Spider, DeLorean DMC12 and Lotus Esprit. He introduced the Folded Paper concept in cars.

Batista Pininfarina

Hailed as the father of modern auto design, Batista Pininfarina is the founder of Pininfarina, one of the top car design firms in the world. He has worked with Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Fiat, Maserati and Peugeot, to name a few. Batista Pininfarina’s most notable work includes Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider, Ferrari Dino 246 and Cisitalia 202.


Timeline :

1478 – Leonardo da Vinci invents the self-propelled car which remained a sketch on paper and was never actually made


1769 - In France, Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot builds the first self-propelled road vehiclefor the French army - a tractor with 3 wheels and speed of about 2.5 miles per hour.


1877 - Otto builds the four-cycle internal combustion engine, the prototype for modern car engines.


1886 - In Michigan, Henry Ford builds his first automobile.


1924 - The car radio is introduced.


1940 - The first four-wheel drive, all-purpose vehicle (Jeep) is designed for the U.S. Military.


1962 - Wisconsin creates seat belt law and calls for the seatbelt to be a standard requirement in automobiles.


1974 - Airbags become a new car safety option.


Did you now?

  • The Volkswagen Beetle was originally ordered by Adolf Hitler in Germany.
  • Rolls-Royce Ltd. was originally a car as well as an aeroplane engine making company.
  • In the year 1916, 55% of the cars in the world were Model T Ford. The record still holds.

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