Part 1Getting the Necessary Education
- Get hands on experience working with cars. Before you get your formal education in automotive design, you should start with a genuine interest and passion in cars. If possible, spend time in an automotive shop or work first hand on a car to see how cars are built and how they function on a mechanical level.
- You should also develop knowledge of the latest trends in automotive design and be interested in learning more about innovations in automotive design.
- Strong drawing and sculpting skills are also key to being a successful car designer. Most employers are looking for people who possess creative skills and mechanical knowledge of cars, as they will be well rounded designers.
- Complete a bachelor’s degree in an automotive design program. A bachelor’s degree is typically the minimum educational requirements for applying for car designer positions. Technical schools that have close relationships to automobile companies and traditional universities with automotive design programs that are well respected in the industry are both good options.
- Though a degree in an automotive design or automotive engineering program is ideal, you may also qualify to be a car designer if you have a bachelor's degree in industrial design or industrial engineering.
- Often, employers will recruit graduates from automotive design programs to work at their companies, or to place them in an internship. So its important that you choose the program carefully. Look for automotive design programs that are affordable, well respected, and offer a variety of necessary courses. You can also take beginner classes in automotive or transportation design during your undergraduate degree and then consider applying for a specialized program or degree in automotive design.
- Most automotive design programs offer courses that focus on designing cars and other road vehicles, as well as the mechanical functions of automobiles and vehicle dynamics. You will also take classes on math, computer-aided drafting (CAD) and model making to prepare you for the industry.
- Consider getting a master’s degree if you want a higher salary. Some automotive designers decide to pursue a master’s degree in the likelihood of qualifying for higher pay. You may also consider getting a masters in automotive engineering to expand your knowledge and skill set. However, having a master’s degree is by no means a requirement for applying to automotive designer positions.
- A master's degree in industrial design or industrial engineering may also be a good option.
- Apply for internships at design firms. Rather than dive head first into the competitive automobile design world, apply for internships at design firms in your last year of schooling. An internship will give you the opportunity to work with experienced professionals and to build your portfolio.
- Keep in mind most internships are unpaid. However, many internships can lead to employment at the company you are interning with, or a leg up on the competition if you apply for a position and the company is familiar with your work.
Part 2Building Your Portfolio and Contacts
- Do mock drawings for different companies. Your portfolio should showcase your creativity and innovation. But it should also demonstrate an awareness of current design types and styles used by major automotive companies. Professional automotive designers are expected to engineer designs that will fit within an existing “corporate look” or design portfolio of a company. Choose several big names in cars, such as Ford, Toyota, or Volkswagen, and create sketches based on the existing designs of their cars.
- For example, Ford uses a theme called Kinetic Design. The design centers on the idea of a motionless object appearing as though it is moving. This theme influences the design of every Ford car, from sportier models like the Focus ST to family focused models like the 4x4. As a designer, you need to be able to work within this theme, while still demonstrating your creativity and innovation.
- Your portfolio should also showcase your abilities with computer-aided modelling and clay modelling to give employers a sense of your skill set.
- Make connections during your internship. Focus on making an impression during your internship by asking for advice and guidance from mentors and other professionals. Build professional relationships with your peers and make a good impression on the superiors in the company by completing your tasks and demonstrating your skills during your internship.
- At the end of your internship, exchange business cards with any mentors or peers you feel you have connected with on a professional level. Have a discussion with your superior about possible job opportunities in the future and how you can further develop you skill set to make you a top candidate for employment at the company.
- Join a professional automotive design organization. Many car designers who are just starting out will join a professional organization to get a better handle on the industry. These organizations can help you meet other car designers in the field, discuss current innovations in car design, and network with more experienced designers.
- Ask your peers in your automotive program if they are part of any professional trade associations or look up professional automotive design organizations online. Start by contacting two major trade organizations in the field: The Industrial Designers Society of America and the Automotive Design Organization.
- Network at automotive design trade shows and conferences. These are great opportunities to meet key designers in the industry, check out the latest design innovations, and network with potential employers. Many trade associations will hold their own annual conferences, and may have connections to larger trade shows and conventions.
- Bring business cards to trade shows and conferences for easy networking. Focus on being personable and engaged when you meet a potential contact.
So You Want to Design Cars? Then Meet Ed Welburn