WHY CAR DESIGN EDUCATION – It’s a multiverse out there, it truly is! You will have thousands upon thousands of opinions one way or another on almost any subject you pick. Our favourite topic is of course car design, so we ask “why should you get a car design education anyway?”. It’s a super valid question. With the availability online of an array of rabbit holes to immerse, or lose, yourself there is every plausibility that self-education is the new norm.


Ask any institution around the world and they will tell you there has been a drop off in applicants, specially qualified ones, and not just because of Covid. The daunting weight of the financial cost of formal education in car design, irrespective even of the need more often for geographical relocation, can be in itself forbidding. Self-starters turned billionaires is such a seductive proposition, but they are few and far between and still had to hustle. So why put yourself through the grind?


In some parts of the world, Japan, Germany, the USA and many others, a bachelor’s degree is simply a must just to apply for a professional car design position in any large automotive company. It’s the entry fee if you will. There are reasons for this of course. With the advent of a plethora of off the corporate grid mobility solution companies sprouting up around the world, think Arrival, Zoox, Nio, Canoo, and Lillium, a quick way for them to sift through applicants is still a bachelor’s degree.

Even Tesla, with Elon Musk purporting to want to hire anyone with any background: “There’s no need even to have a college degree at all, or even high school,” ask for a bachelor’s degree or higher except for their AI department job applicants. Sad fact.


However, there seems there is value in your investment although it might not feel that way for a while. Formal education will ‘fast track’ your skillset and boost your confidence as Nick Hull, Associate Professor at Coventry University, UK, explains: “It takes time to build skills. Building thinking skills and having your lazy, pre-conceived ideas challenged by tutors is a vital process to go through to produce creative designers. I believe there is huge value in being taught the formal rules behind car design so that students can subsequently learn to break them, once they gain confidence.

We teach the principle of Bones, Muscles & Graphics in the early stages of year 1 to reinforce the idea that proportions and stance are the starting points, then add a surface language, then apply the graphics – DLO, lamps, grilles etc. Too often you see weak students focusing their sketching solely on graphics, without understanding that the form language, proportions or some decent bodyside surfacing are more important.”


Self-educating in a vacuum, without a tutor or support system, can invite in some lurking spectres: a lack of perspective and design immaturity. Lack of perspective is the loss of any balance of view on whatever you are designing. Without feedback and context about culture, history, environment, and technical know-how past and present, you will most likely find yourself designing in circles, fascinated by your own reflection, due to a lack of influence from external experienced forces in the industry.

Car design is the business of creating complex machines for the use and safety of many in multiple scenarios and globally. It very much involves a multidisciplinary mind and obsessive execution. Design immaturity, which if you are lucky you get to burnish on the job in time, is a dead weight that holds back even the best. Don’t think for a moment that you draw a nice looking car and that’s the end of it, it’s not even half of it!


We asked Jordan Taylor, Co-Founder of Vizcom, an AI visualisation platform, who himself went to College for Creative Studies if he thinks car design education is important: “I totally agree about how an education in car design is important, especially in today’s context, it is not only limited to pumping out supercars. Is car design dead? No, definitely not but it is changing. You need to be able to adapt to future prospects in order to stay competitive.

There’s this increased emphasis on system and experience thinking. In addition to making a product that is beautiful and functions well, which has always been the baseline requirement for car design, you have to also consider how it works within a greater system. I feel like the tools that are used in the process today play a huge role in standing out and coming up with new ideas. If you can redefine a creative process that becomes your way of standing out it can become a selling point of your “brand”.”

That said we are all for the exception to the rule…join us here next month for Part 02 on this topic with comments from legends J Mays and Peter Stevens!


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