Car Design Management
the automotive design processus is something complicated believe me. From sketches to production there are almost 4 years of activities, brainstorming - ideas selections - sketching evolutions - early presentations to select ideas -product planning meetings - marketing - first architecture product plans - virtual reality step - model making - master models - technical meetings - suppliers meetings - follow up parts - prototyping - modifications and up dates follow up - at so on untill production!
Now this is a summarized description of an Automotive industrial car design processes, if we go in detail only on Design activities from sketches to final design freeze we have to integrate a parallel processes made specially for all design activities to develop a car design for production. BMW, Ford, Volvo, General Motors, Renault, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Honda, Toyota, Samsung and many others every car company has its own processes. They all very similar specially in Design, some more focused on manual activities (older methodology and more time consuming), some others focused more on virtual reality (faster and more modern method).
A Design organization in bigger scale, like in automotive industry, must have its own processus and all actors to make sure that the organization runs well to performe at its best. This means that good performance in design processus equals to good company results in terms of timing. The timing is a very strategic factor today, now with the given time (always shorter) this organization has to work in order to complete a project in all its aspects to meet company's requirements and policy.
How to obtain this performance? Design management, this is the answer.
So, since 10 years in Europe and a lot more in USA and Japan, a car company design studio is not made just by a design directors with some designers and few modelers, but it is a lot more. It is like a machine in which every mechanical part has its own speciphic task and has to be syncronized with the all thing.
Design management is divided into two sectors of activity, design creativity and design production. To manage creativity usually are design directors or studio managers or design leaders, to manage production design are design managers responsibles of a project from sketches to production (I have done this for about 15 years). This role, in a design studio, is a very strategic one because the translation of a car sketch into a car production respecting what Design wants is done correctly thanks to a Design manager that takes the project and brings it to production with the rest of company team (product planning, engineering, marketing...).
The design manager has to develop a strategy around his project and his primary worry is to make sure that the expressed design arrives to production with the least of modifications. A beautiful emotional car design in production is the greatest satisfaction for a design team and mostly for its design manager. To get such high result it is not an easy task, design manager must:
- develop a strategy efficient for its design team
- love politics and lobbing
- win win negociation - if you let me do this I let you do that!
- fight over cost issues - good design some times has higher cost!
- be a good designer -sketch alternatives during meetings, show good alternatives (problem solving)
- follow all designers activities converging with them having the technical hard points Under control.
- present to top management solutions explaining reasons behind choices
- learn about technique, technologies,cost,production processus
- manage in house design activities like: project budget, timing processus, modelling and prototyping...presentations, follow-up work in progress
- ring the alarm bell if necessary (any problem causing a possible stop on the program)
- strong passion for this type of stressy activity
Reading this hub you understand that design manager life is not an easy one, I wrote about performance to be in the game and outside the game. To ensure this the design manager has to be very organized, dedicated to his task, responsible, must have a mobile phone (often at the telephone) and a good connected pc (a lot is done writing to collegues to send informations or ask them things to do...), must have a car to got to suppliers to discuss design versus technical hard points given by suppliers (those are new hard points discovered when the project is passed to suppliers for real parts fabrication), or go visit model makers companies where models are in progress.
Many times people ask me: do you still design being a manager? Do you still enjoy managing design like when you where a designer sketching all day having fun with colors and models?
My answer is always the same one: yes I do!
I do because when I am in front of a computer screen watching a project on Alias I enjoy to sketch with my collegues to find the solutions that will protect our design but also our technical problem. For me that is my creativity given to the team for problem solving. Same thing when the team is in front of a clay model, or during suppliers meetings on a particular parts. It is a creative job to protect design but with a strong focus on discipline, stategy, managing, negociation.
Hard job, but exciting!
© 2010 Luciano Bove