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Engineering Students Going to Design Career

Updated on March 18, 2018
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Luciano Bove is a car design manager working at Renault Design. Born in Italy, he graduated from Art Center College of Design in California.

Mechanical Engineering University India
Mechanical Engineering University India

Mechanical Engineering & Transportation Design not Quite the Same

Many young car design dreamers (specially in India) pursue their studies in Mechanical Engineering Universities, and after their Bachelor they chose a Transportation Design Master of 1 year in Europe or USA and they believe they are designers.

Those students prepare a CV & portfolio (which is 1 year old thanks to their Master few projects) and try to apply for a car designer job.

I, myself, receive several per months and regularly I find myself in the bad position to write back a negative feedback simply because their portfolio does not have the right quality level in terms of skills and creativity.

Some of them do not understand answering back that they are confused about the reasons of rejection, after all they studied Engineering Transports and have a year of Design Master.

For this reason I decided to write this Hub hoping to bring a bit of clarity.

Two Different Worlds that Work Together

Car Designers daily work
Car Designers daily work

Different but Complementary to Make and Design a Car

There is still confusion about how to plan a designer career starting from school, I wrote several Hubs about this topic and still people ask me on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube.

The first question we have to make to get a clear answer is:

Do I want to become an Engineer or a Designer?

Because we must understand and accept the fact Engineers and Designers study different things, during their school period, they are trained with a different mental approach to problem solving, they are different in how they see the same problem to solve.

Engineers are very analitics and scientific, their strength is to find a sure technical solution to a given problem, they use their mental creativity with a concrete and realistic method and approach. They will find the solution that will work 100%, the question is:

is that solution compatible with the project (a car exterior or interior) in terms of fonctional and aesthetics? Is that solution respectful of the chosen Design for that project?

Believe me at the beginning of a project for several project problems to solve the Engineers answers are not compatible with the chosen Design.

This is when designers and design managers join the game to ensure that Design compatible solution. Before explaining how, let's see how designers are trained in a Design University.


Nir's ideation sketches Transportation Design project
Nir's ideation sketches Transportation Design project | Source

Design Students Training

When I left my country Italy to go to Pasadena Art Center College of Design I felt something was strange and at the beginning I was a little lost.

I came from a "design culture" made of 1:10 scale side views made with rulers, a 2H graphite pencil on a grid paper, or straight front and rear views and X sections and to finish a half top view with the Z overall section. Everything made just of lines very clean and I used the eraser to make modifications of millimeters. This was 1983!

When I start attending Sketching classes and Transportation Design 1 class I completely changed my way to see the "ideation of a car": no tools, no grid paper, no millimiters changes but big changes, all the sections studies came later (they are important). First came the sketching using colors and studying proportions with no creative limits forgetting the eraser it was banned at school.

Design students are trained to reach a high artistic level and are pushed to their creative and skills limits to improve constantly everyday. The objective is a final excellent portfolio to get a job.

This is the big difference between a design student and an Engineering student, one is using the creative part of the brain developing it, the other the rational part remaining in the sure environment made of sure solutions.

Designers do not always know how something they designed can work, but they question engineers to help them to make it and working together they arrive to find the right solutions that make both happy. This is To Design something, it is a team work made of each others knowledges and know-how.

Different but complementary!

Design students study sketching, technical drawing (draft drawing), theory of structures, theory of colors, illustration techniques, digital design tools, clay modeling and all other materials such as wood plexyglass at so on, 3D virtual modeling and some principles about how things are put together including technologies, just to name few.

However, what makes the difference is the mental artistic approach based on a very speciphic talent designers have and not everybody can have because of their nature.

Another aspect is : how can you compare a portfolio made of 4 years of Design school with another which corresponds to 1 year of Master in Design?

The gap, in terms of quality and creativity, is too big.

I hope that after this description it is clearer to you why it is extremely difficult that an engineering student after a year of design master can think of being a designer.

Renault Twizy a New Design based on Engineering Innovation

Renault EV Twizy Design and frame design
Renault EV Twizy Design and frame design | Source

Are Engineers Creative People?

Yes they are! Let's say it clear because it is true, I met many during my working experience and it has been a pleasure to work with them to provoke innovation.

Without a creative engineer we (designers) do nothing, the Twizy EV production project I managed is a good example. However, the same engineers would never design that car the same way, so it was a real team effort made of designers and engineers working together for a win win professional relations the secret of the Twizy's successful Design result.

To conclude this Hub I hope that young car design dreamers pay attention to which school and training they pursue not to waste time, money and opportunities for their future.

Engineering university is for engineers, Design university is for designers.

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© 2018 Luciano Bove

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