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Engineering Students Going to Design Career

Updated on March 18, 2018
luciano63 profile image

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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    • luciano63 profile imageAUTHOR

      Luciano Bove 

      8 months ago from Paris

      Hi Eric thanks for your comment....I think that after 10 years of this way of doing it bypassing the right path we see many portfolios that do not have enough quality and this is given by the loss of time to learn something complex like car design. In other words 1 year is not enough, if your name is Leonardo Da Vinci then OK! But how many Da Vinci do we have on earth? Some Design schools are changing their Master programs adding 1 year to make a sort of preprogram period...

    • Eric Murphy profile image

      Eric Murphy 

      8 months ago

      So in short, if you graduated in Engineering, don't waste your time taking these 1 year Master Degree Design courses. They're just ripping you off. Yeah, I felt the same too.

    • luciano63 profile imageAUTHOR

      Luciano Bove 

      8 months ago from Paris

      Thank you for your comment, designers are paied a little more than engineers, but the talent and professional level make the difference which means years of experience struggles and frustration, too.

    • profile image

      Rishabh 

      8 months ago

      The struggle with Indian students is that we've been brought up and forced into the so called "popular" courses (engineering, medical, CA, etc)I belive your Hub article is more for everyone. Not only engineering students. I'm an engineering student but I have been consistently doing as much design work as I can. The tragedy is India does not understand what Industrial design is, only selected companies and professionals are aware of this profession.

      So the general thing is people are afraid to venture into this field because they know so little about it. In India success for many people is based on how much money you earn. It is a popular belief that getting a degree in engineering and then doing an MBA or going abroad for MS course would make you good money. But since ID is not a well established profession as engineering, people do not know(including me) how much product design or transportation design pays. Having access to this information will be of great help and will really motivate people to pursue their dreams. People are discouraged because they don't know how much returns they'll get or they don't know much about the industry of design. This information will really help motivate Indian students particularly to pursue these careers.

    • luciano63 profile imageAUTHOR

      Luciano Bove 

      8 months ago from Paris

      Dear Prashant thank you for your comment, you are motivating me too ;)

    • ER Prashant More profile image

      ER Prashant More 

      8 months ago

      A good post to share sir! Let me tell you, you are the person because of whom I can now be able to draw some effective and meaningful car sketches. I wanted to be a designer, and I planned to pursue Bachelors in designing, and I belong to a middle class family, but when I finished my High school and decided to pursue bachelors degree in designing, I was filled with full enthusiasm, but I inquired about the fees to pursue the degree, and it was around 7,00,000 INR per year in 2012 or 2013, which meant, 28,00,000INR for 4 years, this is the only factor that made me change my mind to engineering, there's not a single day I don't sketch, I keep on doodling, but there's always a pen a pencil in my hand, and either a book, or a scrap paper on which I keep on drawing something, I have completed my Engineering, I planned to pursue masters in Designing by getting a loan from the bank, I cracked the exam I even got selected in the institution, but, unfortunately my Loan was not approved by the bank, I have wasted a year now, and I'm trying again for my masters!

      This post of yours has motivated me, and I'll try to prove you wrong, I'll try to be the exception that you mentioned in the post!

      Thank you very much! :)

    • luciano63 profile imageAUTHOR

      Luciano Bove 

      8 months ago from Paris

      Dear Devabrat, I do know NID Strate and other Design or technical Design colleges and Universities in India and also outside India. My Hub is referred to India and also Italy, Spain and some other situations outside EU. I am not decouraging people, I am telling people what is the right path to follow to make a real career in Design. India is making great efforts, but lately very recently and I am happy about it. I visited all Indian design schools stands at the Delhi show meeting people and seeing those efforts... Swaroop is working for me so I know him very well and his past too. However you are confusing extra talents very few on earth that yes will make into design even without a school. However believe me the majority is not comparable to the few extra talents. The majority has great opportunities only if it takes the right school plan career.

      Thank you for your welcome comment.

    • luciano63 profile imageAUTHOR

      Luciano Bove 

      8 months ago from Paris

      Hi George thanks for reading and your valuable comment. Cheers!

    • profile image

      Devabrat Borgohain 

      8 months ago

      Luciano Bove....You are an inspiration to many people.....your guidance has always made good out of design aspirants, but being biased is very unlikely from you,and you might reject that you are talking about India,but in reality I can assume what your concern is .You are comparing two type of institutions here ,and I know In India Design is not an exemplary field here. But you should understand the fact that our education system is making our people to follow their passion in such a process,but however there some institutions which are coming up in the line, but you need to see the quality of portfolio in those institutions,of course there are exceptions

      And when a person like you starts to be biased, people will do get demotivated.....Do you know that even being from engineering background people are flourishing in design field,best examples are Swaroop Roy, Abhijeet Kumar etc and many more,its not their courses that made them but its their dedication, and you should not shrug it off. And i have seen people from fully dedicated colleges like Art center etc who are struggling to make their mark....so i ask you to be more analytical before you make a comment on such,design is more about passion not about college where you study....

      And also you talk about institutions like DSK,Strate etc...but do you know the quality of those institutions before promoting them? Have you ever been to an IIT,or NID...if not please do ...and then write such an article....Being biased was never expected from you...

    • profile image

      George Kniss 

      8 months ago

      Really impressed with how Art Center has developed over the last 50 or so years. When I was discharged from the Air Force at March AFB in Riverside California 53 years ago, I, being strongly interested in Transportation Design, was faced with a decision as to wether to attend the Art Center School (as it was called then) in Pasadena, or go back home to Pittsburgh, PA and attend Carnegie Mellon Univerdity and study Industrial Design. I did the later and eventhough I was pleased with the education and immersion in design I received, I have always wondered what might have happened if I had stayed in California and attended Art Center. Your great art school is a great and growing institution!

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