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How to Choose a Transportation Design School

Updated on August 17, 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.

Scuola Politecnica di Design Milan, Italy Master in Transportation Design Final presentation
Scuola Politecnica di Design Milan, Italy Master in Transportation Design Final presentation | Source

Design Schools, Getting Information

It is true! It is not an easy task to choose a Design School.

We have so many around the world.

Back at my time (30 years ago) it was a lot easier. We had probably five schools, Art Center College of Design ( Pasadena USA) and Royal College (London UK) were the best ones.

Today the scenario has changed a lot because we have at least twenty offering similar programs. They are in several countries like Germany, France, Italy, UK, Sweden, USA, India, China & Japan.

It is a hard choice moving away from home and our family for several years, it has a cost, the life experience will be challenging and we must be smart in taking advantage of all the opportunities out there.

For these reasons to make this choice is not easy at all.

However, if we want to become car designers we have to decide in which university or college to go. We have to trust that organization and start our courses in Transportation Design. Once we are in we won't hesitate to dedicate our time and energy to accomplish our mission: become a Car Designer!

It is a real investment on our future, therefore an engaging affair. Searching for the right college or university means thinking about all this.

It might take a while before we can narrow done our choice to one or two institutes, but we have to take that decision and stick with it untill the end.

My suggestion is to pick two universities and go visit them with your parents, often schools offer an "open day" to present their activities to future students. You should not miss that opportunity to walk in and talk to experts to learn about it and also to reassure your parents often not to interested in Design field as a real future job field.

3 Factors to Keep in Mind

We know that Design is a very competitive field, and Transportation Design even more because it is a rare job.

We also know that some schools offer more opportunities than others, and we know that not all schools offer the same facilities level to train us correctly ( labs, model shops, technologies, industry relations).

I would suggest to keep in mind 3 important factors before we decide where to go for the next 4 or 5 years, and they are:

  • Reputation
  • Programs
  • Industry relations

Reputation is about the school's success profile and strategies. For example, what is the rate of employed students? What type of internships are organized and with which companies? How much the school is engaged to help students to find a job? Does the school have an entry selection interview? What is the number of accepted students per year, 25 or 60 (smaller number the better)? How the media talks about this school? (today with internet it is easy to discover).

Programs are very important. There is a difference between sketching a lot or just enough, being able to model or not, having good computers with updated softwares or not. Good courses are given by the right teachers' team (generally real designers teaching), it is about know-how transfer.

When I studied at Art Center, in Pasadena, I went through a sort of a nice "military service" because it was hard. Our teachers asked for 25 hot quality sketches per week and if you presented 24 perfect ones it was not good enough because you did not bring the requested 25.

Do you get the point? The discipline and the method are important because they force you to become responsible and improve your skills a lot. Naturally this principle is extended to all other experiences (models quality, oral presentations, renderings quality, projects organization, etc.)

Industry Relations are fundamental to give a real hope and opportunity to your professional future.

Many car companies sponsor projects and this is the first big opportunity for any student to face a real designer's team. Those projects last four months, they follow a brief and a planning, the final presentation is the moment we go on stage for the first time in front of design managers to present our project to them and it is our special moment to gain some visibility in front of professionals.

Internships are offered to the best students. Naturally, it is better if your internship is done in a big company design studio. Your portfolio must be excellent in order to apply to it. Smaller companies will give you a different working experience, maybe not so targetted on your inspiration. Four to six months of professional training in a company with a real design team, it is an excellent way to feel the real job before completing school and it goes on your CV.

Those relations depend on the school quality and strategy.

Students working on a full scale wood model
Students working on a full scale wood model | Source

The Portfolio

To choose the right school is an important decision because it will determine your future, we have to go to school to be well trained. The main objective is to make an excellent portfolio with which we can present ourselves to the automotive industry and design studios.

The portfolio is the final important project we really do for ourselves, it will be our best key to open doors and get a designer job.

Good schools know how to guide students to organize and prepare a final book.

A portfolio is expression of us, it should talk by itself, its construction and organization must be professionally and wisely made. The projects will show creativity, skills, progress, ambition. It has to seduce the viewer.

Few schools have dedicated classes like Portfolio & Management practices to structure students before they get their diploma. Prepare them for the after school, and help them to understand the world out there.

This aspect is important, it reveals the professional attention that students receive to be prepared at their best to cope with companies to search for a job.

How I became a Car Designer


In conclusion, I strongly suggest to go step by step with your parents' help because they have to believe in your project as much as you do, they have to support you if possible.

Plan your student career carefully keeping in mind this variety of elements.

Going to learn Design is going to be hard, you will be in an highly competitive environment, lots of frustrations, but also passion and great moments to live. It is a life egagement.

From this choice will depend your future success, so do it well and don't miss it!

Good luck.


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© 2018 Luciano Bove


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