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Car Design Schools: Undergraduate Vs Master Programs

Updated on January 8, 2017
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Luciano Bove is a car design manager working at Renault Design, born in Italy he studied at Art Center College of Design in California.

Art Center College of Design Pasadena CA
Art Center College of Design Pasadena CA | Source

The Master Dilemma!

Dear friends,

I am receiving too many questions about Master programs in Car Design schools with a particular attention to the real opportunity to become car designers once you got your Master degree.

Some of you complain about personal experiences that did not turn out exactly as you expected, and some others ask to be reassured that getting the prestigious Master degree will really open every door in car design studios.

Let me tell you, as I already wrote about it, to become a car designer is one implement your educational career with a Master degree is another thing!

Sometimes both experiences go very well together, some other times these experiences do not converge they remain parallel and here we have a serious problem!

Luciano Bove at SPD Milano Italy
Luciano Bove at SPD Milano Italy | Source

To Become a Car Designer you need a Good School!

To become a car designer today you need to know first if you have talent and creativity. You have to put together what we call an "entry portfolio" which is basically a collection of what you draw. Mainly cars, but I suggest to add also landscape sketching, products, illustrations, and paintings if you have.

The entry portfolio will help school's committee to evaluate your level of talent and creativity, but also to understand your passion for design and car design.

Now that you have your entry portfolio you have to search for a design school with a Car Design or Transportation Design Department made of teachers who are designers themselves. Those teachers are not just academics with theory and rules they bring also the practical everyday experience in their teaching method. Their know-how is offered to students.

Imagine you got selected! You start an undergraduate program of 4 or 5 years during which you will have the time to:

  • learn basics of drawing
  • learn basics of illustration techniques
  • learn basics of car design
  • learn basics of modeling techniques
  • learn how to make design projects
  • learn how to model with all materials and Clay
  • learn how to use Virtual Reality
  • learn how to use Photoshop, Illustrators, Alias, Maya, 3DMax
  • learn how to manage sponsored projects (GM, VW, BMW...)
  • learn how to manage your presentations
  • learn how to manage yourself and your communication
  • -learn how to make your final portfolio
  • -learn how to make job interviews (specific exercises...)

Do you understand now the reason why you need 4 or 5 years to make your final professional portfolio hoping to get a job in design?

The undergraduate program (course) is intended to teach you starting from basics and, step by step, take you to your bachelor day.

You should start at 19 or 20 years of age to end up between 23 or 25 years of age. You get your diploma which is generally a BS in Human Science in the Field of Transportation Design.

To me, this is the main course to follow if you want to become a car designer.

IAAD Design School Turin, Italy
IAAD Design School Turin, Italy | Source

Master Programs in Transportation Design

So, until now I wrote about the classical course to follow in order to become a car designer with a recognized diploma.

What about Master Programs in transportation design?

The Master in Transportation Design is a 1-year course during which selected students make few advanced projects sometimes with sponsors. The objective of a Master Course is to give a higher education project management experience to students, in other words, give a higher level of experience that goes more in details about project management methods.

I would like to repeat this sentence to make sure you read and understand it:

The objective of a Master is to give a higher education project management experience to students, in other words, give a higher level of experience that goes more in details about project management methods. (My opinion according to my experience).

In this sentence, you have the difference between an Undergraduate Course & a Master Course.

I translate for you: if you want to learn how to draw cars you need an Undergraduate Course if you need to go more in details about design management and project management you need a Master Course.

Luciano Bove at Domus Academy Nov 2013
Luciano Bove at Domus Academy Nov 2013 | Source


At the beginning of this Hub I wrote about converging courses experiences and parallel ones, let's see this aspect in detail to understand the risk of problems.

Converging Courses experiences:

This is the case when you (students) get accepted to a Car Design school Undergraduates course, at the end you get your Diploma in Transportation design (potentially you can go and search for a job).

If you wish to implement your education to obtain a better preparation on Design management and Project management, you will follow a Master in Design. This way you will have an extra year to improve some of your skills mainly management and methodology.

Now you understand that with a Bachelor in Design plus a Master in Design you will search for a design job with all requirements to make a nice career. It is logic!

Parallel Courses experiences, we have a problem!

This is the most problematic case. When I write "parallel experiences" I mean the following case which is the most popular at my knowledge.

You (students) come from Engineering University or Architecture University or another type of field. You did not go to a design school for 4 or 5 years before choosing your Master in Transportation design. You did not get all the basics of drawing I listed at the beginning of this Hub. Basically, you are at an entry portfolio level.

However you have a dream, you want to become a car designer. You think that it is enough to go to a Master in Transportation Design plus your Engineering degree. You believe to have all requirements to compete against design students coming from Undergraduate program courses.

I am sorry but you are wrong!

This is the case when both educational courses remain most of the time parallel because it is impossible to learn how to be a car designer in 1 year at the age of 27 or 29 compared to young and fresh students who studied for 4 or 5 years Design!

For this simple and logic reason, it is difficult to put together a serious creative portfolio, only extremely talented people can make it because of their own high creative and skills level.

That extra year in a Master Program helps them to complete their level.

However, this is really the exception that confirms the rule it is not the everyday story!

UMEA Master Transportation Design
UMEA Master Transportation Design | Source


Dear friends,

believe me many many times I suggested to go to a real good Design school, make your 4 years at your best. Work on your final portfolio, if you wish to improve your management skills it is a good idea to follow a Master course in the same or another good design school or University.

This type of experience will be the logic one to follow.

If you are 18 years old and thinking to go to Engineering University to become a car designer STOP! Don't!

You will complicate your life and most of the times you will not make it!

Luciano Bove

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    • luciano63 profile image

      Luciano Bove 2 years ago from Paris

      IAAD and IED are very good!

    • profile image

      Davidson 2 years ago

      which is the best des school in italy, if not europe for UG? i m 16 and want become a car designer in mclaren. also the school should accept foreign students as i m from india

    • profile image

      Prathamesh Patil 2 years ago from Nashik

      If I have a bacleors in engineering then I go for BDes and then Mdes, I would come out at age 27/28. Then would it be possible for me to get into the main game? I wouldn't have been doing BE if it wasn't for financial problems. And also I'm not really sure about taking an education loan because I'm in a dilemma about whether I would be able to pay it back or not . I surely wouldn't let engineering get the better of me. I'm 17 right now. I'm sure you would guide me about it. Designing is my passion. I would send some of my drawings on your email. Also is MITID PUNE in India a good school?

    • luciano63 profile image

      Luciano Bove 3 years ago from Paris

      you can find me on FB Luciano Bove

    • Allwyn PushParaj profile image

      Allwyn PushParaj 3 years ago from Madurai, India

      Sir, I completed my Bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in India in 2014. I got admission in both IAAD and in IED for Master's course in Transportation Design but I opted IED since it offers 2 years course against 1 year course in IAAD. I consider myself good in hand drawing and I'm well versed in several 3D softwares. From my childhood, creativity has been one of my strong Forte. I'm a quick learner, so learning a new software or a drawing technique is not going to be an issue.

      I'm planning to secure a study loan to do the course in IED and as I'm not sure of possible salary that I would get after completing the course in order to Repay the loan, I'm hesitant in taking this opportunity. But not being a Transportation designer or a designer in a similar field will also kill me. I would really appreciate to have your advice on this. I would like to send my portfolio to you but I couldn't find your email ID.

    • luciano63 profile image

      Luciano Bove 3 years ago from Paris

      Ciao Juan, I think that in your case 1 prep year + 1 Master in Transportation at IAAD should work fine...however remember: you do not do thid to become famous or a Lamborghini designer or to make money...unless you start with the bad attitude ;)

    • Juan Navarro H profile image

      Juan Navarro 3 years ago from Peru

      Dear Mr. Bove

      I consider myself that i born talented like an artist since that i was kid because drow is easy to me,paint,doing sculptures, any kind of plastic arts is not a problem. But my real passion is to be a car designer in the future i would like to be famus as a car designer maybe in working in Lamborghini. So i have bachelor in Industrial Design at Pontificia University Catolic of Peru and i am 26; i am decided seriuosly in start my Master in Transportation Design at IAAD Italy, first the previous course and then the Master.

      As i have a bachelor degree in Industrial Design + my skills + my age is it a good idea to make only the Master with previous course or is necesary to do 4 or 5 years in a school of Transportation Design as you posted.

      Thanks for your time Mr. Bove

    • luciano63 profile image

      Luciano Bove 3 years ago from Paris

      dear Rashiga in my article I try to explain that to become a car designer means to start with a full course in Transportation Design! So in your case Industrial Design could be the right choice..

    • profile image

      Rashiga 3 years ago

      Hi Sir,

      I just passed out doing BSc in mechanical engineering, and I have quite a bit of experience in 3d modeling and rendering(over 7 years) using 3ds max (specially car modeling). I'm interested in car designing and product designing.

      After reading your post I felt bit down for choosing engineering. Any way I'm already 25 years old , so from your explanation I think there is no point of trying to go for car designing. I think going for a product designing MSc would be better for me.

      Whats your opinion on this?

      Thanks in Advance!

    • jaideep22 profile image

      jaideep jadhav 3 years ago from pune,india

      thnx a lot sir....

    • luciano63 profile image

      Luciano Bove 3 years ago from Paris

      You need to draw like hell because when you get to Master Program you need to have talent and skills very developed....this is difficult because you will try by yourself and without a Professional training hard!

    • jaideep22 profile image

      jaideep jadhav 3 years ago from pune,india

      dear sir,

      i like u r above post bcoz it is interesting,now if we already join engineering then i believe that here we need to think out of box bcoz if i want to do PG in transportation design bcoz i m passionate about cars ,thats why i do car sketching daily but also we have to do something extra hard work to come close level of UG transport. design students, i want to ask u what those extra things we engg. student need to do before join our master program.

    • luciano63 profile image

      Luciano Bove 4 years ago from Paris

      The school has the right to do their own job which is to teach.....students should plan their career better according to what they want to do in life...

    • profile image

      Sinan 4 years ago

      Dear Mr Bove,

      i really appreciate your ideas but i don't understand why the schools like IAAD still accept engineering sudents to master program, that confuses me.

      By the way, i have a question, who or which department decides the strategy of car concept and design

    • luciano63 profile image

      Luciano Bove 4 years ago from Paris

      You should show me your entry portfolio and after I'll tell you if it is correct to do it! look for me on FB Luciano Bove and there we chat...ok?

    • profile image

      chetan 4 years ago

      Sir iam presently studying mechanical engineering 3rd year, i wish to know how can i enter into design school without my 4years of engineering going waste....pls help me out

    • luciano63 profile image

      Luciano Bove 4 years ago from Paris

      Check your email thanks!

    • luciano63 profile image

      Luciano Bove 4 years ago from Paris

      In your case if you could Yes! because at the age of 22/23 make 3 or 4 years for transportation would be the best thing to do without a Master. you will come out at the age of 28 with 2 degrees and a real Transportation design diploma!

    • profile image

      shyamalendu maity 4 years ago

      Respected sir, now i am reading B.Sc automobile maintenance .after complete this graduation , which is the best course for automobile industry ??

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      Nosakhare 4 years ago

      Thank you sir, was very encouraging and reassuring although I would like to ask a question; my case ; I'm 20 in my 3rd/5thyear in an engineering university in Nigeria. What would you suggest I do.....complete this and go for an undergraduate degree in transp. Design?

    • luciano63 profile image

      Luciano Bove 4 years ago from Paris

      Dear Abhishek thank you for your comment I felt like it had to be written at least my point of view :)

    • profile image

      Abhishek deol 4 years ago

      Simply wow!..i strongly believe this was the must requird topic to be illustrates by any experienced designer teacher/manager because this is the case with many people out there ,mostly indians I believe and sir u made it crystalled clear.Your each n every word is guiding/throwing light to many aspiring ones.