- ABOUT US _ Drive is an Automotive Design Consultancy building long term relationships with design-driven companies worldwide, designing products that enhance their brand's DNA and position in the market place.
Former Drive designer Mark Przeslawaski gives his thoughts on what a graduate designer’s portfolio should contain —
I often get reminded, here at Drive, that design is all about opinion, so here’s mine on the dark and scary world of job applications. So you can take some of it on board, all of it on board or none at all and prove me wrong.
It’s the age old and favourite past time of anyone seeking a career in the automotive industry, the application phase. From designers to alias modellers, we are all aware that our industry doesn’t tend to favour the conventional CV and cover letter with a careful placement of buzz words/phrases like ‘I can manage a team of people and take on individual responsibilities’. Although these are areas we all have to consider, at the end of the day, the dreaded ‘P’ word is what we are all thinking right now….your Portfolio. So let’s start with my do’s and don’ts of the most important aspect of an application.
First of all, know who you are applying to, if all you have is speed boats and lawn mowers in your portfolio then I would say it is quite rare that an automotive studio will consider you. Research the studio / brand and try your best to think of what they might look for in a candidate.
“You are only as good as your worst piece of work”. This cannot be said enough, and I wish someone had told me this at university too! As a designer especially, your portfolio will mainly be put under the eyes of other designers, we love looking at them, we want to be excited, we want to see that sketch or render that inspires us and then we will want you! So let‘s throw away lifeless package drawings of translucent, colour filled boxes that say “batteries” or “motors”, and the 97.5 percentile Dutch males that you’ve squashed into your vehicle, we can save all this for when we actually have to face reality, when designing a real car for manufacture (and you may not even have to worry about this).
Keep your projects to a minimum, we see 56 page portfolios with about 10 projects in. These are too big to keep/capture our attention for the period of time it would take to digest that amount of information / wade through it. We are designers ourselves and therefore have to design things and unfortunately you can’t spend all day every day looking at portfolios! Now this is the hard bit, discarding older projects as your skills have improved …. nearly impossible to do sometimes as you probably hold emotions for each project as if they were your own child. They aren’t your children and they don’t have emotions, cut them out and be brutal. Do it, cut it down, get through it. Even if you are left with 3 projects, this will the make us think that you can do everything of this level.
From my own experience as a Coventry graduate, cut out the following 1. Clay head project 2. Any ergonomics based project with lights that reflect your mood 3. An alias model or render which is then repeated in different colours to show colour choices up to 5-6 times (padding out your portfolio?).
Variations of design work. The tricky creative taboo topic, difficult to answer without causing a whole world of design debates and potential Ted talks animosity establishing what design is and how we should approach it. Try to mix it up, don’t just have 3 projects of space ships and fantastic speed painting art work, show that side of you by all means it’s great to see, however try and include some good old fashioned automotive design, displaying an understanding of surfacing, brand interpretation and proportion over 4 conventional wheels.
Your portfolio should be an extension of yourself, it should be presented in a way that you want it to be. Your style should be natural rather than something that is forced. Always be honest with the way that you work, whether you are all about hand sketching or a Photoshop wizard, show how you work as we all have different ways we do things.
A great way to stay sharp, get your name out there and they really keep you on your toes. Local motors, the Michelin design challenge and interiormotives to name but a few, the briefs are usually fun, and if it is not fun then you need to twist their brief to do so! No one wants to design something boring in their spare time. These usually have no engineering requirement, package constraints or a need to convince university tutors to what you are doing, go forth and have fun!
Keep it simple, if you don’t have that much experience it’s ok, we have all been in your shoes at some point and we don’t expect to see years of experience from a student. Whatever you do, please don’t write that you have been ‘freelancing’, it’s a term we all know, love and laugh about, and it means you are probably skint after uni, living at home with your parents with a remedial part time job doing your portfolio and design competitions of an evening whilst your parents tell you that you should start thinking about getting into a different career.
Self Rating Charts
My last thought on this topic, which I could probably continue to preach about for another hour whilst I annoy my colleagues by seemingly moaning endlessly is this …. the self-rating skill charts! Now I’m not sure what the universities have been preaching to the students of late, but here’s my number one pointless thing to put in your portfolio if you are applying to be a designer or alias modeller. Grading yourself out of 10, maybe out of 5 stars even and stating how good you are at alias, photoshop, design or sketching ……
It won’t be right, it will probably annoy someone in the studio that you have sent it to. The idea of your portfolio or data you send is that we will be working this out, and deciding the level we see you as and if we feel you are right for said particular studio position. Whatever you do, please don’t include ‘football’ as a skill set, to which you then score yourself higher on this than any other design skills. Makes me think you should be a professional footballer instead! Hobbies are acceptable to list, but it is usually quite boring to do so, we would like to see your character in your work. (NOTE: Only exception is if you are applying to Drive where your karting lap times are important)
I hope this helps you in all your applications
Have an opinion
Get a photo of you applying a tape to a clay model
Drink green tea or a lot of coffee
Be protective over your pen
Talk about sketches with emotions and feelings
Moan about all cars on the road
Try as best possible to never mention Steve Jobs in an automotive studio
Never be truly happy with your work
Keep portfolios to no bigger than 5mb (if possible)
Drive look forward to seeing the results!
Mark Przeslawski SAIC Design Advanced London
The Coventry University Automotive and Transport Design Degree Show will showcase the talented designers graduating from this highly regarded course. Once again Drive will be presenting the Drive Sketchbook Award to the student who has best communicated and illustrated their design ideas and concepts through their inspiring and engaging hand-drawn sketches. You can see this year’s shortlisted designers and VOTE FOR THEM HERE.
This year however the show will be shown on-line, to allow the talented designers the opportunity to get their work in front of the industry professionals during these very challenging times.
Last year’s winner Marco Gulla, is seen here receiving his award from Drive’s Chris Longmore.
We look forward to seeing this year’s work and choosing the deserving designer to receive the Drive award and £500 bursary prize.
Coventry University Automotive and Transport Degree Show
On Line Thursday 18th June 2020
Drive has provided consultancy services to many low volume vehicle manufacturers and during that time has built up an understanding of the challenges that these businesses face in developing and establishing a successful vehicle in the market.
Niche vehicles have always provided opportunities for entrepreneurs to build successful businesses but now more than ever they are providing a solution to specific transportation problems. This is leading to opportunities for OEMs to use niche vehicles to expand their brand into new markets, become leaders by redefining a market or exploiting new technologies.
Low volume vehicles provide unique challenges in the product offering, manufacturing constraints and the commercial demands. Drive have been involved in numerous programmes and have built up experience of the various approaches to the business proposal, from designers wishing to produce their concept, technology led business opportunities and brand experience products. Many low volume manufacturers such as Hennessey, Delta Motorsport, Zenos Cars, Caterham Cars and Lightning Car Company have benefited from Drive’s expertise at various stages during their projects.
Whilst the funding for niche vehicle projects is provided from varying sources depending on the circumstances, the necessary underlying business case has to be rigorously tested and proved just the same, before investing of valuable time, resources and money. Drive’s in depth experience can help build the background to the project, give crucial investor confidence in the participating parties and provide experience and guidance throughout project timeline.
Through the development and refinement of the design our experienced team maintain the initial design intent whilst answering the engineering and economic challenges posed by these unique projects.
Drive’s understanding of the difficulties facing niche vehicle manufacturers (NVMs) trying to establish a company or product make them ideal partners to be involved in the development of a robust product concept and commercial strategy, whilst helping identify design and manufacturing efficiencies through collaboration with strategic partners.
Not every venture can be the success that everyone is looking for but minimising the risk by being fully aware of the undertaking at the start, with suitable gateways mapped out so that owners and investors can make informed decisions before embarking on the next phase, help to increase the chances of a sustainable business.
Sometimes it is the simpler things in life that give the most enjoyment and restrictions that lead to different or even better solutions.
With the girls on lock down and needing something to do we set them a project.
A project to design and build a ‘soapbox’ or a ‘bogie’ as I knew them when I grew up in Lochmaben, Scotland, using what could be found in the garage, resulted in the demolition of their old twin ‘Mountain buggy’ pram and restricted by the length of axles a reverse ‘Nissan Deltawing’ configuration emerged.
Then they decided to share the project ….
In the world of the design consultancy we are familiar with getting a wide variety of clients through our doors, along with a vast amount of projects from supercars to space craft … however … every so often there is always something you were least expecting.
So when a Top Gear producer entered Drive’s design studio; a world where dreams are created, made, smashed and cherished, he approached with a big grin on his face, beaming with his latest project for us to get involved with … and now it is a gaming sensation in Forza Horizon 4.
A brief was set out, to turn a common tractor into a ‘supercar-tractor’, to alleviate the common countryside issues of being stuck behind a tractor at speeds of 15mph for miles and miles … So this creation was to have a handsome V8 – it sounded like a good start. Other aspects for the new extreme farming solution was that it would have to be able to retain all the functionality of a current tractor; ploughing, towing, ground clearance etc.
So it couldn’t be compromised by its new super-car styling.
So with the desires of Matt Le Blanc outlined, the initial visual cues for the Track-tor were down-force, extreme styling, aggression and a McLaren F1 inspired seating arrangement. Large splitters and diffusers were a go head!
The designs were swept off to the Top Gear fabrication team, and our usual design process, common throughout the car design industry, of sketch, alias Cad, CNC mills, reviews, dynoc / highlight checks, was ……. side stepped. Let’s just say the result was a true one off, bespoke hand crafted in the true tradition of British engineering ingenuity and excellence.
A fun project to have completed and it was great to be able to get down to the Top Gear studio to watch the show filmed live as a bonus. The Track-tor appeared on Country File and Top Gear and excelled in every test thrown at it, on track, road and field! (25th March 2017)
Drive can sleep soundly at night knowing that we have helped Top Gear solve tractor traffic congestion.
images subject to copyright – image courtesy of TopGear www.topgear.com