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 and 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 won’t really 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 models or render which is then repeated in different colours to show colour choices up to 5-6 times (to pad 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.
My last thought on this topic, which I could probably continue to preach about for another hour whilst I annoy my collegues 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, 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 to what 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 its usually quite boring to do so, we would like to see your character in your work.
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 a 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!
We showed the taxi driver the name of our hotel and he was still none the wiser. Let’s be honest, neither were we.
At this point our bags were being taken from us, “Come with me. He won’t take you he won’t be able to find it, doesn’t have GPS I do, traffic will be light look at my rate card, I will do a deal and charge you 580CNY, see how far it is”.
“Mark, Grab the bags, keep hold of the address and we’ll get it translated over there”. It is easy to forget but something you should always do travelling to China is get the name and address of your destination written in Chinese. Armed with this, we went back to the official taxis. Our ‘saviour’ didn’t look happy but we were on route. As usual it looked busy, chaotic and no quarter was being given by any of the drivers. As we put on our seat belts there was a catch, or rather a lack of one, well the driver didn’t have his on so we should be OK.
Looking around it isn’t quite what you might expect. You will have heard there are many car manufacturers in China, and therefore you may expect the roads to be full of makes you have never heard of, but around Beijing you will recognise most brands with the likes of Ford, Toyota, VW, Audi, and Hyundai filling the motorways. So similar airport journeys in both Great Britain and China!
It is only if you go further from the centre, that the local brands such as Chery or SAIC’s Roewe become more apparent and the further you go the more the balance shifts. This will inform you and help you understand where the wealth is, who is showing off that wealth and their brand awareness for social or business standing.
The taxi driver put his seat belt on, we shared a worried glance that the journey was about to get exciting. Although the horn is weapon number one, and it is a matter of pride to succeed in or prevent someone squeezing into a different lane, there seemed to be no road rage from any of the drivers. With his GPS directing him some 45 minutes later we arrived. We waited with some interest for the usual adding up of the road tolls and meter reading. Total 120, worth the time trying to communicate with the girl at the information desk!
Although a very short visit on this occasion, we did have a day between arriving and our presentation, so we took the opportunity to visit the incredible Great Wall of China and walk along a 4 mile section and back, a great experience.
Then later that day we visited the centre of Beijing to see some of the sites as well as some older parts of town. With a state occasion taking place the level of excitement and security around Tiananmen Square was high, so we made our way to Wangfujing St., walking through the tourist ‘China Town’ with its food outlets displaying live scorpions on skewers and numerous gift stalls with waving porcelain cats. A fantastic day and a nice distraction from the following days design review.
Our presentation went well and we got an opportunity to enjoy a good meal with fellow designers, and exchange views on a number of subjects.
Overall a worthwhile trip and we set off back to the airport as our taxi driver did a good impersonation of Alonso. At drop off, the usual adding up and pointing took place. We handed over the fare, and headed off to check in. As we stood at check in a good 15 minutes after leaving the taxi, I was tapped on the shoulder by our driver. He was placing 10CNY in my hand (£1); he had added up wrong and had spent some time finding us. Refusing to keep it as a tip he put it on our bags, so a shake of the hands and he left. Another insight to this fascinating culture.
China is a very foreign country of extremes, and without visiting difficult to comprehend, but our experiences there are always educational and rewarding.
McLaren Special Operations commissioned us to produce a number of CGI car images for their car brochure.
We believe a CGI visual should tell a story, and this one captures the moment when a young boy becomes fascinated by cars, as he sees the special edition McLaren MSO 650S.
After discussion and signing-off the storyboard content of the shot, we arranged the photo shoot to take place in London. Following a scout of suitable locations, one in Holborn was decided on and the shoot was set up.
On the day, the models were positioned and talked through their poses, while the photographer set up the equipment. A number of shots were taken to get the composition right, using VRED to position a cgi car and place the models on the trial back plates, and we then waited for appropriate natural lighting.
British weather being what it is, it soon became clear that we were going to have to re-work the photos in post production to replicate the requisite sunny day look.
We shot the models with backplate and support material for the lighting and reflections of the CG car and then reviewed all of the content before heading off to our retouching suite.
The following movie shows the build up of the CGI car image through removal of unwanted elements in the scene, added dappled lighting and adjusted shadows to give the image the warm sunny afternoon appearance.
A diversion on my commute with the low winter sun piercing through the beautiful early morning mist, reminded me of the last time I drove this road. It was with a colleague, who had his lovely Peugeot 205 GTi out of ‘storage’, to take a few photographs while the forest was alive with intense autumn colour.
The car hadn’t been used regularly and was obviously as keen as we were to venture out into the cold, reluctantly coughing and spluttering its way to the forest a few miles from our studio. This only added to the charm of a 25 year old car, but once woken it was itching to blast up the road with a perfect wake of leaves in its trail.
All the classic smells and sounds you’d expect were filling the interior: the distinct smell of ageing interior trim, mixed with the fumes of the engine running slightly too rich. There was the lovely basic clunk of switches with slight vagueness to the doors closing shut, all built in a time before VW et al started damping switches and engineering doors to close with the perfect sound. The engine was running a little rough but with some judicious use of the throttle it pulled strongly up the hills with a lovely exhaust tone. A basic car by modern standards, but one which completely connected on an emotional level.
Had I just been overcome with a huge dose of nostalgia? Perhaps. But it was a beautiful reminder how simple things once were. There were no complications understanding what this car was about: There were no large air vents, large exhausts, outrageously large wheels, or huge bulging fenders that tried to suggest it was more powerful than it was. It was only the addition of the restrained but instantly recognisable wheel arch spats, the red pinstripe graphics, and the all-important ‘GTi’ badge that indicated this was the car to have.
The advertising made little reference to 0-60 times, or power outputs, only referring to how it would literally stick to the corners and boldly claiming how similar it was to a Porsche 911 in terms of driving pleasure. But they were right, so much so its reputation quickly spread through magazine reviews and word of mouth, creating a following that advertising can’t buy. They exceeded on all their promises.
There were no contradictions with the car, and Peugeot got it spot on.
Even now, with a little help from that morning sublime light, the car’s handsome exterior still looks great. With the bright oranges and yellows of the leaves, I couldn’t help but recall one of Peugeot’s most famous car adverts – that of the 205’s older brother, the 405 driving along the edge of a field, literally on fire to the soundtrack of ‘Take my breath away’.
What a backdrop, and what a car. I suspect my colleague will be keeping this example for a long long time.
It is a historic moment for Drive as the Limited Edition Drive E10R from Zenos takes to the road carrying the Drive logo, on the distinctive new colour and trim package with Charged Graphite colour, black anodised chassis and additional equipment that makes this the fastest Zenos yet.
This is the first time ‘designed by Drive’ has appeared on a car, and it is a great honour. With Zenos recognising the importance of the design in their success, they are keen to celebrate the relationship with Drive who penned their car, by displaying ‘designed by Drive’ on the buttress.
“Zenos Cars has a long standing relationship with the team at Drive and the E10R provided the perfect opportunity for us to celebrate our partnership. Who better to style and detail our range topping product than the brilliant team that designed it from the outset?” enthused Mark Edwards, CEO of Zenos Cars.
Lead designer Mark Przeslawski commented “The Drive edition E10R had to stand out from the rest of the E10 range, being one of the most exciting cars you can drive we had to inject this emotion into its appearance. As designers we are passionate about everything down to the last detail, being able to have the freedom of paint finishes and colour schematics gave us the scope to create the ultimate E10R.”
With the drive team all very keen drivers it is appropriate that it should be the fastest Zenos yet that carries the Drive Logo. The Drive Edition E10R is track-ready, with adjustable suspension, updated brakes and 6-speed transmission, with race harnesses. It’s track-quick, too, with 500 bhp/tonne serving up 60 mph in as little as 3 seconds, and masses of torque available throughout the rev range.
Designer Gareth Culverhouse commented “The visual expression of the car is completely different, and this is all down to the colour and trim we chose in-house, it’s how we always envisioned a Zenos should be. We used a range of dark finishes and deep metallic paint to give the car a sinister but premium feel, whilst the contrast of the yellow graphics adds visual drama.”
This partnership between Drive and Zenos can be seen as the beginning of a long term relationship akin to that of Pininfarina and Ferrari.