- 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.
I can’t believe it has happened again, Heart breaking. This is my original article I wrote on 28th May 2014.
Reading the headlines on Friday evening I was dismayed to hear about the fire at the Glasgow School of Art, one of the most important and historic Art Nouveau buildings in the UK. It has been admired and critically studied by architecture historians the world over, becoming Charles Rennie MacKintosh’s most famous piece of work despite it being designed early in his relatively short career. It was considered a very bold building when constructed, but many now consider that it marked the beginning of modern architecture with its asymmetrical frontage and complete lack of adornment.
Despite its age though, there is one distinct aspect of its design that still remains highly relevant today : it was the overall coherent approach and the completeness of the design that made this design truly special.
If you were to label Mackintosh or the School of Art a brand, everything about the building was completely on message. From the relatively austere brickwork façade on the outside, to the individual details and fittings that appeared inside, every part of the building was designed to complement other parts. For example, there were no standard door handles, or gutters, or light fittings. At least not the ones on show. All these items were individually designed and manufactured for their sole use in the School of Art. Everything looks like it belongs and has been considered from the outset with the design being seen as a complete whole, not just a building made from a collection of parts. Even more special when you realise the budget was a fairly modest one.
I see cars as being very similar. They have a huge part count, but every part must contribute to the overall story which consistently reinforces the brand message. The form, the materials, the execution of every little part must live up to the customer’s expectations. Even down to how a switch feels when pressed. Whilst this isn’t surprising or revolutionary, it’s all too often overlooked, especially in an age where project costs need to be tightly controlled.
I truly hope that the fire hasn’t completely destroyed the school, and that damaged areas can sympathetically restored, so those that haven’t been able to visit can see for themselves the true depth and coherence that is apparent in this masterpiece.
For more information on the GSA, and the restoration work they are now faced with you can visit : www.gsa.ac.uk
Once again we gathered at the Goodwood Racing Circuit, having enjoyed a blast through the Sussex roads as the sun burned off the very early morning mist.
The Goodwood Breakfast Club, if you don’t already know, usually happens on the first Sunday of the summer months, with a different theme each time. This occasion being Supercar Sunday. With the sheer number of supercars on display you are almost blasé as another McLaren, Ferrari, Lamborghini, even De Lorean comes into sight and slightly taken aback when something shows up that you don’t recognise.
Not only is it a great way to catch up with friends and colleagues, but also a great chance to look closely at the beautiful details on these wonderful cars. No prizes for guessing the cars, but have a go anyway.
After walking around the track, a refreshing drink at the ‘The Kennels’ finishes off a thoroughly enjoyable morning.
The Coventry University Automotive Degree Show once again showcased the talented designers who are benefiting from the UK’s leading position of developing highly creative design professionals.
This year the diversity across the projects was a clear strategy from the course, with well resolved concepts for motorcycles, superyachts, commercial vehicles as well as cars. The Contechs’ awards clearly reflected this in their choices too.
Individuals were highlighting their personal experiences / specialisms to differentiate themselves, from gaming inspired solutions, motorsport placement aerodynamics led functionality and one of the hot topics interior psychology, with shared and personal space in the one environment requiring a lot of thought.
However two of my personal favourites were about creating drama by creating voids. Electrical motorcycles have a tendency to look unexciting as the technical interest of a traditional engine is replaced with a plain panel, but Alex Brown managed to open up this space and inject interest with his quick release battery canisters.
Christofer Saetrang achieved the same level of intrigue with his Alfa Milano proposal, the space between the front wheels bringing theatre with glowing brake discs. Other clever details across his car, along with a well-proportioned design, made the Contechs’ judging panel’s job easier in choosing their winner.
The degree show was once again worth visiting, with the students’ willingness to discuss their projects making it a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
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.
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 it is 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 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!
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 …
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