Do you dream of modifying the sporty body of the Ducati into a more sleeker form? Do you imagine an SUV with a design innovation which will make it more safe and driver-friendly? If yes, then it is time you contemplate a career as an automobile designer. Though currently the automobile industry is experiencing a slump, the demand for automobiles like cars, bikes and heavy vehicles is on a rise.
According to a report by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturer (SIAM), the industry produced a total of 1,854,157 vehicles in March 2014 as against 1,686,348 in March 2013, registering a growth of 9.95 percent. This shows that professional automotive designers have numerous employment opportunities. Generally, these designers are hired as 'industrial' designers to design various parts of a vehicle. However, now-a-days, they also find opportunities in in-house design studios set up by auto companies. Also known as transportation designers, these professionals have the option of setting up their own design studio, freelance, or work as faculty at education institutes that offer training in this field. "Employbility in a company or success of the design studio depends on how good and skilled you are with your designs," says Chandra Prasad, faculty member, DYP-DC – Centre for Automotive Research and Studies, Pune.
Contrary to popular belief, one need not necessarily be an engineer to be a good designer. "A basic understanding of the makeup of the vehicle is important and above all sketching is a vital skill for a designer," says Jagpreet Singh, a freelance automotive designer and faculty at the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES), Dehradun. Sketching is important to translate design ideas into a format which is tangible and can be presented to the client who wants the vehicle to be redesigned or remodeled.
Moreover, experts emphasis on sketching with a pencil rather than using computer software tools. "Paper and pencil drawing is essential, CAD and 3D model designs can be applied later," explains Singh. It also helps to keep a portfolio handy, a vital aspect of being in the designing field. Prasad advises students who aspire to be in this profession to take up drawing classes and be on top of all information about the automobile industry.
Speaking on the importance of sketching, Chennai-based Anoop Nishanth, owner of Maxx Speed Designs (MSD), which specialises in motorbike remodification, talks about how he felt handicapped when he couldn't translate his ideas on paper. "Since I spent four years in computer engineering I never sketched or had any training in drawing," says Nishanth. However, he didn't give up and made it a point to put himself in to the habit of sketching. He later got placed with the TVS Group as an industrial designer and was put on the project of designing head lamps for cars, buses and trucks. However, nine months into the job, Nishanth seemed to be under-utilised as a designer and went on to launch his own design firm in November 2013.
A fresher on the job makes anywhere between Rs 40,000 to 45,000 per month. As for those who own design studios like Nishanth, can on an average demand Rs 1 lakh per project. "From marketing yourself to attending auto shows and bike fairs to presenting your prototypes, you need to catch people's eye," says Nishanth. who believes in interacting with the client and understanding their requirement and then making necessary suggestions.
Until a few years ago, not many education institutes in India offered training in this space. "I pursued mechanical engineering as there were no undergraduate courses in automotive designing here," says Singh, who got his Bachelor in Transportation Design from Istituto Europeo di Design (IED), Italy in 2006. However, keeping in tune with the demand for transportation designers, many Indian institutes now offer undergraduate, postgraduate and specialised diplomas in the various aspects of automobile designing. (SEE BOX)
Nishanth opines that it is not just the body design of the vehicle that an automobile designer has to deal with, but also innovative technological ideas for the engine. "Environment friendly cars and mobikes with excellent speed pick up are in demand. It is time to explore and convert passionate ideas into reality on the road," he signs off.
1) National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad
2) Univeristy of Petroleum & Energy Studies (UPES), Dehradun
3) IIT- B
4) DYP-DC – Centre for Automotive Research and Studies, Pune
(List is indicative)