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Car design has always been one of the most competitive design careers around and the struggle starts with gaining a place on one of these courses. Competition for places is fierce and schools can often afford to choose the best applicants. Simply sending in an application isn't enough, in addition you're going to need a good portfolio of work to back up your application.
Amongst the variety of courses on offer, you need to select one that suits your requirements. Obviously a school that's reasonably close to where you live is one starting point, although that may not be so easy if you're outside a region where a course is located. The philosphy and reputation of the course and the teaching faculty are also important factors.
Transportation design students present their '2020 Autonomy' concepts to GM designers at the College for Creative Studies, Detroit
Graduation show presentation at Elisava School of Design, Spain
Some schools have strong links to nearby car companies or motor industry, where practicing designers will be involved on a part-time basis or for sponsored projects. A few of them have a stronger engineering bias, others may have more impressive modelling and workshop facilities or 24 hour studio access. It's important to visit a few school degree shows and talk to students at the school to find out what the course entails, what the classes are like and to get in touch with the applications department early on. Many schools have open days and arranging to visit on one of these days is thoroughly recommended before making any decisions.
What qualifications do I need?
Most Transportation Design courses will require you to demonstrate your creative and artistic talent before short-listing you for an interview or offering a place, so good 2D drawing skills remain the prerequisite requirement. In terms of high school subjects, art and design qualifications are therefore an absolute must, so too is being able to work fluently with numbers, in order to cope with basic calculations for engineering topics, such as 3D volumes, aerodynamics or model scales. Therefore, good grades in maths or physics are the next key priority. After that, the ability to express your thoughts fluently in writing is a strong element of many course structures, with research reports or dissertations often forming a key element of final year studies. So, good grades in your national language and grammar should also feature in your high school qualifications.
Foreign languages are increasingly valued, as speaking only one language is likely to severely restrict your career options upon graduation. Don't forget, the car industry is totally international in outlook and designers will typically work in several countries during the course of their careers. So, if you want to become the next Chris Bangle or Frank Stephenson a few languages might help...