Check out some great work from Achim Badstuebner.
Interviewed while Mr. Badstuebner was Head of Exterior Design at Audi in Ingolstadt, Germany.
What portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
I don’t want a person who is only into automotive. They should have some other interests and somehow project it in their portfolios. I like to hire personalities—that’s really important. They should have a strong background in another area. Another field. Something unexpected. That always gets my attention. We like artistic portfolios: people who have unexpected artwork, who add to their portfolios some architectural drawings and such. It’s always interesting to talk to them to get a feeling of what kind of talent they are.
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Sounds like what you’re looking for is a combination of passion for design and the brand with a diverse life experience.
Lot of times I’ve seen candidates who know every single car in the world and where they’ve been built. That’s nice but it’s not important. Everybody has their own perspectives on things. One of our employees didn’t have a driver’s license but was really into Audis, which is interesting. He brings in a completely different aspect. He grew up in Russia where he mostly took public transportation to get around. He looks at cars completely differently than we would.
So if an industrial design student came up to you and asked, “What should my portfolio be like? What do I need to show you in order to work with you?”, what would you tell them?
Their portfolio should be very creative, with great sketching skills and fresh ideas.
What qualities or characteristics are necessary to be a successful designer?
Again, because our language is in sketches, it means that talking about design is through sketches. If you can talk through a picture, you’re communicating. It’s very important in the automotive business to be able to communicate through your sketches. You have to communicate with external departments like engineering and it’s always important if you can communicate with them through your mother tongue, through sketching. It’s very important.
Next, you need to have a good technical background, especially at Audi. We are very technically driven. It helps to understand complex, technical parameters because in our work a designer needs to understand the technical drawing so he can draw over it. You need to have an ability to work on your own model at least in the first phase, to build CAD models that can be milled, to make almost a CAD sketch. It’s not 100% necessary but it’s definitely helpful. We’ve hired a lot of young people who have this skill, compared to my generation who can’t do this despite being talented. It’s definitely an advantage if you have CAD experience.
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I love the fact that you called sketches the mother tongue of designers. Can you talk a bit more about the importance of sketching in design?
There are two very interesting aspects of sketching. The first is that you can only talk with the words you know. For example, my English vocabulary is limited, so in my mind I could tell you more in my language than I am able to now. It’s the same with sketching capability. You have to be able to get on the paper what’s on your mind. It’s a circle. You can only grow when you see what’s on the paper. That’s a really interesting aspect of design work. If you hang up sketches people will see them or talk about them, sketch over them. They’ll do overlays or do their own interpretations. You have to be technically capable of doing this and be able in your mind to understand what you want. There’s a certain level of pretentious to it.
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