Check out some great work from Stuart Macey.
You open your book H-Point: The Fundamentals of Car Design & Packaging with the following quote from Sir Alec Issigonis: “Fashion dates, but logic is timeless.” How has his statement guided your own work?
My main role in a studio is to support the design team by creating the vehicle architecture or package, based on sound logic: from product planning, legislation, and technology. This frees up the designers to focus on form and proportion development, without getting bogged down with too many details. Sometimes the package forces the design to be compromised, so it’s often seen as the enemy, but it’s always worth remembering that it’s usually the logic behind a product that defines its appearance. I always try to communicate the logic as clearly as possible and remind the designers that history is littered with iconic, timeless designs that look very cool because of their architecture. I don’t think Sir Alec’s statement is meant to put down styling, just help to define its purpose in the product development process.
How did you break into the industry?
Through the back door actually. In the ‘70s not many people knew how to start a career in the car business, and there were no car companies near to where I grew up. I wanted to be an illustrator and just draw cars for a living, but my parents couldn’t afford to send me to art college, so I took a sheet metal work apprenticeship in a shipyard instead. (Are you crying yet?) During my training I used a lot of geometry, spent some time in the drawing offices working on Hovercraft Structures and went to college to study engineering. When my apprenticeship finished, British Leyland—England’s largest car company at the time—was looking for trainee body engineers and my training qualified me for the position.
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What characteristics or qualities are necessary to be a successful industrial designer?
A tough question. Creativity, imagination, innovation, great communication skills—visual and oral—a diverse knowledge base and the right computer skills are all important. Having a friendly personality and working well with teams is also really appreciated by employers. You’ll need to take criticism well and get used to having your heart broken when your favorite design is not chosen, or is highly modified by the project leaders. A good designer should be flexible, open minded, and a good listener.
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What are some common mistakes you see students or junior designers make in their portfolios?
Not understanding what the client is looking for and not including work that makes it stand out from the crowd. Designers are paid to generate ideas, so there should be lots of ideation work.
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What do you think is a good way for people to improve their skills?
Get good training and put lots of practice time in. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he suggests it takes about 10,000 hours to become truly great at anything if you get good information from day one. Moving around the industry can be very helpful for growth, knowing when to change jobs, and working with people who want you to succeed can help accelerate growth.
If you were just starting out now, what advice would you give yourself?
Find some good mentors and the right college. Make lots of friends, work hard, stay passionate and inspired. Find out your strengths and weaknesses, then focus on developing your strengths and avoid situations that expose your weaknesses. Don’t let anyone hold you back.
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