How Are Vehicles Designed?

With 2022 on the horizon, there are countless commercials for 2022 models––packed with everything from entertainment consoles to self-parking. One may ask themself: “How are carmakers able to have next year’s models so far in advance?” The answer is relatively simple; carmakers design vehicles three to five years ahead of time. 

Continue reading to learn about how vehicles are designed and what the process entails. 

Designing a Car Generally Comprises Five Stages 

If you ask the designers of the newest Audi Quattro what went into designing that car, they’ll say teamwork, inspiration, creativity, and a little bit of magic. A car design team comprises artists, engineers, and countless other professionals, all who have one goal: to design a car geared for success. 

Designing a car generally involves the following:

It Starts with an Idea 

When crafting a new car, designers generally start with last year’s model. They’ll ask themselves what consumers like, didn’t like, and want to see in the future. After answering these questions, they’ll design a 2D drawing outlining the car at various angles. 

The first design is not a blueprint. Instead, it’s just getting the idea on paper. Once the designer has a solid outline, they move onto the next step. 

The 2D Design Translates into a 3D One 

After creating a 2D drawing, the carmakers will sculpt the vehicle using digital modeling software. During this phase, they consider the car’s proportions, size, and drivability. This also lets them experiment with different styles without wasting valuable time and resources. 

The 3D Model Turns into a Clay Model 

Once the 3D model has reached its limits, artists will sculpt a 1:4 model of the car in clay. This gives them a firsthand look at what the final product will look like. Afterward, they’ll create a 1:1 clay model of the car––the actual, life-size version. Here, they use clay and moldable plastic. 

Interior Designers Focus on the Car’s Inside 

A car’s exterior design team works hand-in-hand with the interior design team. This is to create a consistent, harmonious product. After all, the car’s outside should reflect the car’s inside. 

Here, designers will draw inspiration from the world around them. For instance, when designing the Audi Quattro’s interior, designers considered different types of materials, including leather, pleather, and water-resistant fibers pioneered by The Outdoors Group. They also considered the type of people that would purchase the vehicle. 

The Car’s Design Is Uploaded to a Computer…Again 

When designers have created the ideal prototype, they’ll use cameras, sensors, and other technology to upload the model back into the computer. This allows them to make final adjustments and produce the car on a mass scale. 

As noted, it takes years to design a car––and the process doesn’t truly stop here. The car’s manufacturers will run the vehicle through a series of tests to ensure safety and quality standards. This involves driving prototypes on private runaways, using computer simulations, and even using crash test dummies. 

How Do I Become a Car Designer? 

Being a car designer is half art, half science. Indeed recommends: 

Spending Time in Auto Shops 

To be a successful car designer, you must have a working knowledge of a vehicle’s every component. Indeed recommends spending time in auto shops getting hands-on experience. You may also intern at an automotive engineering design firm to gain further insight. You can also subscribe to auto magazines, like Popular Mechanics. And get the latest car news from websites like autonewsportal.com.

Get a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree 

While getting experience, you should go to college and get a master’s degree in automotive engineering and design. Many car companies require their designers to have that level of education. This involves taking courses on physics, mathematics, and even art history courses. 

These colleges offer automotive design programs: 

  • Montana State University-Northern  
  • Weber State University 
  • Utah Valley University 
  • University of Northwestern Ohio 
  • Idaho State University 

Build Your Portfolio 

Becoming an automotive designer is more than going to college and getting a degree; it means showing companies that you have the skills to back up your work. While completing your master’s, you might consider getting an internship with an automotive design firm. 

Here, you can work on projects that boost your skillset and creditability. It can also lead to a long-term position if you make the right connections. 

Apply for a Position 

Companies all over the world hire automotive designers. Don’t limit your job search to your country; consider taking your skillset abroad. France, Germany, Japan, and Italy are all international car powerhouses. 

You Can Experiment with Building Cars Digitally 

If you’re a car enthusiast who wants to build or modify cars as a hobby, you don’t have to make a career of it. There are plenty of digital resources online that can fuel your new hobby, such as: 

  • Car Mechanic Simulator. Available for the Xbox and PlayStation, this immersive simulation teaches you how to assemble and take apart cars. It’s perfect if you’re just learning how cars operate or don’t feel like getting your hands dirty just yet. You can modify over 45 cars, including name brands like Jeep and Mazda. 
  • Project Cars 3. This game lets you build and race sports cars. You can design and install body mod kits, tires, spoilers, and a host of other features. It’s also available on Xbox and PlayStation systems. 
  • TinkerCad. Tinkercad is a free online program that lets you design 3D models. There are manys car templates you can start with and modify. Best of all, Tinkercad works with most 3D printers, so you can design a car and hold it in the palm of your hand. 

You may also consider visiting Autodesk’s website, which offers many resources for car designer enthusiasts. 

A Final Word 

Designing a new car is more than slapping a new coat of paint on last year’s model and calling it a day. Its years of trial and error, collaboration, and artistic vision. For more information on how cars are designed, check out this video from Audi. Here, you can get an up-close-and-personal look at the car design process.