How to become a car designer
Two young South Africans have forged careers as car designers abroad. This is how they did it
DOWN here at the southern tip of Africa, we’re far removed from the global centres of automotive design … not ideal if your dream is to become a car designer. This geographical fact, however, has not stopped talented and passionate individuals from carving out careers in this field (see “Home-grown pride”) and the latest among these are two young South Africans based in Europe. We had a chat with them to find out more about the challenges they faced and how they successfully overcame them.
CAR: Where did your passion for car design start?
AJ: As a kid, I used to draw all the time, often cars. It all changed at around 14 when I stumbled across a Discovery channel series ( Birth of a Sports Car), where they discussed the design of the second-generation BMW 6 Series by Adrian van Hooydonk. I was amazed how a simple sketch could turn into a real production car.
Are you also interested in the wider field of art and design?
Yes, for sure, and I almost studied to become an architect.
As a creative, how else do you express your artistic side?
My first love is oil painting. It allows my creativity to flow without thinking, contrary to car design requiring intellectual effort.
Where did you study automotive design?
I first studied civil engineering at Stellenbosch University and completed my master’s degree in engineering management. Thereafter I worked as a civil engineer before deciding to make a career move and follow my passion for car design. This led me to Italy where I acquired a threeyear bursary to study a bachelor’s degree in transportation design at IAAD in Turin. My engineering background is both useful and a limitation, as engineering is bound by rules and regulations. However, it taught me great work ethic.
How much does it cost to study?
It is prohibitively expensive for South Africans to study abroad without a bursary because the total cost (including living expenses) can easily exceed R400 000 a year.
How did you get into the industry?
An industry meeting with several design houses and OEMS during my studies gave me important contact details and I got an offer after sending out my design portfolio to these organisations.
What classic car represents the pinnacle of car design?
The Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale is perfect from every angle and an example of beautiful, seamless design.
What classic car would you reinterpret in a modern context?
I am not fond of redesigns, as they detract from the iconic status of the original. I would much rather focus on a new future-classic design.
What advice can you offer CAR readers aspiring to become car designers?
It’s difficult from an emotional and financial point of view; you need to work incredibly hard and make plenty of sacrifices to succeed. Ensure this is what you really want in life and that you have the skills for the job. It certainly isn’t impossible and it is worthwhile in the end.
Examples of work by designer André Jacobs (see page 102): Final thesis project in collaboration with Infiniti (¾ perspective). Final thesis project (top-view perspective). Design proposal for third-year study group thesis project in collaboration with Range Rover.
2017 Dallara Stradale designed by Granstudio, Parco Valentino Salone dell’automobile Torino. Second-year electric SUV design project. Second-year super luxury coupé design project. 2017 Honda design contest finalist – final render. Normal day of working.