How to Become a Car Designer – Where to Start

Before pursuing a design career, my first thought was “I want to become a car designer – but how do I start? To those who are asking themselves this exact question, here are a few tips:


More specifically, take drawing classes at your local college. Take as many classes as needed until you are comfortable drawing objects straight from your head. Take classes like:

– Sketching, Still Life

– Figure drawing (This helps with speed and form development especially with cars.)

– Perspective drawing (I cannot emphasize enough how important this is, perspective is as important to a designer as sentences are to a writer. Learn it-learn to love it.)

More Tips:

– If you sketch in pencil, retrace the same drawing on a separate sheet of paper in pen. Continue with this exercise until you are confident enough to sketch in pen. Most professionals sketch entirely in pen.

– Always carry a small sketchbook (I use Moleskine) or folded copy paper and a pen with you at all times.

– Several times a day, practice by sketching the first object you see in front of you.

– Fill the entire page of your sketchbook- blank space on a page is the enemy.

– For the aspiring car designers, purchase a scale model of a car, set it in front of you and draw it in various angles. Draw is exactly as you see it-don’t cheat by only drawing the side view!


Learn to use Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or Painter. This is the standard rendering program for the design industry. The more comfortable you become with these programs, the stronger of a designer you will become.

Purchase a Wacom Tablet. This is also an essential tool in the design industry. This tool is much more efficient than a mouse for rendering and you will be less likely to suffer from carpel tunnel due to prolonged use. Initially, it will be a bit awkward to use, but it becomes more fun as you get used to it, I promise.


A single project within a portfolio illustrates your design process and presents how you came about your final design. It is essential to have all the correct information that leads to your final design.

Keep in mind that a “design” is always a solution to some sort of a problem. If your design doesn’t solve a problem-then you are just stylizing a product or vehicle. This does not make for a good design.

Scour the internet or bookstores and find inspiration images that relate to the product you are designing. For example, I might look at luxury watches when designing the gauge cluster of a luxury sports car. You can make a similar connection with the Lamborghini Reventon to the F-22 Stealth fighter by looking at its form. Know that design inspiration can be found everywhere; always trying to pull designs out of your head will cause you to blank out.

Creating a business purpose:

Many forget to a company, designers are a luxury. At the end of the day designers must create revenue for their clients and employers. Incorporating a business purpose into your project will show a very complete and well though-out design proposal. The business purpose maybe as simple as, “I’m designing a compact hybrid vehicle for the metropolitan regions of the U.S. that 70% of the working population can afford because economists project the economy to be down for the next four years.” It can also be conceptual like designing future vehicles for the year 2025.


Your portfolio should consist of 5 to 8 individual projects with each project illustrating your design development process. Each project should consist of the following:

– The design objective (Why did you design this product or vehicle?)

– The business purpose

– Inspiration images (Multiple images that inspired your final design)

– Sketches (Show how your sketches relate to your inspirational images)

– Final renderings in multiple views (The final drawings fully colored in Photoshop or marker shown in three-quarter front and rear views, as well as the side view)


When your portfolio is ready, research you chosen Design College and submit your portfolio. There are only a few prestigious design colleges in the world and even fewer for automotive design; so choose wisely.


– Always apply for scholarships and grants even if you don’t think you are not going to get either. Applying for scholarships usually require you to submit your portfolio a few weeks earlier of the deadline. From my personal experience, I never ever thought that I would be awarded any scholarship but I applied anyway. I unexpectedly received a scholarship award letter with my acceptance letter a few weeks later.

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