A recent article in Business Week magazine stated, " Never before has design been so vital to an auto maker's success, maybe even to its survival". Much of the reason for this situation is the close parity in quality between different brands and the general high quality of new cars; according to J. D. Power, vehicle quality has improved 24% in the past five years. This situation is well recognized and is perhaps reflected in the more expressive design languages that many brands are adopting to better differentiate themselves. What is not so broadly recognized in contrast to the growing importance of design, is the cut in OEM design budgets and project timings. This reduction forces designers to be more efficient and be masters of all the aspects of automotive design. The days of the designer simply sketching and laying tapes are dead. To be competitive, today's designers need a much broader base of talents and skills, How to be a successful designer when going it alone By Dave Hilton, Motor City Europe Independence day
one of which is being budget conscious. Just three years ago, it was not untypical for a major OEM to have designers being supported by clay modellers, a dozen design managers, and a mass of digital modellers. Of course, no one designer can do everything, but broadening that designer's skill base, allows him/ her to do more with less. Imagine a highly creative designer who can find new forms and graphics while respecting all engineering constraints, and can also do most of the digital modelling, support in rough clay modelling, understand the DNA of the company, and professionally hit all the timing gateways. Sound like a dream? It is actually becoming more of a requirement. Car manufacturers' design studios have always developed processes and organizational structures that improve efficiency, but the pressure on them to deliver even higher quality is still increasing. Within this context, there is a growing argument for OEMs to work with either multi talented designers, or independent studios. If a car company can find these ' super designers', they should hire them! However, as we have seen recently, many of these super designers are realizing their potential and establishing themselves as independents. Examples include the former bosses of BMW, Aston Martin, Mercedes, Ford, and MINI. In contrast to a safe OEM job, where deadlines seem to slip and budgets are mystical, the independents learn quickly that on the outside, both time and money fly by rapidly. Independent designers have to then be even more efficient and clever, because once the client's budget runs out, the buck stops with the independent's personal bank account. " Cars are big animals that need to be seen and physically touched"