InTrans / May 26, 2017

Transportation & me: An automotive stylist

Go! Magazine

Auto stylingposted on May 26, 2017

When most people think about a career as a “stylist,” they assume it’s in the fashion industry. But what if we were to tell you that you could be a stylist in the transportation industry? Talk about a “stylin” career!

As an automotive stylist or designer, you’d get to come up with the styles, colors, and interior layouts for all types of vehicles while using the latest in computer technology.

There are a lot of different and unique careers out there, but this one is for creatives with a love and appreciation for transforming transportation into a work of art.

Working in style

First off, it may be good to know that an automotive stylist and an automotive designer are basically the same thing, however, the main difference is that automotive stylists work on the outward appearance, whereas designers typically generate the computer-generated models of the designs and run virtual tests.

This job is all about aesthetics, including factors like color scheme, shape, and ergonomics.

Generally, automotive stylists and designers are involved in the creation of the product concept and work with a team made up of other designers and professionals from many different engineering disciplines. This isn’t just a one-person job, so be prepared to work with other mechanical, electrical, electronic, software, and safety engineers to bring the product concept to life.

So, how does it all work? Well, after forming the product concept, it would be your job as an automotive designer to make sketches of the automobile using CAD (computer-aided drafting) software, thus creating a detailed drawing of the vehicle. These three-dimensional (3D) images often include immense details and color schemes. Once the drawings are complete, as an automotive stylist, you’d create a scale model or sculpture of the vehicle using clay. A bit more complex than you thought, huh?

Clay model in the works
Clay model in the works. Photo from Wikimedia Commons user OSX II.

The job for you?

As an automotive designer you need to have “a love and appreciation for everything on the road,” as well as a basic understanding of how cars are made and how they work. You’d also be a good fit for automotive design if you’re generally a creative person, with good drawing and sculpting skills.

As a type of industrial designer (a more general term for someone who develops the concepts for manufactured products, including cars), you could expect to make anywhere from $40,000 to $80,000 annually, depending on your experience, education, and level of expertise. The median salary for an industrial designer was $67,790 in 2016, making approximately $32.59 per hour.

Setting up for success

To work in automotive design, you’d typically need an art background and a degree in either industrial or transportation design, which includes taking courses in developmental drawing, 3D model-making, and construction practices. A bachelor’s degree is typically the minimum requirement to pursue any automotive design career. You could get your education through an art or technical school or by attending a traditional public or private university.

With automotive design in mind, you should focus on classes that relate to transportation, like courses in car design or vehicle dynamics or even art courses that help you turn your ideas into tangible objects.

Car interior
Car interior. Photo from Pixabay.

To set yourself apart, either in undergraduate school or in the real world, you could look into automotive design internships or a master’s degree. Internships enable you to gain real-world experience during your undergraduate education. A master’s degree, while not always necessary, could set you up to gain a higher salary once in the field.

Designing the future

If you think a career in automotive design could be the career for you, it’s time to set yourself up for success, but remember, automotive design can be a difficult career field to break into. As the next generation of automobile designers and engineers, the cars of the future could be up to you to create! What will they look like?


Related links

(Video) Automotive clay design process:

Automotive designer salaries in the US:,19.htm

Other cool transportation-related careers:

By Hannah Postlethwait, Go! Staff Write

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