Job advice after graduation

Hello all,
I graduated from Academy of Art University in 2017 with a bachelors degree in Transportation design. Since then, I’ve had a difficult time finding any type of entry level industrial design job. I have used my schools career department, different job boards and even local job postings in my area to try and get a job. I’ve gotten a handful of responses but nothing beyond that. My passion is in car design primarily exterior. However I enjoy designing, tinkering and researching just about all products. My question to the forum is…should I continue to pursue an automotive design career or focus on creating a solid product design portfolio in hopes of making some better connections and landing a product design job?

Please take a look at my portfolio in my signature and let me know your honest advice. I would really appreciate any feedback and or suggestions on how to make my portfolio better.

Hi Robert,

I don’t have much knowledge of transportation portfolios but heres my 2c.

Your sketching looks good. You have a lot of projects but most don’t have any real design process. The ones that do are buried down the page, so it might be worth moving them higher up. Do you have any projects that go deeper than a sketch and render?

What location are you in? Transportation Design is very niche and that could be a factor as well.

Hi AndyMc,

Thank you. The design process is something I also feel is missing with my work. From your perspective is it a lack of visual sketch process flow? Or missing story and reasoning for the car design I chose?

For the 3 main projects I completed I have sketches, final renders and 1/5 scale clay models. The BMW i3 Interior design I did includes a 1:1 full scale interior. I worked with a group of 3 people. I did the center console, my friend did the dash and another classmate did some cosmetic styling.

I do have a few personal product design projects I recently did. Those include sketches, renders and 3D models. I would like to build some physical mock ups again, but being out of school without a nice shop to work in makes it more challenging.

What I didn’t do enough of imo is…3D modeling. I have a rough 3D model that is animated for the Mercedes-Benz Vision S concept.

I’m in Florida right now. And yes, transportation is very much a niche and there isn’t a whole lot of car design down here. I would be open to moving to the midwest or even overseas given the opportunity.

Robert, I’m sure you know there are fairly few transportation jobs and there is a lot of competition for those positions. Have you been benchmarking other transportation design graduates from other schools on coroflot, balance, FB, and instagram?

some benchmarking:

Have you been applying at Car Design News listings? Careers | Car Design News

Grad school may be? The only transportation design opportunities in Florida I can think of are in yacht design.

Hello Yo,
Yes, it’s certainly a tough field to get into and I knew about that before I even went to design school. Just always have had a passion for drawing and loved design since I was a kid especially cars. I have been bench marking other transportation design students primarily on instagram and behance. The most difficult aspect for me right is getting the right connections. I would also really like to improve my wheel design and take my rendering to the next level in photoshop.

Thanks for listing those resources I haven’t seen the facebook group yet. I’ll have to check that out. I will also look at that career page on cardesignnews

Thanks again

It was more the short length of storyline for me, but again I’m not educated in transportation portfolios. I agree with Yo on benchmarking your work on Behance etc. Remember to look deeper than just the top projects too.

Hi sonofscrotum,
I thought about grad school but really don’t see a reason to go beyond a bachelors for a design role. If I was interested in becoming more of a manager then I’d pursue grad school. Yes, Florida is fairly limited when it comes to transportation design. Yacht design is really interesting. It almost seems closer to architecture then transportation design.

I see where you are coming from. When I was in school the primary focus for our transportation design program was brand identity, product identity and proportion. Where in product the user is heavily researched we did a basic brief on the client and then most of the project focused on the overall attitude and look of the car if that makes sense. I certainly think that a stronger story line would make for a more compelling project. Benchmarking beyond the first couple of top projects is something I haven’t done yet. I will definitively be doing that.

I also updated my portfolio last night adding a few personal product design projects and also added some animations to my transportation design work

Thanks for the help

So I am a car designer in a position to hire people, and I see many portfolios.

If you want my honest feedback…Your portfolio isn’t good enough to get a job in car design. It looks about the level of an entry portfolio to get into a school like ACCD or Pforzheim. It makes me question the Academy of Art that they let you graduate with that level of work. I am not saying you can’t be a car designer, I didn’t make the cut and got kicked out the CCS trans program after 2 years. I took 2 years off and started over at ACCD and now I’ve enjoyed a successful career in the industry.

But you won’t get a car job design with your current portfolio. I would take a serious, introspective look at yourself and what you want to do with your life. If you really want to do car design, then you need to step up and commit fully to it. Or pivot to something else, but it’s not necessarily easier to pivot to product design, perhaps just less competitive.

I wouldn’t recommend grad school since nobody cares about your education level, just the quality of your portfolio. I would recommend hiring a private tutor to get your level and skills up, and redoing your whole portfolio in the process. My question to you is do you think your portfolio is strong? As others have mentioned, have you seen the quality of your competition? Yo posted some examples, I would consider this just a solid design project, not great, not bad: Behance

Your work needs to be that good at a minimum. Step up and get there… or don’t, It’s up to you.

Some great advice above.

@Sketchtoinspire, does Academy of Art have a track record for placing students in automotive? Have you done any internships?

Hi dfishdesign,
I really appreciate your honest feedback. I feel that my portfolio right now is certainly not on the level of any of the top car portfolios on behance. At Academy of Art we had a pretty equal balance of sketching, clay modeling and 3D modeling. One major difference I have noticed with CCS and ACCD is the amount of sketching and story development and the use of 5 Axis milling for the models. During my time in school we didn’t sketch or develop the concept enough imo as we were building the clay models all by hand and this took a majority of the semester. So my question would be how do you go about hiring a private tutor if you don’t live in michigan or california? What made you switch to ACCD? One thing we did not have at AAU was a career day. No introductions to any companies.

As a car designer when you look at that persons work that you posted as an example what really catches your eye? The sketching, story or layout? all three? What get’s you hired? Are great sketches more important or imagination for new ideas?

Thanks for being honest. It certainly is eye opening for me

Hi yo,
As far as I’m aware AAU has placed a few graduates into the automotive industry, but certainly not on the level of CCS or ACCD. We did not have anything like yearly reviews. Only one review that was more or less a half way point review for the entire career at aau. I have not done any internships. I think that would help me tremendously as far as understanding how the real world works and what is expected in the world of design.

I wanted to chime in as I also graduated from the Academy of Art and give some context as to why it can be a frustrating school. I went through the transportation program as well but I think I had better luck than Robert. To put it simply, the school is very resource starved compared to CCS and ACCD. There’s a huge disparity between students and the resources offered to them between those who are offered a chance to partake in sponsored studios in the program and those that aren’t.

The school functions as a weird ass form of meritocracy that is not perfect, as there is no portfolio requirement like other design schools you have a flood of people at different levels on year 1. Those that have good work quality and ethic get favored treatment in an effort to make the school look better and competitive vs other established schools like CCS and ACCD. Negative reality is though parts of the student body get left behind because of this. This can happen in the form of sponsored projects getting priority in the machine shop to not being part of portfolio reviews/interviews when brands come and visit. I think the track record for AAU is at most 1-2 place per graduate class car industry wise.

I was able to participate in three studios sponsored by GM, FCA, and Audi and my teammates have gone on to be placed in GM and VW Group while I dove into footwear (actual interest) after a car design internship. this is a project done by a friend whose now at Daihatsu, also AAU graduate for benchmark.

Hi chkvn,
Good to hear from you and thanks for chiming in. Completely agree about people being left behind. I feel that was probably one of the most disappointing aspects of aau. I think a yearly review would also help at the school to give all students an idea of where they stand as far as job placement in the future. There were certainly some great people there though and visiting the other studios was always rewarding. That’s great news that you’re working in footwear now. That seems like a really neat sector of design.

Yea, that sucks, you were training to be a car designer not a clay modeler right? Not sure why they would structure program like that.

You can sign up for some online courses, there are tons out there. I don’t know what is best but do some searching a post them up here. for example

OR maybe better is find a designer or skilled student who’s work you like online. message them on behance/instagram whatever and say you love their sketches and need some help(and you’ll pay them) Students would be especially motivated to help because they need money and have time. Many professionals won’t have the time but you never know. Set up a schedule with them, go through your portfolio with them project by project, spend 1 or 2 months per project redoing it. Maybe meet 2 times per week on skype for an hour, they can give you crits and demos.

Budget at least 25/30 hours per week minimum to build your craft, more if you can. take a part-time job, live at home. work your ass off. join sketching competitions/communities on Instagram, localmotors etc. Seek out guidance from former teachers/mentors/classmates from school. take a figure drawing courses at your local university or art workshops to build your sensitivity.

It’s really not rocket science. It’s all about putting in the hours, and getting good guidance on how to improve. I don’t believe it’s talent that gets you there, it’s hard work (while being intelligent/focused on how you work). Talent only comes into play when your at the top of the game.

If you do that for a year with 100% focus you should be good enough to get an internship. Take one or two, since you already have a degree if you do well they will probably hire you.

Sound hard? that’s what it takes to get your foot in the door. We’ve all been there, gone days without sleep, lived on floors, stayed with parents, gone deep into debt etc. I have a friend who took care of his two children while teaching private classes and going to ACCD all at the same time. He didn’t even start ACCD until he was 32. I slept on his living room floor to get by.

I didn’t switch, I wasn’t good enough to stay in the ccs program, they make yearly cuts and I didn’t make the cut from 2nd to 3d year. Yet another reason for prospective students to skip AAU and go to real design school.

Every studio and designers have different priorities, but most people have similar ideas about what they want.

When I open a portfolio I go right to the ideation sketches on the first few projects. That is how we speak, that is our language, if you can’t speak our language I don’t care about anything else. (product designers often give us crap for only caring about sketches, that’s not true, but having the ability to quickly communicate visual ideas is the basis of our job. You wouldn’t apply for a job in Paris if you don’t speak French, so why would I look at your portfolio if you don’t speak our language.)

If they are decent then I go back and take an overall bigger view, looking at how they translate the research into physical ideas and then how those ideas manifest themselves in a final design. I care less about models (physical or digital) and more about the initial design process and how that is translated to the final design. We have professional digital/physical modelers in the studio, I’m not hiring you for that. So it’s good to have those skills, but they can also be learned as junior designer. I don’t really care about the final design as a whole, just the decisions made along the way. (as long as you justify the final design with your initial work)

After all that it’s a feeling I get from the portfolio. Are they using nice typefaces/graphic layout? Is the work presenting clearly/nicely/ in an interesting way? Do I get inspired when I see the work? Does it look like they give a shit?

And then in an interview, I try to make sure they are a good person and a hard worker, nobody likes working with a dick.

If you’re good they should be one in the same.

If I’m honest, when I look at your portfolio I’m not sure you give a shit. Your clay model photos look like they were taken with a potato. Get a decent camera, light the scene, photoshop over it. Not having a milling machine isn’t an excuse. The text is different sizes/styles on every page/project. Random titles are capitalized and some aren’t. Make sure you are proud of what you show or don’t show it at all.

Hope that helps.

I really appreciate your help. Finding a tutor through instagram or behance who is a student sounds like a good idea. I do regularly participate in design competitions on instagram and also post my sketches in many of the car design community pages. How about some car design forums? I know of and usually use that website for design advice. Are there any other car design forums that you know of that are worth checking out? I completely know what you mean when you say it doesn’t look like a give a *^&% with my porfolio. I actually really do. It doesn’t show because I just don’t have a good understanding of text styles/format, layout and how to take proper pictures. Presentation is one of my weakest areas in design. I’m actively trying to improve that as I think that could really help my portfolio.

You say when you open a portfolio that you go right to Ideation… When I look at some of the better portfolios on behance it’s difficult for me to gauge what’s really important. Some of these portfolios literally only have 5 to 8 pages of sketches. From initial ideation to some final renderings. No words except a title…others are far more structured. They have a story, a client and sketches, 3D models and even clay models… Are these projects with primarily sketches personal ones?
Is it acceptable to have these types of projects in your porfolio along with school projects? I was thinking of doing a few personal projects.

When redoing my portfolio which direction should I take? For all my projects I did in school I have sketches, renderings and clay models. Should I find a bench mark with all of these attributes and work from that? Is it necessary to include clay models at all if you’re going for car design?

Thanks again for the help.