Strategic Designers in Automotive Industry?

I wonder if Strategic Designers could be employed in Automotive Industry. If yes, which would be their role inside the company? Anyone with working experience in this sector?

The reason i post this question has to do mainly with the need to direct my studies at the present moment. I hold a BA in IndustrialProduct Design, a MA in Design (i could characterise it mostly as communication/experience design degree) and now i just started a 2 years course Msc in Strategic Product Design. I know that many people (most) are against putting so much effort into academic education and work experience is more preferable. I will agree with them also but i will also support my decisions but this is another matter that has to to with personal issues.

In the begining of my education i wanted to become car designer. This was the main reason i approached design field in general. During my BA though, i found out that design is not just cars… design is so many things and i did not want to focus only in cars anymore, although i still love them (by doing a postgrad in Trans Design) so i decided instead of specializing to do the exact opposit. To broaden the choices i will have to work later on. During my 1st MA ,that was really exciting, i was fascinated by the world around design… communication, advertising, conceptualization, managing. So, here i am in the begining of my 2nd Master degree.

The school (techical university, faculty of industrial design engineering) offers through Strategic Product Design a track to Automotive Strategic Design and there are some courses i have to follow. But still… do not know… will it worth to focus in car design now? Will automotive companies “recognize” teh degree and the knowledge i will have gained? Will i be usefull to them? Even if i manage to enter a car company i do not want to end up writing business plans and analyzing market researches… i wish to be closer to the design department. ABOVE ALL I AM A DESIGNER!!! I am rather confused at the present moment… ok, ok, i know i should first talk to tutors and staff but really i wish to hear your suggestions, experiences first…

Hi Alexandros,

I have been thinking about this too a few years back.

Actually I am working as a transportation designer and I’m also holding an MFA (product design). My interests are on the strategic level, and I would love to be involved in the fuzzy front-end of the development process.

The way it seems, you’re talking about the job of Patrick Le Quement and Chris Bangle and the like. They are responsible, together with execs from marketing, engineering, accounting,… to determine which model will be developed over the years to come. They will also make calls on which concept cars to develop (probably with less interference from the other execs). Looking at them as typical examples, it seems that for these jobs, you kind of grow into it, start from the bottom (but have excellent design skills nevertheless), and as soon as you have enough experience and credibility, and reach a strategic level, they generally go for an MBA to get the business skills. I think chances are rather slim that you will get into a strategic position right out of school. There’s enough talented designers aged 40-45 with alot of experience and enough brains to think strategically.

For my part, i have decided to take things one at a time, get through the first years, and learn the tricks of the trade, and when experience grows, and my brain gets more valuable than my hands, I will probably upgrade and get an MBA or something equivalent.

Again, I am not working as a car designer, so maybe a real car designer can give some feedback?

it seems youve already answered your question and just need to admit it to yourself.

if you loved design - you’d already be a professional designer.
Actually, you love being a proffesional student - nothing wrong with that - follow your bliss and shoot for a phd!

thanks both 4 ur posts

@ no_spec :

I know… i am thinking of that a lot. No, Phd i am not doing… :laughing: I feel that after this course I DO want to go out to the real world (besides i have already worked intensivly for 1 year…). Maybe it sounds crazy to some (but maybe is cause of my character) i need to find the strenght to go out there and find the job or build the career i dream… through this academic path i think i try to have all the efforts in order to realize my dreams… we will c…


I get your point! OF course and i do not expect to graduate and succed Bangle or Le Quement :smiley: . I just wonder if car companies employ teams of strategic designers (with design background) and if yes where r they placed inside the company’s structure.

My guess is that designers who work for automobile manufacturers must be designing something other than cars. I think the work done in the design studios must be done for other company’s products. This is diversivication. The designers are not dependant on 1 industry for work, they can design products for whatever company is willing to pay for a design. If those guys were working on cars we would have seen some kind of improvement in the appearence of cars made in the last few years. Do you think that the new cars look better than the cars they made in the 60s? Most people dont think so. At this year’s auto shows the most popular cars were copies of 60s designs; mustang, ford gt, camaro, challenger, mini cooper, more cobra replicars,etc. Decisions about what a future car will look like are made by the marketing guys. Back in the 80s they decided that most people wanted a car designed by competent engineers, not stylists who could could make an inferior car look good. so they let the engineers and computer experts design the new cars and told the stylists we’ll call you if we need your help. The artistic designers were able to keep their jobs by doing projects for other companies. There are geniuses like Chris Bangle who can convince people that they are making cars better looking than they appear to be, but thats just a clever illusion. If you want to work you need to learn how to design many things not just cars.

Man you hit the nail on the head!


first of all, why don’t you ask the course tutor who’s teaching the automotive strategic design course at your uni. He should be able to give you an answer. You don’t start a course without a reason. It would be like a business without a business plan. Supply and demand you see…

Apart from that, there are several ways to work on a strategic level as a designer. You could be a policy maker, but also work as a researcher, the former makes tactical decisions based on the data supplied by the latter. In my opinion, if you want to keep in touch with the design side, the researcher (MFA or PHD) is a better option than the policymaker (MBA or equivalent).

But still, research in automotive industry is rather science-/engineering based, and humanities based research is predominantly led by people with a background in sociology, psychology, ergonomics…

The real designer/researcher is the guy that works in the car companies’ advanced design studios, making concept cars. There’s only a few of them, and like I said, if you want to be the policymaker in that small niche, you’re bound to aim for the job of Patrick and Chris. And guys like them have, except for being strongly skilled tacticians, also worked for years in poverty, designing taillights in Turino, moving up the ladder step by step, gaining expertise and crediblity. These are the kind of jobs you grow into… the position is to important to just take some guy from the street with a thick cv.

I think there’s more chance to work as a strategic designer / researcher for public transportation services. Forget about car companies, public transport is much more accessible (consultancies supply design services) and the research is much more challenging.

my 0.02$…

Thank u guys for your feedback.

In fact i am meeting with the tutor tomorrow…and as you said i have to set my business plan! But also i have to c how can i add value to my portfolio :wink: