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Internship in Car Design: what to expect?

All of you dream to make the experience of an internship in a Car Design studio before completing school (at least those that did not do it yet).
At the same time many of you ask “how is it going to be? What to expect once accepted? What should I do to impress them?…
When we are accepted we are very excited about it and euphoric to the point we do not realize right away what is going on…this is normal! However we start an internship without knowing what it is about (it was for me back then) and in design schools we have rarely a good introduction about this experience from our teachers (not all..).
Last week a friend on Facebook left a comment on this picture on my profile (David Wong’s internship at Fiat Design Center having me as tutor) asking to write about internships in Car design studios to help young students to understand a bit more.
I already wrote a post about “how to get an internship” , but today I’ll try to go more in details to analyze important aspects to make your next experience to start correctly.

When David came to Fiat, from Art Center College of Design, he was selected between several mini portfolios we received by (traditional) mail. My director of that time chose David’s portfolio because of his professionalism and creativity but also because the cover letter was very well written straight to the point and honest. So one day I was informed to be his tutor for about 4 months, I was happy about it David was coming from my school and I had a new project coming perfect for a cool design research activity.

This internship turned to be one of the best we had in the studio at that time making everybody satisfied and mostly with a 1:1 scale model which became important for me and my new team when we really started the new project (I was a junior design project manager).
The design expressed helped us to change some design codes about our interior design approach, at the end David left us something that helped us later on. It was a win win professional relationship.

Lets analyze together key elements of this successful internship:

– Creativity
– good sketching skills
– David was willing to listen to real problems in car design interior and to reason to overcome them
– David was humble and disciplined
– David was also very well educated and open minded with others in the studio, good integration
– David showed responsibility for his project following up all project steps
– I could count on him
– David presented different evolutions of his project with maturity selling well his ideas
– the final presentation was just great and complete with sketches, illustrations and model
– At the end he demonstrated to us that he was ready to be a designer within a design team

I guess I described the key elements to follow in order to make a good profitable internship experience. When you will start your internship remember to  keep your head cool, be concentrated on how you can work well for them, if design studios are willing to accept interns it is because they are looking for something…you are young full of dreams and talent, you do not have to deal with all that production hard points pollution. In that studio you could propose something that will help that team to progress somehow on something different.

Now lets be clear: all this is not happening every time there is an internship, it all depends on your real talent and skills + that discipline before described. Do not forget that when you get into a design studio you will be confronted with excellent talents and real professionals, too. So it will not be easy, but you can make it!

David Wong currently is a senior creative designer at GM Design Center, graduated from ACCD he also worked for Nissan Design America, Ford and Jaguar.

Good luck!

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  • miniskooge
    September 28, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Dear Luciano ,
    I am qualified as a product designer , i interned with an automotive major in 2008 and soon after i graduated from school i began my career as a junior designer in another automotive firm . I worked there for close to 2 years on different projects , mostly in , research , ideation and concept developement work .But then for some personel and health reasons, i took a break of an year and 6 months from industry.. and now since i am ok , i am raring to get back into the industry , however i donot feel very much confident to explain or justify the break i took from the industry to any future prospective exployers , however i have reasonably good skills as a designer and a good portfolio . i am 29 years old now . I really feel i need an advice from u regarding this as to what i should do now , whether to apply directly to firm's for job or is it possible that any automotive firm can offer me an internship since i am not a student anymore …I explored options to study however financial situation doesnot support that idea now ,. I love car designing and i am very passionate and hardworking …. . I would rather appreciate a kind advice from u to me on this regard as to what u feel on how i can get back ..
    thanks and warm regards

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