Demystifying Transportation Design

Manish S Lakra • March 4, 2022 6 mins read

Question: What do you do?

Me: I am a Transportation designer.

Question: What is Transportation design and what is your job?

Me: It is a part of the Automobile industry, and I design cars.

 Okay, so you are a mechanical engineer.

“Okay, so you are a mechanical engineer.” This is the most common reply I get whenever I introduce myself and my background to a person. It is not surprising as Transportation design (commonly known as Car design) is still a mystery to many. India is not far behind where Bollywood, Cricket, and Politics thrive and is well known. Parents push their children to pursue Engineering, Accounts, Science, Law, Medical, Civil Services whereas Painting, Music, Design, Dance, Acting is considered to be a hobby.


Transportation Design (or design in general) in India is still at its adolescent stage. I have been teaching and mentoring students for the past 7 years, I have come across many young design aspirants who want to make a career in Transportation design. Unfortunately due to lack of knowledge about this field either they pursued Engineering, Science, Mathematics, Commerce, etc.


No fault of their own, inadequate information, I would rather say unavailability of an expert in transportation design is been a major obstacle. The education sector too has not contributed, again owing to the reason mentioned above. Yet I see many universities (private) offering courses in Transportation design without proper knowledge and information about it. 

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Umea Institute of Design, Sweden (left) and Art Center College for Design, USA (right) are colleges that are the epitome of high-quality design education.

A few years ago I read a post on Facebook, a professional designer was sharing his experience of design education in India. He was invited by a design college to be the juror of Transportation design projects. He shares it was a very bad experience, as students had presented very unprofessional work. When asked why the project was incomplete, one student replied there was inadequate guidance from the faculty.

Sadly this is the state of design education to date, many students end up at such colleges or universities which promise to offer a lot but in reality, it’s the opposite.


Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Bugatti, Aston Martin, Mclaren, etc. to name a few attract many young people to pursue Transportation design. Aesthetics plays a huge role because such high-performance cars exhibit luxury, sportiness, sex appeal, attraction, wow factor, free-flowing surfaces which immediately catch one’s attention.

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Ferrari (left) and Lamborghini (right) are aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

So, the question is “WHY”?


It’s human nature to be attracted to beautiful-looking objects and fall in love with it. The same can be said for cars, hence every designer wants to design a sports car or hypercar. A designer’s choice is solely based on aesthetics which is what every aspirant wants to do. Truth be told a design is not about only aesthetics.


The next question is “What”?

Transportation design is to design vehicles and mobility systems based on various factors. We need to understand a car design process is painstaking, very intensive, time-consuming, aim to perfection, and labor-intensive. It takes a team consisting of designers, engineers, suppliers, OEM, project managers, marketing, research and development, and many others to develop a car. 

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Clockwise from Left to Right – Some of the processes involved in the design and development of a car.

In a nutshell, car design is a complex process, it takes years of experience to master it.

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Clockwise from top Left – Chris Bangle (Former Head of Design, BMW), Dr. Gordon Wagener (Chief Design Officer, Mercedes Benz), Shiro Nakamura (Former VP Design, Nissan), Ian Callum (Design Director, Jaguar) considered to be iconic Car designers, and most sought after.

The following factors are what Transportation design is all about:

  • It’s a very competitive and tough field
  • Candidates possessing high creativity and exceptional or extraordinary skills are most sought after by design studios
  • It takes a lot of hard work and years of practice to develop skills
  • Be updated about the automobile industry and design
  • Many designs never see the end of the day i.e. they never go into production
  • One may not get credit for his/her design
  • A strong and professional portfolio will increase the probability of getting hired but not surety
  • Possess great communication, presentation, and interpersonal skills
  • Be an expert at what you do
  • Every single day one needs to be highly motivated and passionate
  • Persistent and consistent hard work with dedication is required to become a professional car designer
  • You get only one shot at this, if you fail, maybe you won’t get a second chance

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Sketching is one of the most important skills needed to be mastered.

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A professional presentation of your project shows your communication skills

Wrapping up: What is Transportation Design

To summarize, Transportation design is not easy as it seems, it is very tough but not impossible. With the right knowledge, information, guidance, and help one can embark on this career path. Most importantly it takes courage, sacrifice, hard work, and mental preparation to pursue Transportation Design.


My advice to all transportation design aspirants – Start today, start right now.

About Kaphal Studio

Kaphal Studio is a modern, internet university for creators that brings community and learning together. We aim to prepare designers for the startup economy. We offer a new approach to online education through synchronous cohorts with an emphasis on peer-to-peer learning.