If you admire the classic design of a Jaguar or the sleek lines of a Ferrari and wonder what it takes to become a car designer, you may want to listen to Anthony Lo, vice-president of exterior design at Renault/France. As he puts it, success can only be achieved through solid commitment and hard work.
“Car design has always been one of the most competitive careers around, it is not for the faint-hearted. It is a lot more complicated than many people think, so you need to be prepared to work extremely hard,” says the France-based Lo, who graduated from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 1985, and went on to pursue a childhood dream of becoming a car designer.
“You spend a significant amount of time trying to convince key people within your company about fundamental shifts in concepts or new design direction for future products,” adds Lo, who also studied in London and graduated from the Royal College of Art with a master’s degree in automotive design, before joining Lotus Cars in Britain.
Lo says superb drawing skills are a must. “You need to express your ideas with attractive sketches on a daily basis. It also helps to be a car enthusiast – or an enthusiast in a design discipline – with broad knowledge of global markets,” he says. “[Car] designers have to manage costs, technical constraints, and customer expectations more closely than most design professions and [also] create a beautiful object.”
With responsibilities at Renault that include exterior, advanced architecture and concept car design, Lo says lighting technology that used to appear on exotic cars is beginning to become mainstream, adding new creative opportunities for designers.
Lo says focus on designing environmentally friendly plug-in electric vehicles is also having an impact on proportions, which creates both design freedom and challenges.
To develop a broad perspective and understand market trends and customer expectations, Lo says designers should seek inspiration through travel. “You need to attend as many shows and conferences as possible, including areas unrelated to your design discipline,” says Lo, who has also worked at Audi, Daimler and General Motors Europe’s Opel, Vauxhall and Saab brands.
Lo, named “Asian Designer of the Year” by Elle Magazine editors in 2007, will be in Hong Kong for the Business of Design Week in late November to talk about the “Cycle of Life” design strategy, with references to Renault’s heritage and innovations in passenger cars and motor sports.