In this article , Ian Cullam , Director of Design at Jaguar gives young students and professionals interested in car design some important tips to secure a job at jaguar in the design department. These tips are universal and would help any student of car design who is currently in the process of job hunt or preparation of portfolio.
Today a career in car design job is much more competitive than when I first started my automotive career. It’s critical that you stand out from the crowd. Here are my top tips when applying for a job here at Jaguar.
1. A killer portfolio is key
When I first arrived at Jaguar, I received a portfolio once every few months. Now we’re getting at least one a week, from all over the world. Portfolios say a lot; they are the first point of contact. Some of the books I get are beautifully made; they’re like coffee table books, but it’s the content that really counts. I can tell from four or five pages how good somebody is. It should show the thought process, with sketches and quick ideas, right through to a fully rendered car. Remember I don’t need to see your life story in drawings (although I do sometimes get it!).
2. Write a killer cover letter to go with it
Remember that your portfolio is going to land on my desk with lots of others. A cover letter is a must. This needs to be succinct, showing an understanding of Jaguar. Give me an indication of your genuine interest in not just being a designer, but being a Jaguar designer.
Before you go for an interview, you should find out about Jaguar. Find out about the person who will interview you. Who are they? What do they do? What are their interests? This gives you the advantage of knowing how to deal with them, because you deal with people according to their character. We all do.
3. Demonstrate creative thinking and drawing ability
I am often asked what qualities I look for in a designer. The most important mental skill is to be creative and to be able to think laterally. That’s the first thing I look for in any designer. The main physical skill I’m looking for is your ability to draw. Drawing is how we communicate.
4. Be yourself down to the last detail
First impressions are everything. I’m not necessarily expecting you to turn up in a three-piece-suit or a shirt and tie. People can present themselves in all sorts of different ways. You have to present your character as you really are. Designers look at details. I know a very famous entrepreneur who, when he sees people for the first time, looks at the heels of their shoes. Be aware that people are looking at these details. Don’t take the chance.
5. Be interesting and interested
Be prepared for what you want to say. You’ve got to be clear about what you want out of the job; not just financial benefit but real personal gain. The best candidates are interesting to talk to, and leave me wanting to know more. That’s always fascinating. However, I have interviewed people who just won’t stop talking. It’s nerves a lot of the time. Don’t be nervous, we’re all human. Be concise and listen.
Don’t forget to smile. It’s all about human interaction and a smile says so much about somebody.
6. Be a team player
We need an eclectic mix of people who fit into a team. I don’t have time for overly-confident, single-minded people. I used to be one of those people who could only work on my own, and that’s why I left Ford when I did, to set up my own design studio with “me, myself and I”. But since I have arrived at Jaguar, the most important thing I’ve learnt is to manage teamwork. A car is made up of thousands of parts and no one person can work alone with such a magnitude of work.
I say to my team “leave your ego at the door”. Of course every designer has an ego. Of course every designer wants to get their design up front. I’m quite happy with that. I’m not asking them to forfeit their design for the sake of teamwork. I’m asking them to understand that everybody in the team has something to offer and they must respect that. I don’t mind individuals with an individual character, but remember you are part of a team.
7. Show your love of learning and improving
The most important thing to remember is that your latest work is not necessarily your best and even if you think it at the time, it will get better. That is what makes a good designer.
There’s a lovely quote from Thomas Edison which I utterly believe in: “When you’ve exhausted all of the possibilities, remember this: you haven’t.”
About Ian Culla
Ian Callum, RDI, Jaguar Director of Design, was born in Dumfries, Scotland. Ian attended a course in Industrial Design at Glasgow School of Art, followed by a 2-year course in Automobile Design at the Royal College of Art.
Ian spent the first 12 years of his career at Ford Design Studios, where he contributed to the creation of the Escort RS Cosworth and the Ghia Via Concept. Later, as Chief Designer of TWR Design, he was responsible for the Aston Martin DB7 and Vanquish.
Ian joined Jaguar in 1999 but continued to manage Aston Martin Design, developing the DB9 as well as directing Jaguar Design where he and his team created, amongst others, the R-Coupe, RD-6 and C-X75 concepts. Heralding an exciting new era for the brand, each car takes the design theme further and continues to reinforce Jaguar as a creator of ‘fast, beautiful cars.’ The first new model was the XK, followed by the XF and XJ. In September 2012 the much-anticipated F-TYPE was launched, Jaguar’s first 2-seater sports car since the iconic E-Type. This was followed later by the Jaguar XE, which Ian designed for a very competitive segment. A bold statement for Jaguar using Ian’s established design philosophy.
If you love cars and are interested in designing them, our Diploma in Car Design course is the perfect choice for you to get started on your journey towards becoming a car designer.