Hosted by Mr. Amar Kler, who’s a lead designer at one of the leading automobile firms in India, this webinar on ‘Introduction to Car Design’ was a great starting platform for all those who are interested in becoming an automobile designer.

Amar kicked off the webinar by asking the participants about their favourite cars. Mini Cooper, Audi R8 and Lamborghini Murciélago were some of the favourite choices amongst the participants.

Once all the participants had settled in, it was time to get started with the main presentation. Here are some highlights from the webinar:

Learning the Basic Automobile Design Process


Any new product being developed goes through a research phase. The research can be done using a host of varying methods. Once you have the data ready from intensive research, you can move to the next stage.


From the data gathered in the research phase, you can understand the needs of the end users or the target market. For example, there may be a need for a new kind of sports car. The engineers and the designers then sit together and design a package for the same.

Inspiration / Mood Board

Every designer has their own inspiration. If the need is speed, maybe a fighter jet or a jet ski can be taken as an inspiration. You have to take all the inspiration that you can gather and create a mood board to create the thrill of designing a car based on that inspiration.


Once your mind is into the mood of what you want, you can get started with sketching. Your inspirations and mood board will help you with coming up with innovative concepts. This is the phase where you can go wild and explore your creative as well as your rational side.


This phase involves 2D rendering. It’s done physically with markers and colours, or digitally with Photoshop or similar software. 2D rendering is crucial to visualize whether the car’s design is feasible or not.

Tape Drawing

Tape drawing is ideal to take your sketch and visualize your design’s side view at full scale. It’s done using a black tape that can curve easily across bends. The tape can be removed and reapplied unlike regular tapes.   


Once you’re confident with how the car looks in full scale, you can move ahead with Computer Aided Design or sculpting. CAD is used to visualize the car’s design digitally as a 3D model. Autodesk Alias is one of the most popular CAD software used by automobile designers.  

Sculpting (Milling or Clay)

A clay model is the best solution to render the car’s design physically. It’s a very skill-intensive process and requires a lot of patience. Once finished, the clay model gets scanned with a 3D scanner. The digital 3D scan is then fed into a CAD software, where it can be refined further. Chavant clay or Faber clay are the most common clays used.

Milling is done to impart the minute details and curves to the clay model. It can be done via a 3-axis or 5-axis milling machine.

Understanding the 2 Types of Car Design Studios

Advanced Design Process

Setting up Design Language / Philosophy

An automotive brand’s design language or philosophy is vital to establish a connect with their consumers and stand apart from their competition. This is done by the advanced design team.  

Example: Hyundai coming up with Fluidic design philosophy for all their cars. Similarly, Ford has their Kinetic design philosophy.

Fixing architecture and volume for the upcoming models

Research and packaging is done by the advanced design team. This is done in collaboration with both the designers and the engineers.

Working in sync with product development

The advanced design team will update the product development team about any changes or updates to the design language well in advance. The advanced design team usually works on a 6 to 7-year cycle, whereas the product development team usually works on a 2-year cycle.  

Production Design Process


  • Research – explained earlier.
  • Benchmarking – comparison with competitor cars and brands.
  • Mood Board – explained earlier.
  • Trends – auto expos, architectural trends, car design trends, etc.
  • Scope – what can be done on this project, the budget, timelines, etc.


  • Sketching – explained earlier.
  • Rendering – explained earlier.
  • Refining – explained earlier.
  • Detailing – headlamps, tail lamps, etc.

Concept CAD Development – explained above.

Milling, Clay & Scanning – explained above.

A Class Surfacing – It’s done to make sure that all the highlights of the car’s surface flow smoothly. A Class Surface ensures that the car’s surface doesn’t look warped, poorly made or wobbly.  

Feasibility – Whether the car design can be actually manufactured after taking into account a multitude of different factors, rules and safety regulations. Most car designs have to go through a rigorous feasibility test phase before moving on to the next stage in the production plan.

Engineering Support – The engineering aspect of the production is handed over to the engineering team after the design is delivered. Engineering teams help the designers know how to come up with practical designs that can be taken up for production.   

Getting a Hold of the Design Language

Language is a means of communicating your feelings, emotions and thoughts. Spoken language is expressed through words. Music is an audio-based language. Dance is a movement-based language. Similarly, car design language uses forms and shapes to communicate.

Every car design has a certain emotion and feeling attached to it. This is one of the most crucial aspects of automotive design. Without a strong emotional connect, a car’s design would fall flat.

Apart from conveying the appropriate feeling and emotion, form also communicates the direction of the car. It guides the onlooker on how the car’s shape flows, without which the car’s design looks jaded and confusing.

A well-defined design philosophy is critical to a company’s success.

Design philosophy is based on 4 core elements:

  • Consumers
  • Marketing
  • Manufacturing
  • Engineering R&D

Most automobile companies try to keep their design philosophy a closely guarded secret. It’s the equivalent of a secret recipe as far as their brand’s perception is concerned. However, one can gauge what a certain carmaker’s design philosophy is by describing how their cars make you feel and what message their marketing campaigns carry.   

Some of the automotive design philosophies discussed in the webinar included those of Mercedes Benz, Rolls-Royce, Hyundai and Ford.

Time for Some Sketching Hacks

Take the tyre of the car as a reference for the width, height, front and rear of the car. For example, for a sedan, the wheelbase is roughly three tyres wide and the height is two tires in length. The front and rear overhangs are roughly 1-tyre wide.

You can take this as a rough guide to get started with your sketch.  

Common Terms Used by Car Designers

Beltline – the line where the glass on the top meets the car’s body at the bottom.

Body Section – when the car’s body is cut sideways, it exposes all its inner sections. This is similar to how a cake’s inner body is exposed when a cake piece is cut.

Cab Forward Design – when the car’s entire glass area is biases towards the front.

Character Line – the line on the side of the car which establishes the character of the car. Apart from being a visual design element, it can also play an aerodynamic role based on the design of the car.

Cheater Panel / Quarter Panel – the panel on which the Outer Rear View Mirror (ORVM) sits. It can be towards the front or the end of the glass.

Crown – a surface bulge on the car, usually on the bonnet. However, a crown can be anywhere on the car.

DLO (Day Light Opening) – all the glass area exposed to day light.

DRG (Down the Road Graphics) – the front face of the car. It’s what gives the car its characteristic look when you see it coming down the road towards you.  

Di-Noc – the film used to wrap the car’s clay model. It makes the car body look like it has been painted. It can be removed easily unlike paint.

Fender – the area above the tyre.

Bumper – the area in the front of the car. This bumps first into another car or object if there’s a collision; hence the name.

Firewall – the area in the car which is between the interior dash and the exterior engine. It blocks all the noise, vibrations and heat from entering the interiors.

Haunch – similar to a fender, but it feels more like an organic element. Kind of like a muscle. It feels more alive.

Highlights – surface elements on a car’s design that give it a certain distinct character.

Overhang – whatever is left of the car after the rear tyre is the rear overhang. Similarly, whatever is left of the car after the front tyre is called the front overhang.

Shoulder / Shoulder Line / Character Line – the area just below the belt line on the car’s body. This gives the car’s body strength and doesn’t make it seem flat. A shoulder is a positive bulge (like an actual shoulder), however, a character line needn’t necessarily be a shoulder.

Shutlines – the panel gaps between different parts of the car. It makes the interfaces of different car elements look aesthetic.

Armature Buck – a real-life model made using wood, clay and other interior elements to visualize the car’s interiors.      

Gull Wing Doors / Suicide Doors (or Barn Doors) / Scissor Doors – gull wing doors open upside from the bottom, whereas scissor doors open upside from the side. Suicide doors have the rear door opening from the front (i.e. the rear door has a hinge on the rear).

Ramp Angles – used to calculate the ground clearance, usually in SUVs.

Sketch Model – a small quarter-scale model of the car.

Tape Drawing – a styling tape used to model the car physically, usually in side view.   

Savour the BMW Car Designing Process

A great inspiring video on how the car design process works. The entire class watched this video to understand the car designing process in brief. Having understood the theory behind it and all the terms used, this video was a good way to end the session.

This free webinar was an informative introduction to what car designing is all about. The participants learned what they’ll be getting into if they decide to get into this field or sign up for Launchpad Academy’s car designing course.

You can view the recording of the webinar here:

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