So You Want To Be A Car Designer

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Screenshot: Frank Stephenson / YouTube

I think anyone who has been even vaguely interested in cars growing up has attempted to design a car before. Whether you were super serious about it, you just scribbled some drawings as a kid, or you critique cars on the Internet (I don’t judge), we’ve all been there. But now, we’ve got legendary designer Frank Stephenson here to give us some tips about how to break into the industry.

Now, there’s one thing I want to mention before we get started here. Stephenson is from a slightly different era than most modern prospective car designers. I like to refer to Steve Matchett’s path into Formula One: he wrote some letters to F1 teams and then someone hired him. Nowadays, people want you to have five years of experience in your given field before you even think about getting an entry-level position.


Even Stephenson, who had a relatively straightforward career path, is something of an anomaly these days. After graduating from the Art Center College of Design in California, Stephenson took a position with Ford in Germany and began working his way up the ranks until he was working at Ferrari, Maserati, McLaren, and Mini. Other automotive designers have come into the fore via architecture, fashion design, and other related fields.

But I don’t think that discounts anything Stephenson says in this video. It’s just important to keep in mind.

I’ll let Stephenson impart you with his knowledge because I’m no design expert. But his main piece of advice—“before you surrender yourself to being an employee of a company, see what you can create for yourself”—is a pretty great motto for anything you’re passionate about in life. That’s part of how Stephenson made a name for himself; he has a distinct style that regularly pushes boundaries while also sticking to what certain marques expect from their cars. It’s often those personal touches that help one designer stand out from the crowd.