When a car manufacturer decides to build a new model, one of the many aspects to consider is the style, or design, of the new car. The first decision to be made concerns the market category in which the new vehicle will be sold. This includes models types like sedan, hatchback, or a high-end executive model. Then the decision is made whether to employ front- or rear-wheel drive.

Nowadays, cars are becoming stylish and energy-efficient. So, the appearance is now an intrinsic aspect of the design. Due to this, many reputed manufacturers are also dealing with the accessories for cars.

This article focuses on explaining such different processes involved in designing automobiles.

Traditional Method for Automobile Design

In the early days, if the car was supposed to have a completely new design, the designers and stylists created drawings to convey their vision for the new models. There used to be a few hundred distinct sketches at this stage of the exercise that were examined to see if they are achievable on the assembly line or not.

Scale models in clay were created once these judgments were made and the options have been limited down to one or two designs. Even in today’s computer-controlled design studios, this form of model making is occasionally still employed. The advantage of utilizing clay is that little amounts of clay may be easily added or removed to make fine modifications to the model.

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After that, a full-size clay model was created and painted to seem as close to a genuine car as feasible. Some automakers used to run styling clinics to see how people react to their vehicles. To offer a more realistic sense, some people commissioned full-size plastic models.

Once the producers agreed to proceed with the new model’s design, it was meticulously planned for mass production.

Initial Steps for Designing An Automobile

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Nowadays, there is a lot of competition among automobile manufacturers. Hence it is important to perform the following tasks to get an edge over the competitors:

Identifying Trends

First and foremost, it is necessary to comprehend the future vehicle as well as the context in which it will be driven. Designers must anticipate what will be considered as a trend in the future, as well as how customers’ needs may have evolved by then. Designers usually draw inspiration from a wide range of sources, including fashion and architecture from throughout the world, as well as nature.


Just like the traditional methods, the competition starts with hand-drawn designs, in which the designers first express their ideas in a plethora of hand-drawn sketches.

Tape Drawings

Along with the sketches, the designers create tape drawings, which are 1:1 scale drawings of their plans on a wall. They use a flexible tape to adhere the vehicle’s proportions to a foundation blueprint. Base plans are essentially a map of the future vehicle, complete with all technical and structural details.

Design Elements

The design team’s responsibilities are often divided into three categories: exterior design, interior design, and color and trim design. Graphic design is also a part of vehicle design, and it’s usually distributed among the design team as the lead designer sees fit.

The design not only focuses on the exterior shape of automobile parts but also on the combination of style and performance.

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The visual value must also be in line with the ergonomic functionality and utility aspects. Automobile designers face challenges due to advancements in automotive technologies and parts of the car. Hence, they need to stay up to date on the latest trends and information related to emerging interior vehicle equipment such as GPS navigation, satellite radio, TV, MP3 players, and smartphone interfaces.

The three categories of automobile design discussed above can be explained as follows:

Interior Design

The interior designer creates the dimensions, shape, placement, and surfaces for the instrument panel, seats, door trim panels, headliner, and pillar trimmings. The emphasis is given to ergonomics and passenger comfort in this case. The initial steps are the same as for exterior design (sketch, digital model, and clay model).

Exterior Design

The proportions, form, and surface features of the vehicle are developed by the design teams responsible for the outside of the vehicle. A series of hand sketches and digital drawings are used to create the exterior design.

More complex drawings are executed and approved by appropriate layers of management throughout time, followed by digital rendering to pictures. Consumer feedback is typically sought at this time to assist iterative enhancement of vehicle designs based on the target market.

Digital models are created alongside the sketches and pictures after further refinement. These models’ data is then utilized to generate quarter-scale and eventually full-scale mock-ups of the final design. The clay model is designed in a computer program and then developed using the machine and massive volumes of clay with CNC mold making machines.

Color and Trim Design

All interior and exterior colors and materials used on a car are researched, designed, and developed by the color and trim designer. Paints, plastics, fabric designs, leather, and other textures are some examples of these. To provide the vehicle a unique interior environment experience, color, contrast, texture, and pattern must be properly blended. Exterior and interior designers collaborate closely with designers.

Industrial design, fashion, home furnishings, architecture, and occasionally product design are all sources of inspiration for designers. To design for projects two to three model years in the future, specific research into worldwide trends is conducted.

This study is used to generate trend boards in order to keep track of design influences in the automotive sector. This information is then used by the designer to create themes and concepts, which are then improved and tested on car models.


This article explained a complex process like automobile designing by dividing it into three categories. Implementation of traditional methods like making clay models with the integration of modern technology makes the design process more easy and precise.

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