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Automotive Design School Concept Designs - Student Impact

Design colleges shaping our automotive future

Ezekiel Wheeler
Mar 5, 2013
Illustrators: Benjamin Kapp Voith, Kyungeon Ko
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Believe it or not, thousands of cars never see the road. Instead they live as figments of our imaginations or as design studies created by designers across the globe who pen our vehicular fantasies. But how did these men and women reach this pinnacle? Usually they attend one of a few automotive design schools.

Two of the leading schools are the Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, CA) and Royal College of Art (London, England) and both had recent graduation exhibitions that we've cherry-picked for these pages.

Art Center

Art Center is located in Pasadena above the Rose Bowl. It opened in 1933 in downtown Los Angeles but moved to its current location in the '70s. Its Transportation Design program was established 60 years ago and the alumni has designed almost 50% of the world's vehicles since that time. These include Jay Mays, Ford VP of Design, Henrik Fisker, co-founder and executive chairmen of Fisker Automotive, and Chip Foose of Foose Design and Overhaulin' among many.

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Three times each year, Art Center puts on a grad show, where final term students go through a rigorous selection process to simply showcase their work. Once selected, the three-day event starts with an Industry Night, where designers and would-be employers meet the students who pitch their concepts. The following night is open to the public.

Benjamin Knap Voith
Bentley Barnato Roadster

The Bentley Boys were an iconic 1920s racing group who inspired the company to create the famous 1927 Bentley Blower, engraving its motorsports heritage for all time.

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Today, Bentley is returning to motorsport while creating fast, luxury grand tourers. But one Art Center student wondered about providing a chassis that could spawn a new generation of Bentley Boys.

Benjamin Knap Voith recognized this special opportunity during an eight month internship at Bentley and was able to devise the Barnato Roadster. It was named after Joel Woolf Barnato, heir to the Barney Barnato Diamond enterprise and one of the original Bentley Boys.

The Roadster was inspired by the Bentley Blower's fenderless configuration as well as the lines of the 1954 R Type Continental. It marries dynamic gestures with heritage cues such as the inset aluminum grille shroud and single-seat leather cockpit. The Barnato Roadster hides a passenger seat under the seamless bodywork alongside the driver, creating a modern take on riveted snaps and leather.

The vehicle would be based on the current Continental GT platform and the body constructed from carbon fiber. The proposed powerplant was the Audi RS4 V8.


The Royal College of Art was established in West London in 1837 as a Government School of Design. In 1948 the school established an industrial design program that became one of the most respected vehicle design Masters programs in the world. The College was granted a Royal Charter in 1967, giving it the power to grant its own degrees. Its alumni include Ian Callum at Jaguar, Dirk Van Braeckel at Bentley and Marek Reichman at Aston Martin.

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The RCA hosts an annual show and this year 20 graduates and one PhD would complete the Vehicle Design program. Everything from yachts to personal urban vehicles were conceptualized but we liked the work of Kyungeun Ko who employed metal folding technology and beautiful design in another Bentley concept.

Kyungeun Ko
Bentley Tailor Made

Personalizing a car normally starts with a production vehicle. But what if you could tailor the entire car, from the exterior panels to the interior trim, chassis and powerplant before it was ever built? Kyungeun Ko envisioned such a concept with her Bentley Tailor Made project.

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Employing origami paper folding techniques and achieving almost no waste in production, she was able to develop a sensual design language utilizing Robofold in the UK. Their machines were able to take a flat piece of aluminum and cold-fold it into 3D sculpted forms.

After the design and geometry has been finalized, Robofold tested the model in its digital simulator to orchestrate the six-axis robotic arms. They then moved creased and cut pieces of metal into the folding machine and let the magic unfold (no pun intended).

Ko was able to harness this technology for a luxury automotive buying experience, so Bentley was a perfect fit. She would empower not only the company to reach new levels of design and manufacturing, but also enable the customer to envision a one-off vehicle. Marrying the two concepts could see new forms taking to our roads, inspiring personalization to go beyond wheels, spoilers and paint.

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By Ezekiel Wheeler
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