Car Design 101: From Sketch To Product
Car Design 101: From Sketch To Product

Ajay Jain, the India Studio & Global Design Strategy Head, Tata Motors talks about what goes on behind the scenes of of designing a Super Car

Author: Ajay Jain, India Studio & Global Design Strategy Head, Tata Motors
Image Credits: Tata Motors


The age bracket of 25 to 40 constitutes the major chunk of car buyers, with nearly 30 per cent falling below the age of 30. Gone are the days when vehicles were merely functional. Young consumers today prioritise cars with sleek, modern and aesthetically pleasing designs that not only perform well but also make a statement with their visual appeal. This trend reflects a growing awareness and demand for modern features and advancement in the automotive industry.



Today, automobiles function as a distinctive medium through which individuals elegantly portray and express facets of their chosen lifestyle, reflecting personal taste, preference and societal standing. The journey from conceptualisation to market success hinges upon the recognition that design isn’t merely an aesthetic endeavour. Rather, it is a strategic tool that has the potential to shape perceptions, galvanise brand loyalty and help car manufacturers become super popular among customers.



A thoughtfully crafted design aesthetic, seamlessly woven into a car’s essence possesses a remarkable ability to transcend mere functionality. It has the potential to mould a distinctive brand identity that resonates far and wide, cultivating intrigue within the industry and evoking emotions in individuals, thereby kindling enthusiasm among both aficionados and trendsetters.


Designers play a pivotal role in shaping a car’s identity, aesthetics and user experience, contributing significantly to the final product’s success and appeal. This iterative approach ensures that the ultimate design aligns with a strong vision, meeting both functional and aesthetic needs. The launch of modern cars today is the result of a multi-year process that begins with conceptualisation, design, thorough evaluation and meticulous refinement over three to five years. However, for high-end or innovative vehicles, this journey can extend well beyond the standard timeframe, sometimes taking seven to 10 years or more before reaching the market.



Despite the extended timeline, the outcome often showcases a remarkable blend of automotive engineering and design, captivating enthusiasts and setting new industry benchmarks. Usually, the design is a pivotal cornerstone that guides the company’s path of innovation.


This essence was vividly highlighted during Auto Expo 2023, where the commemoration of Sierra’s anniversary sparked the inspiration to unveil a novel Sierra model at the event. Furthermore, Tata Motors’ aspiration to transform into an EV powerhouse gave birth to Avinya, a testament to the brand’s commitment to sustainable mobility. In a dynamic ecosystem, it’s often in casual conversations that the seeds of ground-breaking products are sown, underscoring the vibrant innovation culture nurtured within the company. Let’s look into what goes into making an aspirational product.


Exploration and Conceptualisation



Designers embark on a journey of exploration and conceptualisation by meticulously researching the market needs, audience preferences and contemporary trends. Utilising both hand-drawn sketches and computer-aided design (CAD) software, they derive inspiration from a range of influences to shape their initial concepts.


Experimenting with forms, materials and hues, they aim to create visually compelling ideas that challenge conventional design norms. The ultimate goal of the designers is to capture the brand’s core identity while integrating innovative features and envisioning an enhanced user experience and desirable aesthetics in the future lifetime of the car.


Evaluation and Digital Modelling



A set of chosen concepts, thoughtfully spanning a curated spectrum, is meticulously refined, iterated upon and reworked multiple times. These concepts undergo modification until they are convincing enough to be exciting and realistic. On gaining approval for the initial sketches, a “knockout” phase narrows down the choice to three distinct proposals. These selected concepts are further developed into three-dimensional scale models or computer-aided models, bringing them one step closer to reality.



Designers often create physical clay models to effectively assess the car’s spatial attributes. Proportions, space, surface, shapes, details and the comfort of the design can be readily evaluated through these three-dimensional models, which provide an acute understanding of the eventual final design outcome. This meticulous process ensures that the final product aligns with the brand’s values and effectively resonates with the intended target audience, thereby enhancing its prospects for success in the market.


Engineering and Development



From the refined designs, a chosen few move on to create full-scale models. The engineering and design teams collaborate closely to ensure functionality and feasibility for production. Next, physical prototypes are crafted, offering the first tangible embodiment of the car’s design. These prototypes undergo rigorous testing to assess performance, safety and durability. Every intricate part is meticulously designed, factoring in colour, materials and manufacturing methods. While these components may possess distinct attributes, they blend seamlessly to create a harmonious and enticing whole, capable of captivating in various configurations.


Execution and Production



In this phase, the design team faces the ultimate test of accomplishment. The team meticulously enhances each detail of the form and surface, converting the proposal into a car primed for mass production. Simultaneously, rigorous quality control measures are put in place to ensure that the highest standards are met. As the Indian automobile market keeps progressing, the interplay between this vibrant age group and the automotive landscape promises to be a captivating narrative that propels innovation and drives new changes in the years to come. Design plays a pivotal role in a vehicle’s journey from being just a concept to a reality. Starting from meticulous sketches to rigorous testing, engineers, designers and technicians come together, combining artistic vision with engineering skill, resulting in the cars we see on our roads today


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