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Rohit Dhiman : Automotive Designer

Posted on : 13/02/2020 05:09pm
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Rohit, tell us about your background? 


I grew up in a very simple middle class family with a lot of open mind. In the peaceful mountains of Shimla city, I spent my childhood where I believe I actually developed my creative sense. I was always interested in machines, not particularly in cars but machines in general. I used to get fascinated by the composition of machines and how the well connected components worked in a synchronized way. Bulldozers and excavators were my favourite machines. I used to watch every episode of Junkyard wars on discovery channel and then try to make similar things with paper boards and wood. My late grandfather was a carpenter and I used to go his shop and spend the whole day making robots and machines. Along with that I used to sketch them a lot as well. Not just cars and machines but superheroes too. I have always been interested in creation, be it natural or man-made. Those were the days with very limited access to the internet, so I had enough time to spend on my hobbies and skills. 



How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and fascinating career?


Being always interested in machines, I did my Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from Punjabi University, Patiala. At that time I didn’t have much information about Car Design, its specifications and requirements. Only when I got exposed to companies like Mahindra Tractors and SML ISUZU for my Engineering Internships, i started exploring the origin of machines and cars and how they are actually designed and built. The moment I entered the design department of companies I instantly fell in love with the process. It was pure creation and I felt a sense of freedom. So I declined the job offer after engineering and decided to pursue Transportation Design. I started applying to design courses in India initially, but after spending a few months chasing car design in India I realized that to progress faster in this field, it was imperative that i have the relevant environment. All of us spend a lot of time sketching Ferraris, Porsches and other popular brands, but without actually looking at them and sensing them around you, it’s very difficult to elicit proper and complete sense of proportions and quality. So I took a hard decision to forego the Engineering job, took a loan for my education and headed to Italy to do my Master’s in Transportation Design from IAAD Turin. That turned out to be the best decision of my life. There I got the right environment, met some really experienced designers as teachers and learned about the history of cars. These 2 years opened up my mind about cars and improved my understanding of this industry. 


Tell us about your career path 


Well, as I mentioned, after my engineering internship at SML ISUZU it was a very tough decision to make considering the financial condition of my family and not accepting the job offer as Engineer at that time. But I could not spin my head off the thought that if not car designing then nothing else can keep me happy for the rest of my life. I believe there are very few moments in your life when you feel that you don’t have any other option even when other options are available and easier to approach. That feeling is LOVE and the best thing about that feeling is that you can easily express that. I expressed this feeling ito my parents and after a few sad days of convincing they agreed to apply for an education loan, i got immense support from my parents all along. I had a basic portfolio ready with whatever I had struggled for in India. I took a tour of all the design schools in India as well but the one thing that was always at the back of my head was not having a relevant environment. Having an engineering background it was a little difficult to forget the practical facts in the beginning and let the dreams prevail. But later in the actual job, my engineering background proved to be most valuable. I also invested in a pen tablet to improve my sketching and photoshop skills and used to watch online tutorials on YouTUBE to see the approach. Having proper tools is one of the most crucial points while walking on such a path. I started sending my portfolio to different design schools around the world and received a lot of replies but I chose the one that offered a scholarship which wasn’t much but would alleviate the financial burden to a certain level. At that point there was no stepping back. At last I made it to the college in Italy and impressed my professors with my improvements and skills and got significant recommendations from them that helped me get my dream job after graduation. I did my thesis internship with Pininfarina, Italy that changed my thought process completely and gave a good insight of the industry. I then joined Nissan Design after getting recommended by my Professor, Masato Inoue who is an experienced and renowned ex-Nissan designer (Designer of Nissan Leaf)


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How did you get your first break? 


My thesis internship was sponsored by the college itself where we were given a brief from Pininfarina. The brief was to express “EMOTIONS WITHOUT EMISSIONS”. I was selected as the team leader after a competition between the whole batch. There were 5 teams selected from the whole batch. My role was to supervise and develop my concept as a team leader. As per the brief we had to represent Pininfarina’s legacy in the future in an environment friendly way. We spent six months on the project that included initial sketching and concept preparation to final 3D model and we also prepared a 3D animation for better explanation of the concept. The whole team performed really well and learned together. We designed both exterior as well as interior. We were reviewed by the Pininfarina designers regularly. These six months gave me a really good insight of the actual design process. Then I got recommended by my Professor for a job in Nissan Design, initially the job was for Japan and China but because of working visa issues I had to start from Nissan Design India only, but later I went to Japan for assignments and studio competitions. 


Now the job offers regular visits to Japan and other studios around the world based on assignments.



Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you! 


As a designer I have worked on almost every production segment, from flagship SUVs to Kei cars. And with every project my understanding about cars and proportions has increased. But out of all of them my most memorable project has been the one I did with my Professor during my graduation. It was a three wheel electric vehicle project funded by the European Union and our college was given the opportunity to lead that project. The project’s name is ‘Weevil’ and you can search it online as well. It’s a very practical but innovative project at the same time. Our Professor, Mr. Masato Inuoue was appointed as the chief designer of this project and he selected a few design students to work with him. I was one of them and my idea and proposal was selected as the key proposal for that. It was a team work of course. Every other designer gave really innovative and cool sketches and ideas, but having selected as the key proposal was a huge motivation for me to move forward. That product has reached its production prototyping stage now and will soon be able to see daylight in the European streets. 


Your advice to students based on your experience? 


Becoming a car designer is actually like running a marathon. Hundreds of people are running for one position, but only a few are actually able to finish the marathon, out of those only a few are able to get a position and only a handful out of those get to be the winners. And being a winner is the only way to find satisfaction in this field. Otherwise this can turn out to be the greatest frustration of your life as well. So if you are choosing it, you must really love it. Don’t be afraid of taking risks. Experiments will tell you what things are not going to work, but what is going to work will be an innovation and it happens only after a lot of iterations. And it’s very important to keep your spirits up all the time because there will be more downs than ups in this journey. Passion should prevail. 


Future Plans? 


My future plan is to keep growing as a designer and step into each stream of design and creation that is directly or indirectly related to automobile designing. I want be able to design and execute the whole design, from sketching to engineering so that I can a valuable team player and a good source of learning.

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