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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

On the fast track

By Linda White
Special to The Sun


He's still a long way from becoming the next Ralph Gilles, one of the world's foremost auto designers, but Canada's first auto design program has put Raymond Hwang on the fast track to fulfilling every little boy's dream.
Canadian Ralph Gilles of the Chrysler Group is one of the world's foremost auto designers. He is director of the Dodge Magnum and Chrysler 300C (pictured) and was the primary interior designer for the Dodge Viper GTS/R, Dodge ESX2 and Jeep Jeepster concept vehicles and the production versions of the 2003 Dodge Viper and 2002 Jeep Liberty.


"For me, it's just the whole thing about cars and transportation," says the Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning student. "I can see it move afterwards. Movement brings your ideas alive. It's exciting for me."

Hwang was one of 14 finalists at the 2005 Michelin Challenge Design in Detroit. His model, called Barcelona, was based on traditional Bauhaus German design. "When it comes to German design, I couldn't think of anything purer than Bauhaus," Hwang says. "It's amazing how timeless that design is."

His entry was selected from more than 260 entries from 50 countries around the world and displayed at the annual North American International Auto Show in January. "It's interesting how people from around the world are all into cars ... The field is pretty small in Canada, but that could change."

Canada has a solid reputation in design. "Canadians tend to be perceived as outdoorsy, with a rough and tumble side," says Humber instructor Ken Cummings. "But we also have a sophisticated urban side. Multiculturalism also figures into it. There's an edginess to Canadian design ... That's looked at, particularly from an Asian perspective, as an asset."

But until now, wannabe auto designers had to leave their home turf to fulfill their dreams. "Some programs are mechanical in nature, but they're not auto design," Cummings says. "In order for students to pursue a career in auto design, they had to go to Europe or the U.S. ... One of the problems in going to the States is that tuition is very high."

Ralph Gilles of the Chrysler Group in Detroit grew up in Montreal but left Canada to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in transportation design from Detroit's Center for Creative Studies in 1992 and went on to complete a Master's Degree in Business Administration from Michigan State University in 2002.
Raymond Hwang (left) and Ken Cummings, his instructor at Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, in the Industrial Design workshop.


His first assignment was designing small interior details like speedometer needles, but Gilles is better known as the primary interior designer for the Dodge Viper GTS/R, Dodge ESX2 and Jeep Jeepster concept vehicles and the production versions of the 2003 Dodge Viper and 2002 Jeep Liberty.

He is director of the Dodge Magnum and Chrysler 300C and was director of the M80 Concept vehicle.

Humber introduced its Industrial Design bachelor's design program that allows students to specialize in auto design in September 2003.

Before it could do that, it had to prove to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and University a need for it.

"Humber looked at how much auto activity there was in Canada, particularly in Ontario, which is vying with Michigan for the most auto assembly," Cummings says. "We have plants throughout the province, from Windsor to Oshawa. We make a lot of cars, there's a lot of automobile activity here, but no design schools."
DESIGNING MINDS
  • Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning's Bachelor of Applied Technology Industrial Design degree can lead to careers in industrial product or project design, and client manager in diverse fields like furniture, automotive, computer media and sporting gear.
  • Students can specialize in automotive design in their third and fourth years.
  • For more information, visit http://degrees. humber.ca/industrialdesign.htm


  • The program has pretty much sold itself, Cummings reports. "It's exciting for students and eventually it will be for industry. Some graduates may still need to go offshore to maximize their potential. Germany, the UK, Australia, China and Japan are major manufacturers of automobiles. Design houses are there and in the U.S."

    Good candidates are able to draw well and have lots of ideas. Computer skills are a definite plus, but the computer is still just a tool. "You need to have a good idea for what's out there, to understand what people want," Cummings says.

    "What kind of excitement can you bring to design? As technology is changing, we're seeing hybrid and hydrogen vehicles. This is the first big change in 100 years. There's opportunity to come up with unique ideas over the next 10 years."

    An emerging trend in "batch manufacturing" of smaller numbers of vehicles will also drive the need for designers forward. At one time, designers and engineers worked separately. "Now they all work together. Concurrent engineering is collapsing the length of time it takes to design a vehicle and put it on the road," Cummings says.



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