Amina Horozic, 21, a senior studying transportation design at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, nervously waits for Dave Lyon, General Motors’ executive director of design, to give some sign whether or not he likes her car sketches that cover the wall.
His expression and questions to her provide no clue.
Since she and her brother played with cars in their Harrison Township home, Horozic, born in Sarajevo, Bosnia, has had a lifelong dream to be a car designer. Now, with her final school project, the dream is within her grasp.
She and the other seniors are assigned as their last semester project to design a GM vehicle for 2020. (Four major automakers alternate sponsoring the senior project.) GM’s sole requirement is that the futuristic vehicles use the skateboard-shaped chassis of its Autonomy fuel cell concept, unveiled at the 2002 Detroit auto show.
Horozic’s egg-shaped concept looks more like wild sci-fi transportation than a current car. She’s designed the vehicle from the inside out, with the idea that the vehicle has replaced the family dining table as a place to converse and interact.
At long last, Lyon, a 1990 CCS graduate, delivers his verdict. “It’s spooky,” he says. “In a good way. Do one even more outlandish.”
Lyon then moves on to the next student, spending the evening critiquing sketches that will be turned into three-dimensional clay models for a final grade and likely a ticket for a job this spring when Horozic and 16 others, including nine from Michigan, in her class graduate.
Such design reviews are daily drills at CCS, one of the world’s top breeding grounds for car designers, but one that few Detroiters outside the auto industry realize has a global reputation.
“CCS is the nation’s best-kept secret in design education,” said CCS dean of academic affairs Imre Molnar, who moved to CCS in 2001 from the rival Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., the nation’s other major school for car designers.
CCS’s transportation program draws students from the Detroit suburbs as well as from all over the world, like 25-year-old Sung-Yeah Song from South Korea, who picked CCS because “it’s the best in the world. It’s famous in Korea.”
Students are a variety of ages, from 23-year-old senior Nick Renner from Iowa to adults making career changes, like Mark Surel, 33, a DaimlerChrysler clay modeler who wants to do his own car designs instead of create three-dimensional models of someone else’s designs.
One of the strong points of the CCS transportation design program is its close association with car designers working in the profession. Ralph Gilles, a top DaimlerChrysler designer who most recently designed the just-introduced Chrysler 300C and Dodge Magnum, is a professor for the senior class.
Byron Fitzpatrick, who spent his long career in design from Australia to England and Germany, chairs the industrial design department and transportation design program.
“On any given day, four or five established designers will be teaching here,” Molnar said. “In fact, most transportation design classes are held in the evenings so we can attract the best designers to teach.”
Once restricted to mostly GM, Ford and Chrysler designers, CCS’s transportation design program has gone international in its associations with foreign car companies and their designers.
(c) 2004, Detroit Free Press. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.