Transportation and Car Design

University Master's course

Length of the course 15 months

Start October 2017

academic training + thesis in collaboration with Volkswagen Design Group - Scholarships available

The work of the car designer blends creative design and automotive styling skills with elements of engineering, ergonomics and marketing. At SPD designers are able to face complex projects using a multidisciplinary approach. They are called on to envision progressive transportation concepts that fit a future scenario where cars are no more the unrivaled player.


The Master programme embraces the entire design development process by researching into new experiential concepts, redefining architectural solutions and moving forward with new criteria for comfort and efficiency. Today’s design paradigm must be brought into question in order to better interpret new aesthetic and social trends. The studio projects, organized in collaboration with major car companies, represent a proving ground to test the students’ ideas. In particular SPD has signed a long term educational partnership with Volkswagen Group Design involving the participation of designers from the various brands – from Audi to Lamborghini – into the teaching activites. After the initial exploration, students move forward into design concepts and their refinement up to both physical and digital modelling. It’s a long process that demands a high level of personal committment and flexibility, organizational and time management skills as well as a strong attitude to teamwork. Projects are subject to group critiques and critiques with outsider reviewers. Transportation designers thus acquire a constant spur to innovation both in form language and function, allied with the understanding of engineering and production processes.



Upon selection the Master admits graduates in Transportation or Car Design, Industrial Design, Vehicle Engineering or their equivalents, and candidates who have gained significant professional experience in the field. The program has a limited number of places available. Applicants will be admitted upon selection based on the student’s CV, portfolio and on an interview. Applications must be sent to the SPD Academic Office. More information on the admission process here.


The Master lasts 15 months (from October to December of the following year, with a summer break in August). Attendance is compulsory and full time. The total workload of the course corresponds to 1500 hours/student encompassing lessons, class exercises, final thesis/research project and individual study.

THESIS/Research project

At the end of lessons, students finalize their research project in collaboration with the academic sponsor.


Post-Master’s internship opportunities are available for high potential profiles at the end of the programme.


The Master’s course is held in English.


After passing the final exam, eligible students will obtain a Master’s Degree from IULM and SPD. The Master corresponds to 60 ECTS credits.



Programmes and teaching staff to be updated



  • Academic Partners
  • Academic Partners
  • Scuola Politecnica di Design SPD - Seat
  • Scuola Politecnica di Design SPD - Volkswagen
  • Scuola Politecnica di Design SPD -Academy partners
  • Scuola Politecnica di Design SPD - Bentley
  • Scuola Politecnica di Design SPD - Skoda
  • Transportation and Car Design Master


  • Concept Research
    Studio Baolab

    The aim of the course is to transfer to students a research and analysis methodology that can be applied to various project based activities including car design. The focus here is the definition of the concept idea: the critical starting point for the development of the whole project. The concept idea has to prove able to answer fundamental questions supporting the whole design practice. Why are we proposing this project? Which goal we intend to achieve ? Which benefits we want to deliver to the consumer target? And how?
    All the different steps required to round off the concept idea will be taken into account:
    – discussion and debrief
    – mobility scenarios, evolutions and opportunities
    – cross-fertilization analysis focused on lifestyles, art, architectural and design inspirations in the widest sense
    – competitors analysis: key values, design (technologies, car body, interiors, seat, components)
    – definition of the concept idea (keywords, key visuals and/or storyboards)
    – design directions
    Along with theoretical classes, the course will also face practical tasks and in particular, will concentrate on the creation of a complete concept presentation, focused on the main assignment of the semester.

  • Car Design Laboratory
    Alessandro Salvagnin, Michele Tinazzo

    The Car Design Laboratory takes place both during the first and the second term and will face complex themes closely related to car design in particular. This experience is intended to stimulate creative thinking while rounding off sounder professional skills. Taking advantage of the tutor’s guidance and of class critique activities together with the information and insights offered by partner companies, students will fully develop and present their own proposals in order to provide innovative design solutions consistent with the guidelines in the brief. Activities during the workshops will cover all the phases of the design process, from the concept idea to the final presentation. On the second term specific attention will be given to digital modelling that is regarded as an integral part of the design process. Students will have to produce their Alias model taking into account the necessary surface quality and detailed refinement of the proposal according to production standards. Students will work individually. After the launch of the activities, participants will meet once a week with the tutor and the class to discuss, revise, constantly develop their work and plan further advancements. Additional classes (e.g. Rendering, Digital Modelling and Production) will focus on this assignements as well. The effective communication of the project will be taken into consideration too. A detailed brief will be announced by the tutor at the beginning of the course. The assignement will be focused on the Lamborghini brand.
    Together with the development of the projects, the programme improves the designer’s professional knowledge and skills: getting to know the organization of a car design studio and the different professional roles, controlling the project timing, managing the design process , understanding the phases of model making, engineering, planning and production.
    – Car design and the car designer as a specific design professional
    – The ideation, design and production process of a mean of transport
    – Project brief, technical layout, orthographics, digital and physical model
    – The design process: model, reverse engineering, 3D model, technical and formal correspondance, scale model
    – Automotive technique, design approach, vocabulary
    – Understanding the car: reading its volumes, analyzing the main construction techniques, chassis, powertrain etc
    – Style as technique and viceversa
    – Inner consistency and coherence with the brief
    – Legislative binds
    – Interior: ergonomics, design critical issues, safety rules and restrictions
    – Interior: colour and trim, materic effects, graphics
    – Planning and developing a vehicle. Project timing, Gantt charts
    – Effective project management a a designer’s task

  • Alias
    Katia Bettin

    The course is set out in three main software modules:
    – modelling
    – rendering
    – animation
    Classes are intended as a tool for acquiring theoretical-technical-practical understanding of three-dimensional modelling. During the first part of the year themes connected to modelling will be looked at in depth in order to gain familiarity with the software and a working methodology that enables reaching a finished three-dimensional model starting off from paper or digital sketches.
    The theoretical explanations will be followed by a practical part on the use of the commands, with individual exercises carried out to check what has been learned. Rendering and animation will be introduced towards the end of the year, to round off the preparation.
    The output of the course will be the digital renderings as long as the complete 3D model of the car developed during the Master. The course also enables students to create the digital files for the production of parts and components of the final 1:4 model.
    Software used: Alias AutoStudio, Studio Viewer; Bunkspeed for quick visualizations only.
    Learning on the programme requires constant individual practice outside of the lessons. For extra practice we advise using the manual with tutorial as a support during self-study.

  • Modelling
    Nicolangelo Dibitonto

    Modelling is a key phase of the design process as it allows to verify the first ideas or refine them checking volumes, proportions and connections between the various parts of a vehicle. Based on the characteristics of the model, the most suitable materials and techniques will be identified. The training process emphasizes the benefits of clay modelling, when possible, as it allows a totally reversible process of addition and subtraction of masses during the design refinement stage. In the process of the work, students will be presented a variety of modelling tips through a learn by doing process. They will thus acquire the practical skills to explore different design solutions during the modelling phase and produce their mock-ups independently. Models will be subject to revisions also with the tutors in charge of the design laboratories.

  • Colour Sketching
    Mauro Del Pelo

    A correct visualization of the concept, carried out by hand even before becoming a three-dimensional file, is a daily operation in the designer’s work. This enables the designer to focus on the idea and its problems (compatibility with the production processes) before moving on to the CAD phase, which is notoriously more costly in terms of time. In the field of Transportation Design, then, being able to quickly produce striking visuals is fundamental.
    The course therefore provides the capacity to produce concrete visual supports, for the benefit of the other design subjects on the Master’s and as a professional plus for the designers themselves.
    The course is set out as follows. First of all a good descriptive level with the pencil is achieved visualizing proportions correctly and then acquiring the capacity to explore an object from more observation points : orthogonal views (form plans) and perspectives. Once the style and form have been defined, we move on to research into three-dimensionality, through shading and rendering materials . The techniques of colouring with markers are analyzed, as well as mixed techniques. Next we go on to analyzing the enormous potential of the drawing and photo-retouching software linked to the graphics board that marry the manual gesture with the power of the computer in order to get images with huge aesthetic impact.
    Sketching skills are one of the most important part of the professional training of the car designer. The course requires a strong daily commitment for individual practice. The student will have to hand in weekly assignments related to the main project work or exercises given by the tutor. At the end of the year, every student will have to gather all his/her works in a sketch book that will be part of the final examination.

  • Car Design History And Culture
    Lorenzo Ardizio

    The course is aimed at promoting the knowledge of transportation design history and its evolutions as crucial information, complementary to a design practice. Classes are intended to establish a positive interaction between history and present times in order to help the students fully understand critical issues and directions in current automotive production.
    The programme is arranged in monographic lectures focussing on brand identity, designers and design methodologies, vehicle architectures, market trends, technological developments.
    Specific attention will be devoted to the morphological transformation of the car, pointing out the innovations of both the chassis and the interiors together with the opportunities resulting from the broader evolutions of the mobility system. A sound “automotive culture” is thus fostered as a set of experiences to enable students to exercise more conscious creativity, engage in discussion and operate thoroughly in a professional environment.
    Main topics as follows:
    – brands: general analysis of the stylistic evolution, as well as a clustered analysis in a specific segment of the market / type of vehicle
    – the role of the car designer; the main stages of the automotive bodywork; evolution of the figure of the car designers
    – the bodywork: introduction; the origins of bodywork types and their evolution to the present day; the traditional bodyworks. New frontiers. Crossovers and vehicles with alternative propulsion systems. Main techniques of bodywork (material, patents, technical innovations)
    – the aerodynamic research and style: main stream in the past; integration of aerodynamics in the design; passive and active approach (aerodynamics as a strong point in terms of style or as a constraint for the designer)
    – from the bodywork to the design center: mass production requires standardization; the boom of standard models in the 50’s and the birth of in-house design centers; structure and form: from the bodywork to the design department
    – European and non-European coachbuilders: the main brands, historical info, stylistic characteristics and relationships with manufacturers; use of materials and techniques; case studies: historical introduction, accomplishments, designers and indication of the bibliography.
    – European brands: major European manufacturers; interpretation of their peculiarities and achievements; historical introduction of the brand; market positioning; identification of the strategic values of the brand; overview of the evolution of their formal language; future trends
    – US brands: various stages in the evolution of American carmakers; peculiarities of the market; interaction between USA-Europe-Japan: import, export and joint ventures
    – Japan: the internal market; from exports to Europe to the opening of branches and subsidiaries
    – China and emerging markets: peculiarities of the internal market and relation with western brands; acquisition of a know-how and a new working method
    – Notable car designers: the most significant figures in the evolution of car design; the analysis of their work and accomplishments in the context of the time; relationships with the manufacturers
    – Preparation for visit to the Geneva Motor Show: the presentation strategies: halls, media campaigns; from concept to serial car production: the concept anticipates the car; the concept as a manifesto of style; the concept as an expression of technology

  • Colour And Trim
    Studio Baolab

    The course presents a methodology of analysis and design applied to colours, materials and finishings. The CMF acronym covers all the aspects of colour and new materials, the study of trends and the definition of new colour systems that are now able to influence the consumer demand.
    CMF Design is experiencing a continuous development in transportation design field. This marks emerging consumers’ attitudes characterized by richer, highly customizable and way more sophisticated palettes relying on a stronger emotional identity.
    Along with theoretical classes, the course will also face practical tasks focussing on the management of chromatic languages and their application.
    Initial classes will deliver students with the necessary colour theory foundations. The CMF approach will be illustrated with case studies followed by discussion.
    The theoretical module will deal with the following topics:
    – role, skills and specific responsibilities of a colour and trim unit in the context of a styling center
    – target & lifestyle analysis
    – studying emerging trends and converting them into sensorial matter
    – how to conduct materials research
    – case study on the creation of innovative materials
    Afterwards, the course will concentrate on the creation of a complete colour and trim project, focused on the main assignment of the semester, according to the following contents:
    – definition of a general theme/inspiration to define various atmosferes to suit different range levels and interior expressions
    – keywords and key visuals research
    – creation of a moodboard for each atmosphere, thus deriving the relevant colour codes
    – definition of the chromatic model
    – application to both exterior and interior
    – presentation (digital and CMF boards)

  • Rendering
    Michele Leonello

    The course will begin concentrating on pencil or ball point pen techniques in order to test the students’ ability to visualize a vehicle’s volumes and proportions quickly and correctly. Following to this phase the programme will start analyzing the representation of different volumes in orthogonal and perspective views. Classes will then concentrate on digital rendering techniques in order to achieve a higher photorealistic level.
    Through a constant practice the course enables students to transfer the feeling of initial 2dimensional visualizations into a correct Photoshop rendering that fully describe the vehicle and supports the 3D modelling phase. A number of exercises will be required in order to achieve a higher professional quality in hand drawn and digital rendering.
    Contents of the course as follows.
    – Proportions and volumes: square, modular grid base; volume analysis, ability to transmit in the sheet key-points; orthogonal views: proportions and correspondence; form plan; preparing blueprints for 3D and clay modelling
    – Intuitive perspective: perspective basic rules; perspective grid; point of view (perspective 30°/30° and 30°/60°); visive impact; volume right interpretation in perspective, intersection between solids; correct relation and proportion between orthogonal views and perspective; different perspective types in transportation design; volume representation using sections
    – Shadowing: basic rules
    – Movements and space perception: rotation; sliding elements; bendable and transformable elements; explosed elements
    – Research sketch vs presentation sketch vs final rendering
    – chromatic balance: light-dark and warm-cold;
    – How to render different materials and textures: transparencies, mat, bright, chrome etc
    – Project communication: through the use of the graphic tablet Photoshop will be widely explored as a digital colouring and retouching tool. The correct preparation of effective presentation boards will be analized in depth: backgrounds, compositional schemes, main views and techniques.

  • Transportation Design Workshop
    Carl Soares

    The purpose of the workshop is to
    – identify each and everyone’s design potential; pinpoint their strengths along with their weakness and critical abilities still to be improved;
    – get to know more the students’ relational skills and team work attitude which will be crucial in the course of the work;
    – help the students to think freely, beyond the constraints of a detailed and time-structured brief;
    – transfer the students the idea of a result-driven process where time management and a continuous progression are the key. Due to the tight deadline (5 days), students will have to acquire the work pace they’re expected to maintain over the Master.
    Theme: to be announced on the first day of the workshop.
    Deliverables: the final submission must include
    – concise explanation of the main idea: every student will have to prepare one or two page concept description identifying the customer, his needs and expectation and detailing the vehicle proposal (why? What’s its main selling proposition? And the specific features? Whom it’s addressed to? Which benefits is delivering to the user? And to the brand? etc)
    – design proposal: detailed colour sketches showing all the correct tip up views (side view, 3/4 front, 3/4 back) and additional sketches explaining details or functions; basic arrangement of interior (dashboard, seats etc); side view on package
    Techniques and format: students are expected to communicate and present a clear concept idea as if in a studio review. Using freesketching techniques and/or very quick computer graphics, they will produce A3 prints and a digital presentation.

  • Transportation Design Laboratory I, I I
    Paolo Granelli

    These project-oriented courses taking place both during the first and the second semester will face complex themes closely related to emerging issues in the current design scene. The workshops are intended to stimulate creative thinking while rounding off sounder professional skills. Taking advantage of the tutors’ guidance and class critique activities together with the information and insights offered by partner companies of the Volkswagen Group, students will fully develop and present their own proposals in order to provide innovative design solutions consistent with the guidelines in the brief. Activities during the laboratory will cover all the phases in the design process, from the concept idea to the final presentation. After the initial exploration, students will move forward into design concepts and their refinement. During the second semester students will have to produce a physical or a digital model. It’s a long process that demands a high level of personal committment and flexibility, organizational and time management skills as well as a strong attitude to teamwork. Students will work in small groups; during the second semester they will be organized in pairs or in groups of 3 people to promote mutual learning and facilitate the management of the overall woarkload. After the launch of the activities, participants will meet once a week with the tutors and the class to discuss, revise, constantly develop their plan further advancements. Projects are subject to group critiques and critiques with outsider reviewers. All the other classes (and in particular rendering, sketching, alias, modelling and concept research) will focus on these assignments as well. Particular attention will be given to the effective communication of the project. The brief for the year 2011-2012 is focussed on micromobility.