Please tell us about yourself
Ankit Prashar, a recent graduate of Coventry University, is only 21 years old but has already packed a lot in! Ankit has studied one year in IED (Istituto Europeo Di Design), Turin, Italy as well as completing a 4 month professional training placement at Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. And now he has of course completed his BA in Automotive Design at Coventry University.
Hi Ankit, first of all, tell us a little about yourself, and why you chose a career in design? How did you end up in such an offbeat and unconventional career?
I grew up learning only about science and mathematics and by the time I finished my school I was quite fed up of just learning up stuff from the book and then writing it in an exam. When I was young, like many boys I too was crazy about cars. It was however only during my final years at school that I began sketching cars at the back of my notebook while the teacher kept on going with his physics lecture!
Once you had decided, how did you go about finding information on how to become a car designer?
Just one answer- The internet! I would spend all nights just surfing on the internet, going through forums, etc. I short listed few colleges, went to their respective websites and asked for their prospectus. Then I evaluated my options, and took up the one, I considered the best.
What made you choose coming to Europe to study?
I think one of the main reasons to choose Europe over USA was that the American automotive market at that time had started to deteriorate. Also, the cost of education was far more expensive as compared anywhere else.
You must have looked into courses in India as well, was there a reason for not staying in India?
Yes i did, but at that time there wasn’t really any university which offered a specialized course in automotive design. I think its only in the last 2 years or so that the National Institute of Design (NID) has come up with a specialized course in automotive design. So studying abroad was the only option left for me.
Was it straightforward, or did you encounter any difficulties in arranging to study in Europe?
Well, I got into Coventry University; however just three months before leaving India I was informed that I wasn’t eligible for a student visa as I was only 17 years old. That was a terrifying moment as I had no backup. Fortunately, I came across IED in Turin who were for the first time coming up with a 1st year course in English Language and so I decided to go for it.
What advice would give to other young designers in India who also hope to pursue a career in design?
First of all – ‘it’s not easy, and it certainly isn’t about just drawing on a piece of paper. Secondly, I think from an Indian’s point of view the cost of the course is a major concern. And I would highly recommend the NID (National Institute of Designing) as they are making progress at an unimaginable pace and they certainly have a huge reputation and at par faculty.
Other than that all I would say is that you have to be really passionate about cars and most importantly about sketching. Sketching a car is indeed difficult if you haven’t done it before. It takes months to be able to sketch properly and requires a lot of patience. But, there is no going forward unless you can’t put down your ideas effectively on a piece of paper.
Finally besides the colleges, there is a wealth of information available on the internet on various websites including Designerstechnique.com. Youtube has a host of sketching and rendering videos which can actually teach you things that are not really taught in colleges.
So, tell us a little about your final year project, we see some pictures here of the design in different stages. How did you approach the design process?
My final year project was about a sustainable luxury sedan. The earth is at 11th hour and we as designers definitely need to provide solutions for sustainability. Moreover, I thought that cars of this segment are mainly used by CEO’s and affluent class who usually travel in the rear seat at most. So, I went in for a 1+2 seating layout which offered enormous interior space to the rear passengers yet kept the overall dimensions of the car to a minimum.
I looked into the lifestyle of the rich people and looked into things like what do they really require as money presents no barrier. I tried to understand what luxury really means to them and it certainly wasn’t about a 20-speaker music system or a 30’ LCD TV on the backseat!
I guess you have learned a lot in the past few years, what have been the key lessons you have learned from your time at Coventry and I.E.D?
Even though my stint at IED was brief, it has made a big difference in my life. It was at IED that I learnt the very basics in the first year from literally holding a pencil to sketching, perspective, composition and marker rendering. In one full year I basically learned how to sketch cars. If it was not for this I wouldn’t have been able to successfully complete my studies at Coventry.
At Coventry, things were a little different .There, I learnt about other aspects of the design. I learnt about how to research into a project before just going about sketching random stuff. I learnt how to present my ideas effectively via flatwork/PowerPoint presentations. I think at Coventry I learnt how to sell myself as a designer. Also by the final year, I effectively learnt how to make a scale model through all the stages (clay modelling, casting, sanding, milling, painting, etc.)
Were there any surprises during your time studying car design?
Definitely! Personally when I set out for this course I had no idea how intensive it would turn out to be. It is definitely one of the most difficult things I have accomplished yet. Personally, I believe I have become a stronger person in the last four years. However, it was not all negative. While in Italy we visited the Fiat factory and the Stile Bertone design studio where we saw all the concepts under one roof! At the Geneva motor show, just being an automotive design student, we were allowed to get on the podium next to our dream car! Truly, a dream comes true.
What was your career path since graduation?
I have been working with Maruti Suzuki Design Studio; Gurgaon for the last 2 years. I was part of the team that designed the Concept XA-Alpha that was showcased at the 2012 Delhi Auto Expo. Apart from this i have worked on a few production models which will be launched in the coming years.
More recently i have gotten out of the corporate world and stepped into what we call nowdays a start-up. I have started a new company from the name of IDE|AutoWorks™ along with a friend of mine, Himanshu Bhardwaj.
Himanshu like me is also an automotive designer from IED, Torino. His industry experience includes JAC design centre, Turin and more recently Mahindra & Mahindra Design Studio. Some of his notable works are the JAC Vision IV (Shanghai Motor Show 2010) and the Mahindra Dune Bug Concept (New Delhi Auto Expo 2012).
How did the XA-Alpha concept evolve?
The XA Alpha from the Maruti Suzuki stable was one of the most exciting concepts to be shown at the 11th edition of the Delhi Auto Expo. It was a joint effort by the R&D departments of Suzuki Motor Corp and Maruti Suzuki India. But the Japanese role was more in terms of guidance with the actual design coming from the Indian drawing board. And what’s impressive is that this concept went from the research stage to its deserved spotlight at the Maruti Suzuki stall at the Expo in just nine months.
It started around March 15, 2011 when the whole idea of a concept vehicle for the Expo was mooted. It began with a three month research activity across ten cities. The main target audience was the Indian youth and this research came up with the finding that the young guns preferred an SUV as their vehicle of choice. Requirements like trendy, experimental, rugged while also being compact, refined with city and off-road usage capability came to the fore. The premise of the vehicle was rugged living, wild urban’ as Maruti calls it and they felt that nothing better represented this theme than the Indian wrestling. Kushti is as Indian as it gets and that formed the blue print. Using all of these findings the six-member team – Jagjit Singh Rana (Head designer), Anupamsingh Tomer, Ankit Prashar, Rekha Meena, Ajay Kota and Shailendra Petwal – at Maruti’s advanced design department started putting the pieces together.
Next up was the sketching stage. This was a two-month process with each member submitting their sketches. There were almost 20-30 sketches being prepared by each member, everyday, as the team went about deciding the direction in which they wanted the final design to proceed. The go wild’ liberty given by the big bosses gave the team a lot of freedom especially considering that since it was a concept there were no engineering restrictions – a designer’s dream. It resulted in 16 options being given by the six designers. It was Tomer’s design which got selected.
After sketching the next stage was modelling. This involved creating the final design using the computer and also making of a scaled as well as a full size model of the final vehicle. There were many iterations and the team added and removed bits, in consultation with their Japanese counterparts to fine tune and finalise the design. This took two months.
After the final design was ready, the next step was the actual manufacturing of the concept. After looking at multiple options, they finally decided on setting up base in Shanghai to produce this concept SUV.
During the whole process, the main focus was on creating a compact SUV that has a clean character, is contemporary – straight lines without too much drama. The influence of wrestling saw interlocking, like the interlocked wrestlers, being the main theme. Cues were taken from existing products like the Swift and the Suzuki Jimny – from which was derived the five-block design of the front grille. The colour, lava red, was also arrived at after considering almost 25 shades of each colour with orange also being considered. The red representing the blood running through the veins of the Indian youth and also reflecting their passion, power and confidence. The candy finish was also a challenge since it’s not something that can be achieved on big surfaces. In keeping with the concept ideology, there are many interesting features like cameras instead of rear view mirrors, LED headlamps and door handles which have a card as well as button access.
The actual making of the vehicle at the Shanghai studio was a five-month process which culminated in the flash bulb frenzy at the Expo. The XA Alpha, where X stands for crossover, A stands for the customer who’s entering the SUV segment and Alpha represents the youth quotient, proved to be quite a crowd puller at the Expo. We are the youngest team that has created a concept car. And we did it with panache, says Rana. But of course, as Rana says with a laugh, they did get a kitna deti hai’ from one of the visitors to the stall. Some things never change.
Many thanks Ankit, we wish you the best in your future career! For those wishing to contact Ankit you can email him at, email@example.com