(cover image: Recording a Sketching Session with David Seesing)
We talked with Jannis Carius, CEO and former Jaguar Land Rover, about his own personal experiences which lead to the founding of inktank.academy, and the service this platform provides.
Jannis, you graduated with a Master’s degree in transportation design at the Royal College of Arts and then immediately got a job at Jaguar Land Rover. Sounds like everything was running perfectly.
Of course not. It never does. I was lucky that I got a job straight away after collage.
But there were a lot of difficulties along that road to being a professional car designer. And it’s been like that for everyone else I know. Especially in the Bachelor something we had to deal with all the time was trying to get feedback on our work and find out which techniques the professionals use. We never really knew if we were doing something relevant or not. We just hoped it would be good for what we were aiming for. For example, I wanted to become an Exterior Car Designer, but I didn’t know whether to be crazy with my ideas or push for production design. Should I do more sketches or more Photoshop renderings? What is the industry looking for? You can extend this to so many questions. What makes a sketch good? What are efficient techniques in Alias to get nice results? We had to find it out for ourselves.
You graduated in 2014. Is it easier for students to get information and support now?
I don’t know if things got easier, but students still have a lot of questions and needs. At inktank.academy we get a lot of questions similar to those my colleagues and I had. For instance a few days ago a master graduate in architecture asked us if it would be possible to become a car designer with this kind of degree. There are a lot of students from other design fields who would like to become car designers and for them it is even harder. Thanks So there are a lot of questions, students usually have to deal with on their own.
What exactly is your service at inktank.academy? How can you help students in transportation design and other studies?
inktank.academy is an e-learning platform for car design. We provide video courses about knowledge, techniques and skills you need as a car designer. We combine the courses with a new e-learning concept which is built upon social learning, individual training and the principle of gamification.
Aside from my person, all of our tutors are active car designers. Peter Wouda, Design Director at VW Group Future Center Europe, and Markus Wachter, Chief Designer at Mercedes AMG, are part of our team. Combine their knowledge with the very extraordinary amount of diverse experience of a David Seesing, the uncommon skills in sketching and creative methods of a Hoe Young Hwang and the structured and efficient workflow of a Michael Silbereis and you can begin to imagine the amount of knowledge and skills that will push our members forward. And there are more tutors and more to come.
So there is a seamless transfer of knowledge from industry to inktank.academy. This is how we fill the gap between the university and the job entry. And we are always up to date with the content because we always look for new tutors who have really some perfected special skills. This is a unique point you will only find at inktank.academy.
When you come from another study, like the graduate in architecture, a good strategy is to make use of our trial week. Upload some work, get feedback on your skills, maybe do the portfolio course with Markus Wachter. Then you will have a very good idea of your strengths and weaknesses.
How exactly does your platform work?
The courses are built upon each other. You can get in this system at any point which suits your skills. This is cool, because it’s an entry point also for industrial designers, product designers and even hobbyists. For example, there is a polygon modeling series which starts with the very basic functions. Everything is explained step by step so you can replicate the tutor’s work on your own while watching the video. So inktank.academy is not a library of YouTube tutorials held by unknown people in high speed.
Every course is combined with several assignments to do. Upload your work, get comments, get feedback – from our tutors and from other members – and improve. If you use inktank.academy like this, you will exactly know where you need to improve.
Looking at other people’s work, understanding their ideas and exchanging views is crucial to improve skills. Social learning is also a principle that other e-learning platforms and YouTube can’t provide.
You mentioned the permanent uncertainty about the quality of one’s own skills. Do you also have a solution for this?
We do. We integrated a function which really helps users to know their individual strengths and weaknesses at any time: a level system which illustrates your skills in different categories. This reflection makes you more secure about yourself, but also enables you to make individual decisions on which courses you want to complete next. inktank.academy doesn’t sell a predefined set of courses with identical content for everyone. It is an individual training platform where you can work on your weak points and perfect your strengths.
We talked a lot about the needs of students. What about the professional car designers? What are their needs and how can you support them?
Further education is so important as there are so many talented people out there, who have just discovered that there is a job related to their skills and dreams. Not to mention the fast pace the industry is developing at. So you need to stay up to date and creative and improve yourself.
When I looked at Francesco Binaggia using Photoshop in the recording of some of our courses, I thought: “Oh wow, that’s the way he does it? I didn’t know this tool either.” Nobody is in the situation to be perfect, even though he or she is a professional car designer. At the university you focus on your skills to make your portfolio as good as possible. You don’t have the time to perfect every technique. So, there is a lot of room to improve, even for a professional.
As you already made it – what is your message to those who want to become a car designer?
A friend of mine from RCA came to me once back in school and said: “Look Jannis, we are not gonna have it easy”. He showed me an article stating that it’s more difficult to become a car designer than an NFL star. So everyone who wants to be a car designer has to understand that they have accepted that challenge and if they really want to go for it, they have to make sacrifices. It is hard work you have to do for years. It’s up to you. And inktank.academy is willing to support you as much as possible.
For more information and subscriptions visit www.inktank.academy.
(Image Courtesy: inktank.academy for Car Body Design)