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Peter Horbury's Model for Success ...

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There's less mud-slinging in design studios these says. More often it's done virtually.

And that's where the opportunities lie for aspiring designers, says Peter Hobury, vice president-design at Sweden-based Volvo Cars.

Design studios are producing fewer clay models because the tube affords more accurate evaluation of shape and fit, thanks to software advancements and ever-increasing computing power.

"Makes life a lot easier," Hobury tells me recently. "More efficient. You do it quicker. And you see things, truly, in three dimensions. The engineers from the engine department send us the latest engine package. So if you design a hood and you see this bright red air cleaner sticking up through it, you know you've got a problem.

"A computer tells you immediately you need to raise the hood or talk to the guy doing the engines. With a clay model, you don't see that."

Therefore, "it's not a bad idea to perfect the skill of computer modeling," Horbury adds, confiding he has hired designers who started out as Alias practioners.

And some computer modelers have migrated from the ranks of clay modelers.

"They make the best modelers, to be honest," Horbury says. "They understand three dimensions better."

Our conversation arises as the job market for designers shows signs of a turnaround.

Auto makers, particularly those in China, are looking for people. But only those with design talent AND computer modeling skills -- a trend recent and future graduates should heed because supply still outstrips demand.

The world's design schools are pumping out some 500 graduates every year, Horbury estimates.

"Far too many. There's not anywhere near the number of positions. So what happens is, if you don't get a job within a year, there's another 500 graduates walking out the door."

Job Market Reopening for Designers

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