Design School Alumni Arne Dassen – Pforzheim College of Design

August 01, 2011  •  Leave a Comment

DROP DOWN AND GIVE ME 50!!! Pages of sketches by tomorrow…that is!  That’s what it’s like when going to a special transportation design school!  It’s hard vigorous training! Thank goodness they don’t force you to sketch with BOTH hands…..and feet….though I have heard some strange cases here and there…but it’s just rumors.

We continue with getting feedback from designers who attended some of the best colleges in the world for transportation design.  Arne Dassen, a principle designer at Johnson Controls, shares his experiences on what it was like to attend Pforzheim College of Design in Germany.  Arne is a talented designer with a huge range in talent and experience in designing  automotive interiors and is a whiz at drawing cars!  How cool is that?  Pretty damn cool…maybe even dry ice cool…but not quite!  Check out what Arne had to say.

“Just like my fellow peers here, I too can attest to that hard road of becoming an Industrial/Transportation designer.  As a kid I loved to draw, especially all those things that I was excited about, boats, trains, planes, and cars-especially cars, as my dad worked for Mercedes in Germany, which lead to having a different Benz in the drive way every year.

In school orientation there was no awareness of such a thing as an Industrial Design Program.  The life changing moment that was key to my passion for cars happened when I was about 13 at the time and my family spent our summer vacation in Italy.

A kid of that age doesn’t pay a whole lot attention to anything but toys and ice cream in Italy, but on one of those hot afternoons I was walking the streets of “Lago di Lugano”, licking and balancing my ice cream to prevent it from melting off the waffle cone, when I noticed this unusual engine noise in the far distance!

I looked up the road, and within the distorted image in front of me (due to the hot pavement) I could see something very low, very wide and very red looking, virtually hovering toward me. Needless to say, I was fascinated, got distracted, lost control of my balancing act (ice cream), it was my first sight of a Ferrari 288GTO!

From here on I started to collect 1:18 scale model cars, at first only Ferraris, later on with more exposure to other supercar brands, Lamborghinis, Porsches and other Exotics, raising my passion for cars.

Needless to say, it was this experience that made me decide early on what I would love to do for a living. Being born and raised in Germany I wanted to study near by rather than going to Coventry(UK) or elsewhere in the world to study transportation design.

The most renown school for automotive design within the German speaking world is the University of Pforzheim ( Fachhochschule fuer Gestaltung), lead to world class status by Prof. James Kelly. The school system in Germany works a little different though compared to the U.S.. To be allowed to study in Germany you didn’t need to have a lot of wealth or scholarships, as education is basically government founded (besides some low expenses, such as a monthly student union fee) but you need to qualify and compete to get a spot! Pforzheim requires their candidates to not only apply with an outstanding portfolio of artwork, but also proof of a 6 month pre-internship within the field you are applying for, which needs to include certain exposures to wood and metal crafting (I did mine at Mercedes Benz Design Studio for “Praktikanten & Diplomanden”, lead at the time by Klaus Kallenbach, in Regime of Bruno Sacco. Klaus Busse ( Chrysler Interiors) also interned here a few years before me!) But this attest of your creativity and potential talent, if accepted, will only qualify you for a competitive test. Over a 2 day period you need to fulfill certain tasks such as sketching a still live placed in front of you from 3 different view angles without changing your position within an hour. Another task was to create an abstract (artful) color painting of an object within 30 minutes, and more tasks I cannot recall right now that where all to be handled under time pressure.

After this 2 day period of proving your talent and art skills, the combined results of your portfolio rating and your tests, will determine whether you get a spot to study in Pforzheim or not. This application process can only be attempted for 3 times. If you fail the 3rd time, you won’t get another chance.

Once you are in, the first 3 Semesters will be focusing on a general Industrial Design education, regardless whether you applied for Trans, Industrial, Fashion, Jewelry or Graphic Design. After that the Transportation guys will separate from the Industrial Design guys to get a vehicle specific education, that will include automotive engineering basics and design techniques, etc.. The sixth term is dedicated to another internship of your choice (or where you qualify to get a spot). The 8th term is supposed to be the final graduation as a Diplom Designer ( Bachelor Degree). If you want to get a masters degree after that you need to do an additional 2 terms.

The great thing about the Pforzheim Transportation Design Program is the exposure & relationship the school has with its surrounding automotive brands. Porsche, Smart and Mercedes are situated less than an hour away, allowing automotive designers to drop in and teach, mostly in evening sessions.

But even the designers from BMW and VW show up to teach and mentor, as many of them are Pforzheim alumni, including guys with recognition in the design world, like Michael Mauer (Porsche), Marc Lichte (VW) and latest Daniel Simon (Tron Legacy, Cosmic Motors). None of this comes easy, and requires a lot of intense studying, working hard with an eagerness to learn, improve and compete, with long hours spent and a whole bunch of sleepless nights to get the quarter scale model built done. I have very fond memories of my time in Pforzheim and am proud to be a Pforzheim Alumnus.”

Arne Dassen

“And…Arvind’s blog, Driven Mavens is the BEST blog to help influence aspiring artists…around the world!  YEAH!”  Ok….he didn’t say that…but I know he was thinking it.  So what do you take from all this?  Simply this….move to Germany, become a resident, enroll at Pforzheim and attend for free! :) Everyone’s happy. (just kidding ;) )

Great summary and if this teaches you anything, it’s that you MUST have the four D’s to succeed.  Drive, Determination, Discipline, and Draw.  Repeat it…..own it!

Below is Arne’s gallery.  Please take the time to browse his work and soak in some creativity and inspiration!  Thanks to Arne, for taking the time to contribute to our growing readership. I don’t know about you…but I’m drawing tonight!


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