Ringling students becoming professionals—one award-winning project at a time.

The relationship between the General Motors Design Group and the Ringling College Collaboratory continues to flourish as the Speed Forms Project enters its third consecutive year. Developed by GM’s visionary Detroit Design Center for creative talent discovery and acquisition, Ringling students from all disciplines apply to the Speed Forms Collaboratory class taught by Illustration faculty member Octavio Perez, a Ringling graduate.

Perez and GM master designers mentor students as they proceed through the ideation process creating their ‘speed form’—a one-fifth scale physical model of a car that includes the general shape without details like the grille and wheels.

The program centers on car design, sculpture, graphics, rendering and animation with the goal of highlighting the best Ringling College student talent across multiple disciplines and the potential to join the GM design team full time in the future.

And the program is succeeding. In 2015, the first year of the Speed Forms Project, GM hired two graduating Ringling seniors full-time. The 2016 class upped the bar, with GM making full time job offers to the five graduating seniors in the class of twelve, and four taking the jobs and starting their careers at General Motors Detroit Design Center. The Speed Form class of 2017 is comprised of 15 juniors and seniors and they are coming into it with high expectations—from them and of them.

Creative vision, work and quality from the Speed Form class is at such a level that all seniors who successfully complete the class are invited to interview for full time design positions at GM.

According to Perez, “Pretty much anyone can take this class. It’s helpful to have experience in sketching, sculpting or in creating stuff with your hands, but it’s not necessary. There’s a big learning curve for everyone in the program because we span many disciplines, from visualization to sketching to 3D computer modeling to sculpting, documenting and presenting the final work product. It’s really quite stressful with a lot of pressure, but by the time our students are done they have acquired an overarching competency in taking a project from start-to-finish, with GM serving as their client demanding top-quality creative and as their mentor guiding them to success.”

The Speed Form Project begins with students developing storyboards to outline their speed form design proposal. GM mentors work directly with students by reviewing, critiquing and providing ongoing input to student concepts. Using their mentor feedback, students then create a digitally-sculpted 3D model of their concept using ZBrush. This provides hands-on experience learning about the principles of line, form, proportion and scale in relation to vehicle design directly from GM designers. Students then sculpt one-fifth scale clay physical models from their digital speed form designs and present their concepts to the GM Detroit Design Center team, explaining their design step-by-step from inception through the creative process to final physical model.

At the 2015 Speed Form final project presentations, GM Creative Sculptor Kyle Robie stated that “this Speed Form Project collaboration represents new learning on both sides—an exchange of processes through a non-traditional approach—and educates people about a part of the automotive world that most don’t even know exists.”

“Having Ringling students work side-by-side with the design visionaries at GM has been an amazing opportunity for our students and for Ringling overall,” says Ringling College Associate Vice President for Collaborative Services Cynthia Gravino. “Every year the quality of the work and experience has improved, and this year’s incoming Speed Form students know they are in for a challenge. They expect to raise the bar, and hopefully, they may have a job offer after they have done so.”

Creative vision, work and quality from the Speed Form class is at such a level that all seniors who successfully complete the class are invited to interview for full-time design positions at GM, and students that are not seniors are granted the opportunity to interview with the company upon graduation.

GM’s iconic Detroit Design Center is responsible for changing the history of automotive design, from the 1957 Chevy Bel Air to the 1963 Corvette Stingray, the 2002 Cadillac CTS to the 2011 Chevy Volt. Now Ringling students and graduates are working with the brand to shape the industry’s future in a very real way.

By Rich Schineller

To learn more about the Collaboratory, view our website.