Do you have a favorite car? Is it the Volkswagen Beetle because it’s small and cute? Is it the Ford Mustang because it’s sleek and fast? Or maybe it’s a Jeep Wrangler because it’s rugged and great for the outdoors? For young Ralph Gilles his favorite car was the Porsche 911. At the age of 11, it was the first car that stood out from other cars on the road. Now, Ralph is an industrial designer himself and responsible for the look of many of the cars you see on the road today. Industrial designers like Ralph are responsible for designing products, like cars, furniture or even toys, before they are mass-produced.
As a boy, Ralph negotiated with his parents about doing his homework, but not for the usual reasons. He wanted to be sure that he could watch his favorite “car shows,” Smokey and the Bandit and Dukes of Hazard. He didn’t care about the actors but loved to watch the cars on the show. He would study the cars he saw and dream up cars of his own. Hours at a time would go by as he sat in his room with nothing but his notepad and crayons, imagining a different car each time.
One day, his aunt found his drawings and couldn’t believe her eyes. “My boy, you have such an artistic gift. You should share it with someone who could help you do this for a living,” she told him. Together, they wrote a letter to the head of a car company called Chrysler and included some of his drawings. To his surprise, the head of design wrote him a letter back, praising his drawings and suggesting schools where he might study design.
Years went by and the letter was forgotten as he went o to school to study another subject. He was not happy in his studies and returned home. When he was sad and trying to figure out what he should be doing for a living, he would sit and sketch the same car drawings he did as a kid. His family remembered the letter he received as a child and suggested he look into the schools where he could study industrial car design.
So, Ralph got to it. With only one week to create a dozen drawings to include with his application, Ralph worked day and night to get his portfolio ready. His hard work paid off and he was accepted to the school that would allow him to follow his childhood dream.
Ralph is now the top designer for the company that wrote him that letter all those years ago!
He still feels like he is living that childhood dream as he designs cars for brands he has admired from childhood. “I still pinch myself. Here is a brand I have loved since I was a kid and I get to help design the future of it. I want people decades from now to see the care I put into the design.” His job today is to study the car market and analyze how to not only design a beautiful car, but how to solve the problems that cars today do not solve.
What is your dream? Ralph is very happy today that he followed his childhood dream. What can you do to keep yours alive?
If it’s being an industrial designer and maybe one day having a car you designed on the road, do something simple like starting an idea journal. Use pictures to explain your ideas and watch over time as they get better and better. Websites like DIY.org and Kidsthinkdesign. org provide inspiration and invite you to upload your pictures and ideas to their website for others to see! Whatever you do, follow Ralph’s lead, and keep practicing and working on your ideas so that they will one day come true and not be lost at the bottom of a drawer.