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Why this college is teaching real-time 3D to the next generation of automotive designers


The College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit, Michigan has been at the forefront of innovation for over 110 years. We’ve partnered with this leading art and design college to create a series of hands-on courses to better equip post-secondary students with real-time skills for the automotive industry.

At Unity, we believe that the world is a better place with more creators in it. This is why we partnered with CCS to inspire and educate students to ensure they have the skills they need to enter ever-changing industries. As a leading design institution, CCS typically partners with automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) on curriculum projects to develop new ideas for vehicles. After graduation, their students and alumni go on to work at some of the world’s leading automotive manufacturers, design firms, and technology companies like Unity.

Anuja Dharkar, head of academic and non-profit solutions at Unity, recently sat down with Paul Snyder, co-chair of the Transportation Design program, and David Gazdowicz, associate professor for the Entertainment Arts program at CCS, to chat more about design at CCS, the future of automotive design, and why the college is teaching with Unity.

Preparing for the real world

OEMs have been utilizing the power of real-time 3D across their workflows for years. Leading manufacturers such as Volvo, Honda, Toyota, Lexus, and BMW have seen great success using Unity in a variety of ways. As the next generation of automotive designers enters the industry, they bring new ways of thinking and are equipped with real-time tools, such as Unity, to excel within the industry. 

Since partnering with Unity, Transportation Design and Entertainment Arts students have been given the opportunity to delve deeper into out-of-the-box ideas and explore forward-thinking using real-time 3D for their semester project – Vehicles of the Future. Students were split into five teams for the 15-week course, composed of automotive designers working on the interior and exterior of the vehicles and entertainment arts designers working on the futuristic environments to place the vehicles in. 

“It’s a very difficult project but it’s also very imaginative. When you open projects up to the extent that you’re asking students “what will the future look like, what will people be like, and what sort of vehicles will they need”, then they really have to push their imaginations,” says Snyder.

Dreamscape – Dreams are a state of perfect joy. When you dream, you get to create your desires. A fantasy scene that appears as reality. In 2030, Dreamscape is a 2-seater sports car designed by the dreamer to fulfill their nostalgic desires. Interior by Chris Lisle, exterior by Davis Kunselman, and the environment by Sarah Kosco and Marissa Borowski


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Break from digital – 2030 is increasingly automated and inspires monotony. People are constantly inundated with information. As reality is increasingly digital, there is a greater desire for a “carpe diem” lifestyle. There is a new desire to escape and experience the rawness of nature and forge a unique path. Interior by Jyasi Myrthil and Evan Aud, exterior by Alexandra Nowiciki and Minbio Yoo, and the environment by Jacob Deremer and Selena Delsorbo

Forward-thinking design

Students were encouraged to conduct cultural and environmental research to explore unusual topics which stimulate iteration – a foundational principle of design. Through multiple iterations and feedback from faculty and Unity staff, the students further developed their vehicle designs to improve functionality, proposed integrated technologies – such as in-car experiences – and overall ingenuity. This iterative process is what Snyder, and his colleagues at CCS, believe to be a fundamental part of the student’s education.

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Boulder – As luxury turns to escapism, Boulder tailors a blend of utility with comfort. While cities fill with autonomous bricks, those who desire control and luxury need a vehicle that breaks monotonous routines. Vehicle 1: Interior by Christopher Duff and exterior by Ryan Schlottahuer Vehicle 2: Interior by Carlos Birrueta and exterior by Hyunju Wi Environment: Thomas Hamilton and Blair Totzke


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Work-life balance vehicle – This team designated a target persona as a tarmac contractor in England who needs a mid-size suv/truck for daily purposes, and a compact sports car for recreation. The direction for this team is to design two vehicles, each for a respective aspect of the target user’s needs. Designed by Richard Chen, Tyler Kwon, Tianze Yu, Lukas Chesla, James Cannizzaro, and Brendan Roarty

Gazdowicz agrees to say that the Entertainment Arts students follow a similar process through traditional methods such as sketching prior to moving to three-dimensional modeling. 

“The awesome thing about using Unity is that students can get to the [3D modeling] process faster and ideate quicker. So the more they are able to get into the software, into the game engine, and rebuild, design, and develop – they can see the end product really quickly. Then students go through the ideation process all over again to see if something doesn’t click and if the idea is working towards the desired outcome,” says Gazdowicz.

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Excursion! – During a global pandemic, certain trends tend to arise. One of those trends is remote work. Technology has allowed us to have virtual meetings and work collaboration. Remote work also provides flexibility and saves commute time. However people may experience a lack of work-life balance and obstacles may include loneliness, unable to unplug, motivation, and taking vacation time. Vehicle 1: Interior by Austin Miller and exterior by Ben Ly Vehicle 2: Interior by David Hong and exterior by Jason Dominguez

Along with this iterative process, Snyder says these skills are truly setting the students up for real-life success. “Without really knowing it, the automotive industry had been preparing itself for COVID-19 for several years. Then when it hit, pivoting into digital and real-time 3D for surface evaluation, theme evaluation, or real-time virtual reality presentations became almost seamless,” says Snyder. 

Unity and CCS are now working together on a new project to engage students in developing concepts for in-vehicle human-machine interfaces (HMI). This project focuses on the use of real-time 3D to encourage future thinking and collaboration.


Learn more about the College for Creative Studies and check out how you can prepare students for in-demand jobs.


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