Ram and Mopar design head Joe Dehner, center, meets with design students. 

Design | September 03 2015

Design your career

When I was in elementary school in Indianapolis, my friends and I were always trying to see who could draw the best Indy race car. Today, I’m still drawing cars and trucks as the head of design for the Ram and Mopar brands.

It’s a great job, lots of fun. But I worry that kids today, and their parents, don’t see art and industrial design as a career with a high chance of success. They couldn’t be more wrong.

That’s why we created this recruiting video, “Experience FCA Design.”

Our goal for the video was to give you a look at the culture inside FCA Design. You meet two of our young designers: Irina, an exterior design manager who graduated from my alma mater, the Cleveland Institute of Art (yes, I’m from the CIA); and Nate, a clay sculptor who came to us from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.

Growing ideas

Working at FCA Design is challenging, creative and fun. You won’t find any “cube farms” here.

That attitude begins right at the top with my boss, Ralph Gilles, head of design for all the brands in FCA. If you’ve ever met Ralph you know that he’s very passionate – about design, about cars and about people. But he’s also really approachable – interns sometimes are a bit freaked out when Ralph says “hi” to them in the hallway. It doesn’t matter who you are here. We really do view interns as people in the regular organization.

We are definitely smaller than everyone else. I think that gives us an advantage. You can move quicker and make decisions faster. And somebody right out of school can do the winning sketch for any one of our vehicle programs. Here, that designer will get support; they’re not going to be left on their own. But they can make an impact right out of school if they do the right sketch.

The people here become your second family. We spend a lot of time together, close to 8-10 hours a day. You get to know everyone’s hobbies and inspirations. And, we also feed off of each other creatively.

Doesn’t that sound like the place you’d want your son or daughter to work?

But kids today don’t realize, or aren’t being shown, that they can make a career out of car design.

Art: A good-paying career

We do several outreach projects every year, sponsored projects at colleges and events at high schools, to try and spark interest in design. We do it because we are passionate about design and we have to because art programs are being cut for cost savings. As a result we have a lot of gifted kids who don’t get a chance to express themselves, and they don’t pursue art as a career.

I’ve heard too often that when a young person says they want to pursue something art-related their family says they will not be able to make money by creating art. And the conversation usually stops there. Too many people aren’t aware of what type of career creative talent offers in the automotive industry.

The recruitment video is just one example. It was done by a member of my staff. He’s a gifted photographer and videographer. He developed the look and feel for the video and created the visualization, animation, music, everything you see on the screen.

As you can see, we have a very diverse staff. We go to great strides to get people that reflect our customer base because we’re designing products that will be sold around the world.

Unfortunately, young women are the hardest to attract to this business. So when our team walks into a high school or college and sees that the class is predominantly female, it’s very important to us that we make an impression. We would love to see more young women enter this field.

It’s truly a collaborative and rewarding effort to put together a rolling sculpture that could someday see its way to production and know that you are part of that project. There are not a lot of careers you can say that about.

I get to do what I love and I even get paid for it. It’s the only job I’ve ever had.

We hope this video, and the outreach we do with the schools, triggers the “a-ha” moment in young people who enjoy art. We want the best talent and we scour the world to find it.