Fascinated by jets and planes, Andre Hudson (’98) grew up determined to become a fighter pilot in the Air Force. However, his deteriorating eyesight and the required 4.0 grade point average required to enter the Academy caused him to pursue his other passion—cars. Today, he’s a design manager at one of the largest automotive manufacturers in the world.
“I grew up in Aurora, Colorado (a suburb of Denver), so you can imagine the baffled look my high school counselors gave me when I asked for advice about preparing to become a car designer,” said Hudson. “I sent a letter to Chrysler during my sophomore year, and it was answered by the office of VP John Herlitz. I spent the next year and a half preparing an 'art portfolio,' which eventually got me accepted into CCS. I had always taken art and loved it, so this wasn’t a difficult task.
“One of the College’s greatest advantages is that it is in the heart of the American automotive industry. My instructors were all currently working in the industry and of course, when it came time to graduate, the Big Three were all within 20 miles. In fact, they sent representatives to attend the school’s annual graduate show scouting for new talent. Of the graduating class of ’98, I was fortunate enough to be chosen as some of that ‘new talent’ and hired into GM.”
At General Motors, Hudson had the opportunity to work under Ed Welburn (currently General Motors' Vice President of Global Design), who was design chief of the 2000 Chevy SSR concept, as well as Simon Cox, a British car designer known for the Isuzu Vehicross, Cadillac Cien and the CTS.
“Ed was always there for me and took interest as I hired in,” Hudson said. “He played such a significant role as one of the first (and few) African American automotive designers anywhere. I remember him taking me to lunch just to check in with how I was doing. At the time I appreciated it, but looking back now, it was an amazing thing that he took so much interest in me and gave me so much of his time. I thank him for that.
“Part of my career at General Motors included a three year stint working in an advanced studio in Coventry, England, under Simon Cox. This experience expanded my perspective on how vehicles are perceived and used in Europe.”
After working seven years as a creative designer at General Motors, Hudson accepted a design manager position at the Hyundai Kia America Technical Center in Irvine, California.
“To be honest it was really a difficult decision to leave the comfort of Detroit, but the appeal of trying something totally new, learning entirely different processes and perspectives was a big pull. I love learning about different cultures and understanding how different people approach certain challenges. Hyundai was the new player and had lots of potential—I wanted to be a part of that.
“Detroit car culture is focused around products from the Big Three (understandably) where as California car culture is quite a bit broader. If you hit up a local car show here on any given weekend, you’ll see everything from a classic Ford hotrod to a brand spankin’ new Aston Martin DBS, and they’ll be parked next to each other. On the freeways here you’ll see everything slightly tricked out as well, whether it be a youngster in a Scion coupe or a 60-something in a Bentley coupe. They both want their car to stand out from the crowd when creeping on the 5.”
As a design manager, Hudson is responsible for new vehicle concept proposals, advanced product planning, brand identity and management in the studio. Some of his notable achievements include contributions to the 2009 Hyundai Genesis Coupe, 2010 Hyundai Nuvis concept, 2011 Hyundai Sonata (lead exterior designer), 2011 Hyundai Elantra (exterior designer) and the 2011 Hyundai Azera.
“The success of the Sonata has been more than any designer could ever dream,” said Hudson. “Everyone wants to make a mark, affect the world around us in some way. This car, and the fact that Hyundai decided to step out and take a bit of a risk with it, has paid off for all of us… I have been able to represent the amazing team of people who have brought the world this car. But it takes thousands of people to actually put a car in your garage; I like to remind everyone of this.
“As designers, we’re influenced by nearly everything around us. It could be natural, physical or spiritual, but almost always emotional. To be inspired by something means it moves you in some way… We create ‘things’ that function well but also hopefully move the user in some way. I personally get inspired by the awesomeness of the many things that God has created around us whether they’re animal shapes and colors, geographical formations and colors or simply movements in water.”
So, what’s Hudson’s advice to other young, creative individuals?
“My advice would be that you can do anything you set your mind and heart to,” he said. “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. Also, stay passionate and love what you do. I believe America’s future is going to rely on creative people. Whether you like cars, video games, architecture, website design or fashion, it will be your creativity that shapes the future of all these fields.”
- Graduation Year: 1998
- Major: Transportation Design
- Employer: Hyundai Motor America
- Title: Design Manager
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