From as early as kindergarten, Nikunj Jain remembers dreaming that one day he would become a successful designer creating the one thing he was passionate about--cars. Today, Jain is living out his aspirations as a vehicle experience designer/marketing analyst at Tata Technologies.
"I've always been passionate about cars and feel it has been a dream come true to work in the field I dreamed about since kindergarten," said Jain. "Along with having a great team, I love walking into the office every morning with a clean sheet of paper to inspire the world. It is by no means an easy career; a vehicle is one of the most expensive and emotional purchases people make, getting it wrong can have dire consequences."
Jain's fascination with cars inspired him to pursue an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, far away from his home in India. During the program, he started to understand the ways that design, engineering and business affected finished products.
"Very soon I realized that my method of thinking is more broad than designing 'nuts and bolts,'" he said. "Hence, after graduation, I applied to a world renowned school (College for Creative Studies) and was accepted into their MFA program in transportation design…
"I love where the program has taken me and my career. It has taught me how to take a more holistic approach to designing products rather than just focusing on minute details. In other words, it has helped me understand 'the experience of product' not just designing the product itself. The MFA is by no means easy, but when you do find a company in your niche, it is great fun seeing all your studies and projects come together."
In his diverse role at Tata Technologies, Jain works with the design, business/marketing and engineering teams. He and his manager, Peter Davis, comprise the vehicle styling team. Their responsibilities range from product planning and market analysis to styling the vehicle.
"Our process starts with an idea, for example, designing an SUV for the Indian market," Jain explained. "We begin by doing market research on what currently is being offered, segmentation of market as well as trends. Next, we create a business plan on which areas to focus on within the market whitespace.
"After doing the marketing study, we take a look at the brand and its styling DNA. Brand DNA helps make the product portfolio of the entire company feel more like they relate to each other and the brand can be easily identified on the street. At this stage, we start our sketching and rendering process, all while keeping our engineering team alongside to help us make a feasible product. This helps us dish out any inconsistencies in design or packaging we may face later down the road. The final output is a product with a solid business model, design and engineering."
Although Jain is still early in his career, he takes pride in his work and watching his ideas come to fruition.
"Just seeing projects I worked on roll out into the media is a positive for me," he said. "One of my career highlights was watching as the eMO-C a commercial variant of the electric mobility study vehicle was unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show in 2012. I love to take on projects like this that throw me into the deep end of the pool; they help me think outside the box."
In his spare time, Jain tackles random art projects around the house to 'keep the creativity flowing" and playing sports "for a fresh breath of air." While his education and work experiences have helped shape his role as a designer, the roots of his passion for design can be traced back to childhood when his parents would challenge him to redesign everyday products to be "more aesthetically pleasing while not sacrificing function."
"The three greatest influences on my life have been my family, culture and experiences," Jain said. "Without them, I would not be inspired to do the work that I do."
To view more of Jain's work, check out http://nnjain.wix.com/njdesign#!.
- Graduation Year: 2011
- Employer: Tata Technologies
- Title: Vehicle Experience Designer / Marketing Analyst
Designed and created by DDM Marketing & Communications.