It’s an exciting time to be a young designer at GM. Innovation, technology and sustainability are changing the way consumers think about cars. Julie Rudziensky, a creative designer with GM’s Color & Trim team, finds this aspect of her career most exciting.
“I'm in such an awesome spot working on the performance team,” said Rudziensky. “We get to channel our passion for design into some of the fastest cars on the road. We get to see the excitement in our customers’ eyes and help enhance that driving experience through color and trim.
“Right now the automotive industry is at a crossroads as we shift toward a more green, autonomous and tech driven future. In the next five years, I would love to help GM push even further into the innovation and sustainability realm. I think it's vital that our generation break many of the habits of our predecessors as we move forward. By doing this I hope to help influence GM’s future design philosophies. It's been said that transportation will change more in the next 10 years than it has in the last 100. It’s amazing to be a part of that.”
Rudziensky, who started at GM two years ago, is among a group of about 30 color and trim designers responsible for the color and material design of Chevrolet, GMC, Buick and Cadillac. She designs primarily for Cadillac and Chevrolet. The group also functions as part of a global team collaborating with counterparts in Germany, China and Korea among others.
“We gather inspiration everywhere, whether it be from fashion, product design, architecture or even our travels,” Rudziensky revealed. “We work together to build trends that shape what the future looks like. Since we work on products so far out, we get the chance to influence the direction of the automotive industry. We analyze everything from the feel of the leather, the weave of a textile, the grain of a wood, to the way an exterior paint moves across the surface of the car. All of this helps to build a cohesive story for our vehicles and their brands.”
“I also like to think that each one of us is a master negotiator. We collaborate with studio designers, engineers, marketing, and suppliers to bring the vehicles to fruition. It can be daunting at times, but, to be honest, I've always loved a challenge.”
Although Rudziensky has known since she was a kid that she wanted to pursue the field of interior design, she didn’t realize that the job she’s doing know even existed until her sophomore year at CCS. She completed four internships to experience as many fields as she could before choosing a career path. These allowed her to work in high-end residential interior design, visual merchandising (retail) and a commercial architecture firm before landing a spot at GM. She knew from the people she met there and the strength of the brands that GM was where she needed to be.
“Even though I'm not working a typical interior design job, I still use what I learned about textiles, furniture, concept design, model making and rendering in my role as a Color & Trim designer,” she explained. “Color & Trim is still a lot like interior design; you just have to think smaller in that you are designing for one person or a family inside a space instead of many. But you also have to think bigger because there are thousands of customers who will use that same product in a more personal way than they use a building… So I would just say, never feel limited because of your major. There are so many options out there.”
“Going to CCS was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But it made me who I am. I struggled at times with the creative pressure, but it definitely made me a stronger designer. I thank my professors, like Sandra Olave, who pushed me and made me think twice about every choice I made. I became insanely detail oriented (how dare you not space those images evenly?!) and also terribly observant (isn't the bark on that tree just unbelievable?!). You're not the same after design school, but you're definitely better for it.”
Aside from her career at GM, Rudziensky designs a line of jewelry and home décor called Fate & Coincidence. She started the business when she was only 13 and sells her products through Etsy and local retail stores.
“As creatives, our brains are always turning, turning, turning,” she said. “I think it's really important to have more than one outlet for your ideas… Growing a small business has taught me so much about logistics, money and working with other people to build a brand. I try to apply this knowledge to all aspects of my work. Since jewelry is such a small-scale art, it offers me another creative outlet where the details are everything!”