Southern California is well known as the automotive capital of the United States – and the world – for many reasons. But did you know SoCal is also home to one of the top transportation design schools on planet earth?

Based in Pasadena, the ArtCenter College of Design boasts a roster of alumni who have designed some of the most iconic vehicles in history and impacted every major automotive manufacturer in the world. The ArtCenter of Design is highly regarded within the automotive and transportation industries. Numerous graduates’ careers have catapulted them into mainstream notoriety: Henrik Fisker created the beautiful, yet controversial and short-lived, Fisker Karma. And Chip Foose became a world-renown car-customizer who even had his own reality TV series – Overhaulin’.

Click play below to hear details of the massive impact the ArtCenter College of Design has had, and continues to have, on the transportation industry in this iDriveSoCal Podcast.

And enjoy the picture gallery from the ArtCenter’s annual auto show – which is always posted on the iDSC Events page!

***Transcript***

Recorded July 31st, 2018 in Los Angeles, CA

Automotive Design Prestige

Clinton Quan: The ArtCenter College of Design located in Pasadena, this is really the premier school for automotive design or you could say transportation design in the US and, possibly, the world.

Tom Smith: Welcome to iDriveSoCal, the podcast all about mobility from the automotive capital of the United States, Southern California. Tom Smith here with our good friend, the Professor. Mr. Clinton Quan. Say hello, Clinton.

Clinton Quan: Hi, Tom.

Tom Smith: Hello, hello. So, I nicknamed Clinton the Professor because he knows absolutely everything about what’s coming out of the manufacturers. Whether it’s domestic, imports, luxury, exotics, he keeps his finger on the pulse and never ceases to surprise his depth of knowledge on the most granular detail stuff. And case in point, today’s podcast.

Tom Smith: So, I open up these podcasts with, you know, the automotive capital of the United States, Southern California. And, now, we’re doing a series on why the Southern California region is the automotive capital of the United States because Clinton has said, you know, “Hey, you’re not just being bombastic with a huge statement. That’s actually true.” Right, Clinton?

Clinton Quan: Yes, that’s correct.

Tom Smith: Okay. And we’ve done a few of these already. We have great museums.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, some of the best car museums in the world.

Tom Smith: Some race tracks.

Clinton Quan: Racetracks.

Tom Smith: Scenic drives.

Clinton Quan: Scenic drives.

Tom Smith: So, I guess, this is our fourth in our continuing series. Am I counting those right? Did I get them all?

Clinton Quan: I believe unless we’re missing something. But I think we are on it.

Tom Smith: Okay. And we’re going to keep these going-

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

The Automotive Capital of the US & World

Tom Smith: … because I’m sure the Professor is going to be able to keep on coming up with reasons why Southern California is, in fact, not only automotive capital of the United States but also the automotive capital of the world.

Now, today’s podcast is one of these, but it’s about a school where automotive designers go to and have gone. And you’re not going to recognize all the names. We’re not going to focus on the names too much, although Clinton will a little bit. But all of the vehicles or manufacturers that these names of artists are associated with have all come from this one school right here in Southern California, making our region the automotive capital of the United States and the automotive capital of the world. With that being said, Professor, what is the name of the school?

Clinton Quan: It is the ArtCenter College of Design located in Pasadena. It’s very close to the Rose Bowl. And this is really the premier school for automotive design or you could say transportation design in the US and, possibly, the world.

Beyond Just Automotive – Transportation

Tom Smith: Now, is this a school that — Obviously, the designers from the United States, if you’re a student aspiring to be an automotive designer. And is it just automotive design or is it all transportation? Is there aircraft, watercraft, anything else there?

Clinton Quan: Well, it’s really, I believe, transportation design. So-

Tom Smith: Overall?

Clinton Quan: Yeah. So, it could be any of that. But they also focus on graphic design, all types of art.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: Transportation design is one field of study that it is very, very well known for.

Tom Smith: Okay. And so, if I’m a high school or college student heading the direction of, “I want to design transportation,” in the United States, this is my key.

Clinton Quan: This is the school you want to go to.

Tom Smith: This is ground zero.

Clinton Quan: This is where you want to go to.

Tom Smith: Now, what-

Clinton Quan: And it’s not that easy to get into either. You have to submit a portfolio of artwork.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: And by the way, everybody, the school is not sponsoring this podcast by any stretch.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: I’ve never heard of it personally. Again, that’s why we have the Professor because he knows all this stuff. He keeps, again, his finger on the pulse of it. So, what about if I’m a high school student in the UK, or Europe, or Japan, or fill in the blank, anywhere else around the world, am I, at least, aware of this school-

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: … if not wanting to attend?

Clinton Quan: Absolutely, yeah. This is one of the best art schools.

Tom Smith: All right.

Top Collegiate Ranking

Clinton Quan: I remember even when I was going to college, I’m sure most people know that US News and World Reports, they do a ranking-

Tom Smith: Sure.

Clinton Quan: … of the best schools. This was named one of the top three art schools in the US.

Tom Smith: Okay, okay.

Clinton Quan: And for transportation design, it’s definitely the premier school.

Tom Smith: Okay. So, if it’s okay with you, let’s get to some of the names and vehicles that are associated with the names that have come out of the school.

Clinton Quan: Okay, yes. Henrik Fisker, he’s very well known for designing some of the most beautiful automobiles in the world, including the Aston Martin DB9.

Tom Smith: And what I just mentioned, the Fisker Karma-

Clinton Quan: Fisker Karma.

Tom Smith: … which is an absolutely gorgeous electric car.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: And some people don’t know that, actually, he was hired to design for Tesla.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tesla & Fisker Karma Connection

Tom Smith: And wasn’t it Elon Musk that actually showed him the door because they learned that they were paying him all this money to design for Tesla, while on the backend, he was also designing the Fisker Karma?

Clinton Quan: That I don’t know.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: You probably know more about that.

Tom Smith: I’m pretty sure that was a story I read a number of years back. And the Fisker Karma was a gorgeous car.

Clinton Quan: Oh yeah.

Tom Smith: Just beautiful.

Clinton Quan: The exterior of the car, it’s incredible.

Tom Smith: I remember seeing it at the LA Auto Show, and it was like “Holy socks, this thing is something.” And from every angle, right?

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: I mean, some cars, it’s like, “Well, you know, it’s really this. It’s special.” It’s like the Karma had every angle was gorgeous.

Clinton Quan: This is a car that just grabs your attention. And, yes, from every angle, from the rear, the front, the side, three-quarter front, three-quarter rear.

Tom Smith: And in this case, a phenomenal world-renowned designer.

Clinton Quan: Yes. And the DB9, I think, is one of the most-

Tom Smith: Without a doubt.

Clinton Quan: One of the most beautiful cars that’s ever designed. It’s a gorgeous Grand Touring automobile.

Tom Smith: Without a doubt, But the Fisker is no longer, right?

Clinton Quan: Yes. It’s — Or now, it’s the-

Tom Smith: Well, what happened?

Fisker Reincarnated 

Clinton Quan: The company, I believe, it was bought out by another company. And, now, it’s the Karma Revero.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: So, the maker is Karma, and Revero is the model.

Tom Smith: All right. I’m going to throw another little headline. We’re getting off topic a little bit here.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: But this is still about Henry Fisker. Fisker Karma was the electric car startup that started, but then, unfortunately, it also started on fire. But I heard, or read a story, or maybe it was one of our dealer partners that’s telling me the story, I can’t remember that Bob Lutz was buying up the old Fisker Karmas, and putting V8s in them. Did you hear something about that?

Clinton Quan: I heard the same story, yeah.

Tom Smith: Okay. Okay, Bob Lutz is a famous automotive executive as well.

Clinton Quan: General Motors, yeah.

Tom Smith: Yeah, yeah. Not a designer, didn’t go to the school. And with that, we’ll go back to the school and its alumni.

ArtCenter Grads @ Ford & Chevy

Clinton Quan: So, another one is J Mays. He is the VP of Global Design at Ford.

Tom Smith: Currently?

Clinton Quan: Yes, currently.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: Yeah. And he previously worked for Audi. So, he’s definitely one of the most well-known automotive designers.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: Yes. Another one, Larry-

Tom Smith: So, Ford and Audi. Everybody, I think, listening to the podcast have heard of Ford now.

Clinton Quan: Of Ford now, yeah. I mean, these are some of the biggest companies, right?

Tom Smith: Yes, yes.

Clinton Quan: Larry Shinoda for the iconic original Corvette Sting Ray.

Tom Smith: The original Sting Ray. Now, when did that come out?

Clinton Quan: Well, that was-

Tom Smith: Was that a ’60s? ’70s?

Clinton Quan: I believe that was the ’60s, yeah.

Tom Smith: ’60s, okay.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Late ’60s.

Clinton Quan: Definitely one of the most iconic. Well, that’s the — When you think of American sports cars, you think of the Corvette, right. So, that’s-

Tom Smith: It’s right up there.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And the pony car’s not too far away.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Right?

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: I mean, anyway.

Clinton Quan: But when you think of American sports cars-

Tom Smith: Yeah.

Clinton Quan: … that comes to mind, right.

Tom Smith: Yeah, the Corvette’s special, for sure.

Asian, European & British Makers Covered Too

Clinton Quan: Yeah. Another one is Frank Stephenson. He’s responsible for a number of sports cars including Ferraris, McLarens. He’s also worked with the Mini.

Tom Smith: Okay. So, Ferrari, obviously Italian.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Many is-

Clinton Quan: British.

Tom Smith: British.

Clinton Quan: McLaren is British as well.

Tom Smith: It is. It is British.

Clinton Quan: Yes, McLaren is British.

Tom Smith: And now Mini is British, but, now, it’s part of the BMW family-

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: … which is obviously German.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: But it’s still British?

Clinton Quan: It’s British, but it’s owned by BMW.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: Yeah. Just like Rolls Royce. I believe, they’re still part of-

Tom Smith: It’s all a big incestuous family, right?

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: When Alan Mulally took over Ford like Ford had-

Clinton Quan: Well, they owned Aston Martin.

Tom Smith: Yeah.

Clinton Quan: They’ve owned Volvo.

Tom Smith: Land Rover.

Clinton Quan: Mazda.

Tom Smith: And Jag. Yeah, I mean, it was-

Clinton Quan: Yeah, they sold off all those brands when they had some financial issues.

Tom Smith: Right, right, right.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Okay. So, anyway, back to this special school, which is the reason, one of the many reasons Southern California is the automotive capital of, not only the United States, but the entire world, and the alumni that go to this design school.

Standout Names & ArtCenter College

Clinton Quan: Yeah. Chip Foose, he’s a well-known American automobile designer, but he’s really responsible for custom cars and hot rods.

Tom Smith: And Chip puts his signature on all kinds of different. It’s not just one make, right?

Clinton Quan: No, not just one make.

Tom Smith: Shelby with Ford.

Clinton Quan: Well, he’ll take a car and customize it the way you want it.

Tom Smith: Oh okay.

Clinton Quan: That’s what he does.

Tom Smith: But then, does he do the same thing that Shelby did with Ford with that relationship or is it-

Clinton Quan: Similar but different. I wouldn’t say the same thing.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: Yeah. This is where you’ll take — You go to him, and whatever you want done with your car, he’ll do it for you.

Tom Smith: How do you get into that? Like, how do I get that job? I want to be the guy-

Clinton Quan: Well, I’ve read that, I think, he started working for his dad for some company.

Tom Smith: Okay. So, he had some family in the business kind of thing.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: I think was something that — It was a family thing, and then he started his own thing.

Tom Smith: Gotcha.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: All right.

Clinton Quan: So, he’s very, very well-known in the hot rod community.

Tom Smith: Right, right, right. Okay. What else?

Clinton Quan: So, those are five of, I think, some of the most well-known alums from ArtCenter College of Design.

Tom Smith: It represents manufacturing on almost every continent, right.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, pretty much, right. We talked about the British.

All Continents Covered 

Tom Smith: Nobody from Japan or Korea as far as Toyota, or do we have anybody from Mazda? Nobody for Hyundai Kia?

Clinton Quan: Well, there are designers from other brands. I don’t remember the names off the top of my head-

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: … but from all continents.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: So, another reason why Southern California is, not only automotive capital of the United States but, in fact, the automotive capital of the world is this particular school. And the name of the school is, again?

Clinton Quan: ArtCenter College of Design. And they also put on one of the best car shows here in Southern California.

Tom Smith: That’s right.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: I think you wanted me to go to that last one, and then you sent me a picture of you and Jay Leno or something.

Clinton Quan: Correct, yes. And it will be coming up in October. Last year, it was Sunday, October 22nd. The date has not been officially announced this year, but it’s usually that same weekend. So, I believe that’s the fourth Sunday, third or fourth Sunday in October.

Tom Smith: Okay. Well, we’re definitely going to-

Clinton Quan: So, it’s coming very soon.

Tom Smith: We’re definitely gonna cover that one-

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: … in iDriveSoCal. We’re going to take lots of pictures. And, hopefully, we’ll go that one together. If not, for sure, you’re going to go, and we’re going to do our run down this way.

Very Special Annual Auto Show

Clinton Quan: Yeah. This is a fantastic show. There’s so much that happens during the show. It’s not just about cars. Usually, they might have presentations. They’ll have panels. So, you’ll get to listen to some of the automotive designers talk about some of the cars they’ve designed.

Tom Smith: Now, have they been talking at all about the whole concept of the future of mobility, and, you know, how cars are transforming, and what the future looks like for the automobile?

Clinton Quan: Every year they have a different theme. Usually, they’ll go back in time and talk about — They’ll focus may be on a particular time period of cars or maybe different countries. I think, last year, it was the red, white, and blue theme.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: So, they have this beautiful sea of red, white, and blue cars. And I think red was representing — Let’s see. I’m trying to remember. Red was definitely the Italian cars, seeing all the Ferraris.

Tom Smith: You’re talking about colors and countries. I’m talking about vertical takeoff and landing.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Two very different things.

Clinton Quan: Yes, very different thing. I’m trying to remember if that was something that they focused on before. I don’t think so, but who knows what they’ll have this year.

Tom Smith: All right.

Clinton Quan: It hasn’t been announced yet.

Tom Smith: We look forward to it in October. That’s the College of Arts Center.

Clinton Quan: ArtCenter College.

Tom Smith: Arts.

Clinton Quan: ArtCenter College of Design.

Tom Smith: All right. Easy for me to say. They wouldn’t let me in.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Acificiando’s Auto Show – ArtCenter Car Classic

Tom Smith: Hopefully, they’ll let me come to the show, at least.

Clinton Quan: Yeah. It’s open to everyone.

Tom Smith: All right. Is there anything else that you want to point out about this particular school and the reason that it is yet another reason that Southern California is the automotive capital of the US and the world?

Clinton Quan: Well, I would also say check out the gift shop. Check out the exhibits. It’s open-

Tom Smith: Check out the gift shop. Well, honestly, they’re not sponsoring this show.

Clinton Quan: It’s worth going to any time of the year.

Tom Smith: Go to their website, and type in the promo code, iDriveSoCal.

Clinton Quan: They have exhibits there all the time.

Tom Smith: Just kidding. There’s no there’s no relationship there. folks.

Clinton Quan: It’s a fun place to go.

Tom Smith: Okay. So, you can go-

Clinton Quan: Check it out. It’s a beautiful campus.

Tom Smith: … as just somebody that wants to check out.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, absolutely.

Tom Smith: Do they have like exhibits-

Year-Round Exhibits

Clinton Quan: And sometimes-

Tom Smith: … that you can go museum-style constantly or year round?

Clinton Quan: They have an exhibit right at the front.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: And then, you can also just walk around, and you can see through the windows, and see what the students are doing.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: Yeah. In fact, the Petersen Automotive Museum, they have a section just about the school, ArtCenter College of Design.

Tom Smith: Really?

Clinton Quan: Look at some of the artwork there.

Tom Smith: At the Petersen Automotive?

Clinton Quan: At the Petersen. It’s on the second floor of the Petersen.

Tom Smith: All right.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Well, fantastic. We will have — What kind of pictures are we gonna post with this podcast?

Clinton Quan: We’ll post some photos from last year’s ArtCenter Car Classic.

Tom Smith: Okay. So, by the time you hear us say what pictures, you probably have already spun through the pictures, and yeah. If you haven’t, and you’re listening not on your computer-

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: …go to iDriveSoCal.com, and check out this particular post, and we’ll have the pictures there. All right. So, that was again the ArtCenter College of Design. Professor, thank you as always.

Clinton Quan: Thank you.

Tom Smith: And yet another reason why Southern California is the automotive capital of the United States, as well as the automotive capital of the world. For iDriveSoCal, I’m Tom Smith. Thank you for listening.