Industrial Design + Renault Partnership Drives Student Success at Every Turn

Student presentation of reimagined Twizy car by Renault

In fall 2016, senior Industrial Design students enrolled in ID5: Context, the fifth of six required studio courses for their major, received the unique opportunity to engage in a rigorous start-to-finish design process reimagining French automaker Renault's two-seat Z.E. electric car (a.k.a. Twizy).

The studio course, which involves the engagement of an industry partner, provided a focus on identifying design opportunities, incorporating future technologies, and creating meaningful brand and product experiences while explicitly addressing the physical, emotional, and sensorial needs of Renault’s users.

Such industry partner engagements hold tremendous value for students and the industry partner alike.

The partnership is a symbiotic one: Students learn how to address real-world industry challenges through research and presentation, and the experts are provided fresh perspectives that incorporate innovative and sustainable design solutions.

See images of Twizy's arrival at CCA »

Expertise Inside & Out

Experts from Renault and studio course instructors Colin Owen and Raffi Minasian (and teaching assistant Bonny Guo) assessed the students' final presentations that incorporated storytelling abilities in 2D, 3D, and 4D (time/motion) formats, for ways to improve upon Twizy’s design.

Industrial Design chair Sandrine Lebas attested to the value of such an engagement: “Industry partnerships are essential building blocks of a rounded Industrial Design curriculum. Working in teams, it's an opportunity for our students to collaborate -- sometimes across disciplines -- with experts from a specific industry, with design professionals as their peers, but also with partners and future coworkers from marketing, research, engineering, etc.

“With sponsorship funding and an impression of a real ‘client,’ expectations and studio outcomes also reach higher grounds, not to mention an additional experience and brand recognition on the student's résumé.”

Owen added, “These sponsorships afford our students the amazing opportunity of exposure and support by the professionals who are deep in the weeds of cutting-edge technology while still maintaining the freedom and excitement of the college design studio experience.”

Renault Benefits from Student Perspectives

ID students identified in their research fundamental design experience issues and concerns that will influence how Renault continues to develop its product.

Said researcher Nikhil Gowda at Renault Innovation Silicon Valley in a follow-up communication to the students: “All your ideas and concepts were great. The value to all of us was in how each of the concepts clearly highlighted fresh areas of inquiry.

“All your work was a result of a dedicated creative effort. We at Renault have our work cut out for us. We hope to align our concerns regarding some of the fundamental challenges related to an open-sourced Twizy platform, whether manual or autonomous.

“We thank you for being an extension to our team in Silicon Valley.”

Student Experience: Priceless

Industrial Design faculty member Minasian emphasized the relevance of the studio course for students: “These real-world professional engagements give students an authentic exchange between ideas and actuality, critical to their understanding of design implementation.”

Based on student feedback, it’s clear the objectives of the course were met.

Exploring a Totally Different Scale of Design
“We worked very closely with the engineers,” explained Suki Leung, “which allowed us as designers to develop our designs around the original Twizy.

“They [Renault experts] were very eager to see our results, so they offered a lot of support throughout the whole process.

“It allowed me to explore a totally different scale of design. Designing something as big as a car allowed me to further develop my skill set as a hands-on modeler and also work toward presenting to an actual client.”

Like No Other Industrial Design Studio
“The overall experience was definitely like no other Industrial Design studio I have taken,” expressed Yan Nam William Chan. “The design thinking, developing, and application of ideas were invaluable, and because we had Renault to present these ideas to, it made it all the more challenging, but also much more rewarding.

“Having an industry partner sponsoring the studio class meant that more resources were available and, in turn, allowed bigger and better ideas to be developed and presented that would have otherwise not been possible.

“Having access to an industry partner also meant that the bar for work presented had to be raised, and in the end, I believe that everyone had to put in 110 percent for every presentation.”

Jump on an Opportunity Like This
“The commitment by Renault to participate in the design process and be involved was invaluable, Isamu Taguchi said. “Throughout the process, we had input on a regular basis from members of the Renault team.

“Access to privileged information about the way a big company approaches innovating in a crowded space like transportation was great industry insight that continues to shape my thinking as I enter the workforce.

“Feedback from a truly reputable source on the future of transportation helped push us not only to create a higher quality of work, but to create truly challenging and forward-thinking designs.

“Having the financial backing (and a real working chassis!) gave our process scale and realism, allowing us to think bigger and reach further in our goals as a team.”

What would Itaguchi tell other ID students about such a course?

“Jump on an opportunity like this if it’s available! But seek it out if it isn’t.”

Learn more about CCA’s industry partnerships »

About Renault-Nissan Alliance

Renault–Nissan Alliance is a Franco-Japanese strategic partnership between automobile manufacturers Renault, based in Paris, and Nissan, based in Yokohama, which together sell more than one in 10 cars worldwide.