Christophe Dupont (TRAN, ’87)
“I'm actually getting paid to do what I dreamed of doing as a child.”
After graduating from Art Center in1987, Christophe Dupont joined Renault’s advanced design studio, where, in one project, he designed the exterior of “Ludo”, a concept-car exhibited at the Paris Motorshow in 1994. Dupont’s strong interest in digital design tools led him to join Alias/Wavefront in 1995, where he worked as an application engineer. He would later return to Renault to take charge of digital modeling, class A, computer graphics and IT activities there. In 2007, he relocated to South Korea with his wife and three children to become executive managing director for Renault Samsung Motors Design.
What made you decide to make a career in transportation design?
I had been drawing cars for as long as I could remember, but there were no transportation-oriented design schools in France at the time. It wasn’t until my first trip to Art Center’s campus—which happened by chance, while I was on summer vacation in California—that I realized that you could actually get an automotive design education that would be recognized worldwide. I was 17 years old at the time, and I knew that this was it.
What do you see as your most exciting career achievement?
The fact that I’m actually getting paid to do what I dreamed of doing as a child. It’s kind of a luxury, don’t you think? More concretely, I’d say that my most significant career achievement so far has been leading the change from physical to digital design development processes at Renault a few years ago.
Art Center’s Transportation Design Department turns 60 this year. What do you think has been the most significant development in the transportation industry during the past 60 years?
Cars have become safer and more sophisticated, of course, but it seems to me that we haven’t really had any breakthrough developments in the car industry in that time-frame. Some early 1950s European cars are almost as practical and efficient as current cars, if less equipped. I think that democratization of air travel (thanks to reduced costs), and the development of high-speed trains like the TGV in France have both had more impact on the way we travel today.
There have been great changes in design as well. When I started working as a designer twenty years ago, the first question I’d be asked by friends or relatives was, “Why do all new cars look the same?” I’m rarely asked that question today, as increased market segmentation and multiple design trends—crossovers, niche vehicles, retro design, etc.—have bred an amazing amount of diversity in the marketplace. Of course this is great news for designers! In terms of day-to-day design work, the shift from marker and chalk to Photoshop and from clay to Alias has deeply transformed the way designers work.
Where do you see transportation design going in the future?
It seems that the western automotive industry is at a crossroads right now, and that environmental concerns are here to stay. Downsizing has already started and is bound to become a major short-term trend. As the market moves toward smaller, perhaps less sophisticated cars, I think that the Chinese car companies could become more competitive very quickly. Eventually, we can expect technological breakthroughs to make our industry “oil-free” and perhaps to create major changes in vehicle packaging, but I don’t see this happening on a large scale in the near future.
What kind of car do you drive?
When I moved to Korea last year, I traded my Renault Espace MPV company car for an RSM SM5 sedan. My “weekend car” in Barcelona was a Porsche Boxster but in Seoul, unfortunately, the traffic and road conditions aren’t really compatible with the concept of a weekend car!