Frank Saucedo (TRAN, ’84)
“It’s not enough to create a great-looking sketch—if the vehicle or the product isn’t understandable, then you’ve missed the mark.”
Frank Saucedo is director of General Motors Advanced Design California, one of three Advanced Studios that General Motors operates worldwide. As director of the studio, titled 5350 Industrial Concepts, Saucedo oversees a staff of 30 designers, sculptors, analysts and engineers. Since opening, the studio has created several noteworthy projects, most notably the 2001 Chevrolet Borrego and the Pontiac Solstice. Saucedo first joined General Motors in 1984 as a designer with European subsidiary Adam Opel AG in Rüsselsheim, Germany. Saucedo went on to serve as chief designer at Volkswagen of America’s Simi Valley, Calif., design center, where he led the team that designed the Polo.
What led you to a career in transportation design?
I didn’t know that you could have a career in transportation design—I applied and was accepted to Art Center as an Illustration major. I took a night class at Art Center and walked into the transportation room and asked, “What is this? You mean they pay you to draw cars? I’ve been drawing cars for years and people have been telling me to stop doing it!” Soon afterwards I changed my major to Transportation Design.
What do you see as your most exciting career achievement?
Opening GM’s 5350 Industrial Concepts studio in Burbank has been a life-changing process for me. In the beginning, it was just me and my business manager. In just four years we grew to a studio of 60 people. If I walked away from this today and went and on to a different career, I’d always look back and think that opening this studio and putting the team together was one of the major accomplishments of my career.
Where do you see transportation design going in the future?
We’re at a real tipping point right now with the way the price for fuel is going. Everyone thinks they have the answer, but there isn’t just one. I believe there are multiple answers to this problem. What is interesting to me are these smaller, often tech-backed start up companies creating green vehicles. We’re going to see more of what I call the “Coach-built Green,” going back to the idea of coach-built cars created initially for a small percentage of the market, but drives the other companies to follow suit and create joint ventures.
What is your advice for recent graduates in the transportation design field?
Variety. Don’t just focus on transportation, learn product design and environmental design. Learn about infrastructure. The more you know about these things, the easier it is to transition in the changing workplace.