Eric Toth (TRAN, ’87)
“Transportation design is becoming integrated into other aspects of our lives, our homes and our work.”
Eric Toth is the manager of the design studio at Johnson Controls in Michigan, where he oversees the design of automotive interior products. Evidence of the versatility of an Art Center transportation design education, Toth previously spent several years managing the industrial design group at Fredricks Design, Inc., where he was involved not only in automotive design but also in the design of contract furniture, consumer products and housewares.
What led you to a career in transportation design?
I had a fascination with cars and drawing since I was very young, five or six. My father, who was an accomplished comic book artist, took me to a show on Italian car design that Art Center was hosting at the Pasadena Convention Center when I was in high school. While we were there, he told me that when he came out of the Army in 1952, he’d been interested in the Automotive Design program. Unfortunately, he could only take night classes and the program was offered during the day. After that show, where I was exposed to the wonderful work of Bertone, Pinninfarina and other Italian designers, I focused on building a portfolio and attending Art Center.
What do you see as your most exciting career achievement?
Having the opportunity to help others grow and achieve great results in their work.
What do you think has been the most significant development in the transportation design field in recent years?
Two things stand out for me: the accuracy and flexibility of the tools available to the designer and engineer. 3D solids-based programs are approaching being able to create and/or design within a virtual world. The levels of design and engineering prowess the industry has reached are amazing. And with new tools and capabilities developing at an ever-quickening pace, the future is exciting. But, all the tools in the world do not a great designer make. Designers still need to connect with the culture around them to understand the potential of the ideas that can change a person’s experience of getting from one place to another.
Where do you see transportation design going in the future?
Transportation design is becoming more integrated into other aspects of our lives, our homes and our work. We are finally accepting that our resources are finite. The long-term model of sustainability of the automotive industry still has to change, at least in North America. Europe is ahead of us. Long-term, I believe basic transportation will become more organized and less disparate, both in a public and a private sense. North America needs to develop real public transportation solutions on a broader base. Down the road, highly organized private transportation, like intelligent highways, could enable the sheer volume of people trying to occupy a common space to go about their lives with more efficiency of time. All of this will need to be envisioned and developed by the current and future graduates of design schools like Art Center.