Vince Galante, Head of User Experience, FCA
Vince Galante is Head of User Experience at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), where he has worked for 14 years. Previously, Galante was a senior manager in the Jeep Exterior Design Studio. He graduated from the College for Creative Services (CCS) in 2005 with a degree in transportation design, and earned an executive MBA from Michigan State University in 2018. In this Q&A, Galante shares his insights on how automotive design finds itself in the midst of radical transformation.
How did you get into automotive design?
Growing up, I had a love for fine arts and cars. When I found out I could make a career that combined both, I was all in. I started out at the University of Michigan in their industrial design program, but transferred to the transportation program at CCS after a weekend visit confirmed that was the place to be. I never looked back!
What do you enjoy most about your field?
I enjoy the challenge of creating new and beautiful concepts while also meeting the requirements of a strictly regulated, mass-produced, high-volume, global product. Each of our brands—Chrysler, Dodge/SRT, Jeep, Ram, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Mopar—has a unique personality, with a variety of products and projects, so there is always something cool to work on.
Do you have a favorite project from your résumé?
I’m very proud of the exterior design of the 2017 Jeep Compass. The design has been successful on a global level. While it’s a mainstream vehicle, it offers a premium appearance. It has even been called a “baby Grand Cherokee.” Being able to execute a vehicle like this at a price point that is attainable for most people is very rewarding.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a designer?
Global coordination and speed of development are big issues for any studio. Personally, making something that looks new and modern—yet also timeless—can be challenging. To do that, I have to get out of my comfort zone and take risks. On the business side, it can be very difficult to balance the needs of all stakeholders. You have to know when to push and when to compromise. You have to understand the bigger vision in order to determine which features are essential to that vision. This is hard for designers because we tend to obsess over every detail. It’s a labor of love.
What is in your everyday design toolbox? Which features do you find most compelling?
I use all of the following: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, XD, and After Effects; Cinema 4D; Sketch and Principle; Maya, Alias Surface, VRED; Jira and Confluence; and, of course, PowerPoint. What I like best about the Autodesk tools is the ability to communicate visually with a design that looks real. That’s essential. Designers can imagine a final product from just a couple of lines on a napkin, so I like being able to quickly visualize a concept in 3D.
Do you use Sub-D modeling?
Yes, we use Sub-D modeling in the User Experience group all the time. When visualizing a design element that appears on a display, we have to look outside our industry. Today’s consumer is accustomed to video games and CGI visual effects. As a result, we must set our expectations high. We have adapted by using design technologies that are not traditionally used in automotive. Sub-D modeling is a great example of that.
How has the shift to mobility affected your work?
I live and breathe mobility every day. The shift to mobility has changed every single aspect of our work from how we design to our operations to our hiring practices. It’s exciting because when we’re hiring new designers we are looking at candidates from outside automotive who are bringing a diverse set skills and experiences to the table.
What will the design studio of the future look like?
New technology and methodologies will be key. Automotive designers will find themselves working collaboratively and globally more than ever before. A better understanding of business will be imperative considering what is on the horizon for mobility solutions. There will be new kinds of services, features, and business models appearing every year.
What are you most excited about?
There is a dramatic shift happening right now, in that the customer experience is becoming more and more central to vehicle design. It’s both intriguing and challenging. Adapting to this new reality will be tough. We will need to master new skill sets. Processes are evolving and, in some cases, will get completely re-tooled. We are exploring new tools and new ways of working. And we are constantly building new relationships locally and globally to make sure we meet our customers’ needs. But it’s a very exciting time to be a designer in this industry.