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College Exhibition: Institut Superieur de Design 2009

Tue, 15 Dec 2009 00:00:00 -0800

Valenciennes in northern France might not be the most glamorous of French towns but it's been quietly turning out transportation design graduates for over 20 years. The Institute Superieur de Design (ISD) isn't as well-known as Strate or Creapole in Paris, nevertheless it has a growing reputation as one of the most focused design schools in Europe with an enviable record of internships and employment of its graduates.

Last month CDN was invited to join the final assessments of this year's graduate cohort. This year sees the graduation of 40 students in Product Design, 30 in Transportation Design and 16 in Digital Design after a five year training under the ‘Bac+5' system.

"Our disadvantage is we're not in Paris," says tutor Remy Constantin. "But we maintain close links to many design companies and, after five years training, our students have spent up to 18 months out on internships, which gives them a real understanding of working as professional designers".

Set up in 1987, there are several unusual aspects to ISD's program. It's a commercially funded school, run by the Valenciennes chamber of commerce. Although Valenciennes has never been a focus of the car industry, with a traditional industry base of steel and textiles up until the 1980s, the chamber of commerce decided to focus on design as a way of reinvigorating the town. In 2001 Toyota decided to build its Yaris factory in the vicinity, so car making has finally arrived in the 21st century.

Students are assessed through a formal jury process to professional designers, giving 40 percent of the final diploma mark and, unusually for a French school, teaching and presentations are all in English. Students have 30 minutes to present a complete digital portfolio of work from three years, including their internship work. This is followed by an intensive Q&A session, with full professional input. Effectively, it's a fantastic 30-minute interview and CV opportunity for the students to be approved into the community of design practitioners.

This year's jury for Transportation Design included Anne Asensio from Dassault Systemes; Amko Leenarts from Peugeot; Bentley designers Brett Boydel and Richard Gilmartin; Pierre Leclerq from BMW; Sebastien Stassin, Kiska; Marc Papadopoulos, Faurecia and Carole Favart from Toyota.

Transportation Design projects this year included Simon Defoort's VW Eleol concept which explored a new architecture for a low-slung luxury GT. The double cockpit suspends the driver and passenger above the chassis, while the two rear passengers are in separate jump seats behind.

Another split cockpit concept was Matthieu Hagneré's Audi A+ project, a small flyweight four-seater with rear passengers in a separated rear seat module. The cockpit can be varied in width between cruise mode, with twin front seats or a single seat sport mode, where the wraparound front seats slide over each other and contract with the sides of the cabin.

Having done an internship with French custom car builder Parotech, student Jean-Baptiste Robilliard continued his association with the company to propose a ‘Hot Wheels by Parotech' race car with a bio-fuelled V8 engine and low-slung elliptical body. The design is meant to be appreciated on different scales, either as a toy or a real car. He also showed a custom bike inspired by muscle cars, with a mechanical ‘cold touch' look, as if carved from an ice block.

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By Nick Hull