Interview with Addam Ebel: Lead Designer at Ford

Addam Ebel, Lead Designer at Ford Motor Co.

What are some design projects you’ve been a part of and with what companies?

All of my recent design work has been with Ford Motor Company. I’ve worked on the exterior designs of the 2005 Ford Mustang, 2005 Ford Fusion, 2008 Ford Edge, 2008 Lincoln MKX, 2010 Mercury Milan and 2010 Lincoln MKZ, as well as a couple concepts. One of the concepts eventually led to the Ford Flex but I had nothing to do with the production version that everyone gets to buy.

In school I did projects for PPG, Peugeot, Michelin, General Motors, Mazda and Renault. Working with Renault was tremendous for me because I’ve always been intrigued by the creativity of their concept vehicles. But my hat goes off to Michelin for their contest which earned me two scholarship awards to help pay for school.

What kind of school or education do you need to be an automotive designer?

You need a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) in Transportation Design or Product Design from an accredited Art College. I got my BFA from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan.

It also helps to have a grasp of engineering. I “lucked out” by first attending a very well respected, but little known engineering school, Rose-Hulman, before I moved to Detroit to attend CCS.

How much of it is art and how much of it is math?

Designing is 80% art and creativity, 15% reality checks (so your design can actually be built and fit normal sized humans), and 5% deals with the numbers. You have to know exactly where your axles, tires, roof, and bumper beams are supposed to be or the rest won’t matter. The math is a small but important part because more times than not, we’re working over existing platforms. So you need to be able to understand engineering drawings and have a sense of proportion.

Is it really hard and competitive to get into this field?

Yes, I’ve read that there are more professional basketball players than there are Car Designers. The field is extremely competitive… to the point where most cheat to gain an advantage. Here I’m referring to the proportions of a model or the way a sketch of an SUV is rendered so it looks more like a sports car than anything else. The hot sketch wins almost every time, but effort and attention to the little details goes a long way in pushing you higher than your competition.

What do people in this field usually make on average?

Salary varies by company and experience level. An entry level Designer, fresh out of college with their BFA and nothing else might expect anything between 50k and 70k. But, with more experience comes the opportunity of being hired in at a higher level and salary. Design Directors easily make six figures and the performance bonuses at that level are HUGE. As in, “Go and buy yourself an expensive new car with cash,” kind of huge.

What are the best and the worst parts of your job?

The best part is the ideation process which includes the sketching phase (my favorite) and working on scale models in clay. This is the time when the creative juices are expected to flow and the limitations are kept to a minimum. The worst part is when I’m asked to go back and redesign an already completed part of the vehicle due to a feasibility issue. The job can really wear on you when your “solutions” are shot down by yet a third party due to additional restrictions that weren’t communicated to the team earlier in the project. In summary, good communication is very important in this profession and makes everyone’s job more pleasurable.

What’s an average day like for you? What are the hours?

That depends if I’m working on a clay model or not. If my day involves clay I have to be in the studio around 6:30 – 7:00 AM because that’s when my sculptors are there. If I’m just sketching or building models in the computer I show up around 8 AM. Whatever time I do arrive, I usually don’t leave the studio until 6 PM. Designers often stay later because that’s when nobody else is around to bother us while we’re “zoning in” to a sketch or model.

Do you design other stuff too like the wheels, inside dash gauges, seats or logos?

Everything has to be designed. Including the stuff most people don’t want to “waste their time on” like mirror supports and door handles. If a designer isn’t a part of working out the details there’s a high probability that piece will end up looking like “It was designed by an accountant.” If you can see it, it has to be designed. Even if you can’t see it, but it mates up to something that is visible – well that has to be worked out by Designer’s too.

How much of car design is by hand and how much is by computer?

Some Designers like sketching on the computer but I like to do all my early stuff on paper and then get into Photoshop when I want to do a real juicy rendering.  After that you hit the clay and get all the lines to work in 3D. Then we scan the clay model and begin building math models of the clay.  Then it’s a repetition cycle. We mill out our latest math onto the clay, visually inspect it, then tape up any changes on the clay and then make those changes in the computer.

This goes on and on until all the surfaces look good and are feasible for metal stamping or plastic injection molding etc. So in summary, it’s an 80% / 20% division. In the early stages its 80% by hand, 20% on the tube and in the later stages its the reverse.

Cartoon Coincidence? Plots That Happen In Every Cartoon Series.

We all have our favorite cartoons;

some are current, some we grew up with and others are timeless classics from before we were born.  During our early years of mass television consumption, we were not able, critically speaking, to interpret and deconstruct what was really going on in our favorite shows.  Now however, through education and the grace of God, we are finally able to appreciate our old cartoons and interpret their witty and wise messages for us today.  In the midst of this recollection process I stumbled across something amazing.  Basically, we have to admit to one of either two possibilities in retrospect concerning our pre-teen TV shows

1)    All the cartoons of our childhood were made by the same group of cartoonists; probably pale, hairy and socially maladjusted geniuses.

2)    All cartoons share the same basic plot lines and there are really only 25 or 30 total cartoon plot possibilities.

This is my thesis and here’s why.  Pick your favorite childhood cartoon.  Now look at the list below and tell me that your show didn’t have an episode about every one of these topics!  Submitted for your approval here is my eerily detailed list of plotlines that almost every cartoon series contains.  There might be more but here are the most common ones. Conspiracy?  Coincidence? Judge for yourself…

SPACE.  The character or characters “accidently” get launched into outer space.  One of the characters stumbles across a space ship or is accidentally launched into space at the clumsy hands of the government or NASA equivalent.

SHRINKING.  Some clever person invents a shrinking machine meant for some ignoble purpose like shrinking suitcases or eradicating the world of dust, yet somehow, the characters get shrunk and then have to live in the regular world for a period of time which is absurdly big.

FAME.  One of the characters “goes Hollywood”, gets famous and then forgets about the little people.  At the end they are humbled and realize the value of their ‘ordinary’ friends and that the life of showbiz is hollow and full of empty promises.

FAKE DEATH. Someone learns they have a very short time to live because of a rare illness or exposure to toxic ray gun, etc….  This shatters their life priorities and changes them as a person but only to learn at the end of the episode that they’re not in fact dying at all.  Oops.

TIME TRAVEL (backward).  Someone invents or discovers a time machine.  The characters travel back in time, usually to the exact moment where something momentous in world history is about to happen. Most common time periods visited:

  • Dinosaur times (usually a friendly dinosaur saves someone’s life)
  • Ancient Egypt when they were building the pyramids (and apparently the ancient Egyptians did speak English)
  • Dark Ages Europe (the characters usually rescue a helpless peasant or dethrone a savage and egotistical ruler)

TIME TRAVEL (forward). Again the characters are pulled into the space/time vortex although going forward in time apparently happens through wormholes in space and natural phenomena in addition to the aforementioned time machine.  The characters go to the future, are appalled at the state of things then return to the present to preach a message about the world’s actions at the present.  So what do we learn about the future?

  • Apparently the future will inevitably hold flying cars and bigger televisions.
  • People will wear more and more outlandish clothing
  • ALL the earths’ people will finally speak English all the time
  • Everything will be ludicrously expensive

HEROS. The characters meet a celebrity or hero whom they idolize.  Later that celebrity turns out to be a real jerk and the characters discover that the real hero is the ordinary guy that has been with them all along.

PIRATES. Nothing to say here.  There is always a pirate episode with plank-walking, sunken treasure, Arr-matey’s and all the standard piratical fare.  Usually at the end of the episode we are taught that most evil pirate’s are secretly good and just need a hug and some trust and they will do the right thing.

AMNESIA. Through some accident or injury a character will get amnesia and not know who they are.  The initial discovery of that character’s amnesia almost always contains this exchange followed by an immediate cut to commercial:

Character 1:  “Are you okay Billy?  That was quite a fall!”

Character 2: “Yes I’m okay… just one question though:  Who’s Billy?”

Coincidence?  You be the judge… post a comment!

Ten Ways for Churches to Use Video Right Now

#1. Announcements:

Instead of using a traditional PowerPoint slide show, use a video instead to draw extra attention to a special event. You can play it before and after the service as well as posting it to your church website.

#2. Pastors Video Blog:

One way for pastors to reinforce sermon points or to share other real life experiences to encourage and challenge the congregation is to create a video blog. This could be done weekly, bi-weekly or monthly depending on your time and resources. This helps add a personal touch that can reach the entire congregation with minimal work.  No need to get fancy at first, just sit at your desk and start yakking!

#3. Testimonies:

Video can be a great aid when presenting people’s testimonies during a service or special event for those who do not like public speaking. It is also helpful for situations where someone that is scheduled to share is unable to attend the service or event.  If the person on video is ok with it you could even collect these and add them to an area on your website called “life changers” or “real-life.”

#4. Event Follow Up:

Using video to provide a summary of an event is a great way to keep the congregation informed, to thank volunteers and allow others to see the success of your event.

#5. Mission Trips:

Video is a great tool to use for informing others about upcoming trips, to connect a missions team with the congregation and for recording actual trip events to share once the team is back home.

#6. Missionary Updates:

Incorporating missionary video updates is a way to keep the congregation connected with the many missionaries that your church supports overseas.  It provides a face to those who are far away as well as provides visual insight into the world and work of missionaries. Skype is also a tool that could be used to conduct a “live” update as well.

#7. Sermon Illustrations:

Websites like let you search by passage, topic or holiday to find exactly the right kind of video content for you to use in a sermon. There are a lot of great videos available on every conceivable topic; funny, serious and everything in between.  Feel free to check out our sermonspice videos HERE.

#8.9. Visitor and Welcome Videos:

If you’ve ever been new to church you know how important it is to have a welcoming environment: the people, the facility, the overall experience you have while you’re there and after you leave. A church welcome video is a great way to provide a campus tour for such locations as the children’s nursery and bathrooms. You can also introduce staff and provide a preview of the Sunday morning experience. You can post this on your church website and include it in a welcome basket.

#10. Ministry Spotlight:

In order to highlight certain ministry needs, you can provide a ministry spotlight video to communicate growth, needs and updates. This medium allows for a more focused visual update among all the busyness of a Sunday morning and often has a better chance of emotionally connecting with potential workers than a simple request for help.

I hope these ideas serve as a tool to enhance the good works you are already doing at your church. May you be encouraged and challenged to try new things as you serve the Lord and minister to His people.

10 Ways to Get Around Maryland’s New Hands-Free Driving Law

We’ve all seen the giant digital signs on the highway…

“No Texting While Driving… Hands-Free Devices Only… It’s The Law.”  This creates a serious problem for many of us who conduct large amounts of business and recreational conversation while driving. We can’t be stopped. We refuse to be cut-off. We are communicators and must find ways around pesky laws like this to keep the streams of communication open and vibrant.  Many people have lamented the fact that their commutes will now be insanely dull and that they will probably lose many friendships due to their sudden decline in communication.  Well, fear not!  Below are 10 ways that you can circumvent the no-texting-while-driving laws and keep your witty tweets and messages coming in full force.

  • Tint your windows so dark that no one can see inside to know what you are/aren’t doing with your hands.
  • Get a chauffer, let them do the driving.
  • Get a teenager, let them do the texting.
  • Keep your hands on the wheel- Learn to text with your feet!  There’s no law against texting with your feet so problem solved!
  • Uze a talk 2 tie p serv ice to trans l8 your talk ang into textz it wuks real yee god.
  • Duct tape your phone to the middle of the steering wheel. You’ll be able to use your thumbs to text if you hold the wheel at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions.  Booya!  You’re not holding your phone!
  • Get one of those metal frame neck holders that musicians use to hold their harmonicas.  Use it to hold your phone and text with your tongue. Or just make out with it. Your call (no pun intended).
  • Visit Chernobyl, grow extra hand out of belly button.  Use that hand to text, drive with the other two.
  • Do not touch your phone. Use the force. Text with your mind.  Yes, this is the answer you’ve been looking for…
  • Go retro:  Using a pencil and paper handwrite all the texts that you want to send before you leave the house.  Put the hard-copy text notes in envelopes and snail-mail them to the people you wanted to message.  Use the car to drive to the post office.  Mail them.  You will be applauded for your retro-cool sensibilities.