Conceptualizing and designing a vehicle are the first phases of actually making it. Karyn Leland-Najjar is a Lead Design Sculptor at GM’s Design Center in Warren, Michigan.
This is what Karyn had to say about her job.
Describe your job at GM.
I work with a team of creative designers, engineers and other digital and clay sculptors to design cars and trucks. As a digital sculptor, it is my job to surface a math model that represents the designer’s sketch and the engineering requirements. That model also gets translated into a full size clay model to help evaluate the design.
What kind of education do you have?
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art with a major in Ceramics and a Master’s in Architecture, which I accomplished last year with the support of General Motors.
How did you know you wanted to get into this field?
Being from the Detroit area, I was aware the job as creative industrial sculptor existed. After my junior year of college I applied for a summer internship with General Motors and was hired after graduating with a B.F.A.
What’s the best part of your job?
Working with creative people on a daily basis and being in an environment that supports creativity is the best part of the job.
What is a typical workday like for you?
I spend a lot of time evaluating surfaces on the computer and on a three-dimensional clay model to check that good building practices are being used, the design intent is maintained, and criteria is being met. I am in constant communication with my team about the vehicle and make decisions about design and surfacing issues on a daily basis.
What kinds of skills are necessary in your position?
Having a good eye for form and detail are extremely important and is something that develops with time. Having good organizational skills is important. Being flexible is critical, the job is always changing, surfaces are always moving. And math is important! Even as a sculptor, we are always on the cutting edge of technology.
What advice would you give a high school student learning about career possibilities?
If you are creative and want to continue to work in a creative field and want the stability of a good job, being a design sculptor may be a good option. If you have an interest in the automotive industry, design is the most exciting area to work in.