Interview: Arseniy Kostromin

Jan 29, 2011
Author: Viktor Chrapovitskiy
Photos: Arseniy Kostromin, Renault
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Arseniy Kostromin was born in 1986 in Balashikha town near Moscow. In 2003 he left the school and entered "MAMI" (Moscow State Technical University), graduated in 2008. Since February, 2008 till November, 2010 he had been working in RDCE (Renault Design Central Europe) in Bucharest, where he also made his degree work Renault Alpine. In 2009 at Geneva Motor Show Dacia Duster Concept was presented, the exterior of which Arseniy was pleased to work on.

Hello, Arseniy! Could you tell us please what was the initial point of your passion?

The passion for cars began the moment when I learnt about “MAMI”. Then I wanted to enter, and the requirement was a car sketch, so I started to learn. It wasn’t like I have wanted to be an automotive designer since I was born. I’ve always liked to draw, but there were no junction between this and cars.

How did you learn about “MAMI” and how to get there?

I heard about it from my future course mate Sergey Goltsov, who I studied with at school, it was just while I started to look for a place to go after graduating. His sister was a designer, she worked on tuning and automotive interiors. Sergey decided to follow her footsteps and told me about “MAMI” and about the course of how to sketch correctly. We signed up for the course together, and here we are.

Who influenced you in the professional field?

Many people, as is usual for a designer. Everybody looks for an inspiration and starts from others’ successful works. At the time I started to study at the university, DVDs with recorded sketches by different designers were passed from hand to hand. Somebody had downloaded portfolios from cardesignnews, sketches from forums and wrote all that stuff to disks. There were a lot of sketches by Russians who had been working for different studios – Ernest Tsarukyan, Alexander Selipanov, Anton Shamenkov. All these people have influenced me one way or another. I thank them so much for this.

What tools do you usually use for drawing?

Nothing unusual, just a simple graphic pad Wacom Intuos3 a4, Alias design studio as a software. When making a sketch by hand, I use ball-point BIC pens and Chartpack markers.

How did you get to the internship at Renault-Dacia?

It’s a funny story. I get there via cardesignnews.com. I hadn’t believe for a long time that this site can somehow help me to find an internship or something, but decided to try anyway. I uploaded my works and three days after I got letters from some guys asking me to send a full version of the portfolio (the site could keep only a few pages). I wasn’t asked anything from Bucharest, I just was simply invited for a job interview. It appeared that Maxim Shershnev and Konstantin Chirkov got the same invites. Konstantin refused, and me and Maxim went to Bucharest together, and both of us got internships.

Now I think it is more useful to have a blog, for instance, at blogspot.com , for pictures and portfolio to be permanently online. Headhunters from different studios keep surfing them looking for talent.

Apart from drawing and blogging, what else can you recommend for today’s students?

Learn English. Students can draw, most of them get quite skilled at least by the last studying year, but they should come at last to the thought that it’s not enough.

How did you choose the subject for your degree work?

I knew I would design a sports car for my degree work since I was a third-year student or so. Now I’m not enamoured by this, but then this subject was interesting for me.  It seemed like it would impart an opportunity to create something breathtaking. The configuration was chosen on my own, as a base I took the Ferrari Enzo. After that Renault decided to sponsor my degree work, and Patrick Lecharpy, my future boss, offered to make a mid-engined coupe Alpine on the base of the Ferrari (since I couldn’t change the configuration). He seemed to like the idea of revival of this brand and was wonder if I could do the job.

What professional skills you consider to be the most important for a designer?

First of all, ability to present your ideas in such a way that people who can’t draw (having no artistic education) could understand what it’s all about.  This is very important. Designers now go mad on “speed paint”, those bright pictures with beautiful contrast, on which nothing but this contrast can be recognized – and they bring that to a modeler, who doesn’t get what to do.

Communication is essential constituent of the design process. It is always important to get on well with the colleagues, who help you with your projects.

How hard do you think Russian designers are in demand abroad?

I can’t say Russian designers are a certain separate privileged class, which is wanted by all the studios in the world, no. Russian designers are the same as French, German or Chinese, you can make sure by looking through the blogs. There is no great difference between Russian works and others’. On the one hand it is good that Russians have learnt to draw, but a rare one can stand out, probably just because of unwillingness. Again – communication troubles appear because of the language barrier.

What do you think ‘design’ is?

I think it is problem solving. A designer always collides with tasks and problems connected to the project and work management. And he has to find out these problems timely, and then quickly and correctly solve them.

What do Dacia style and philosophy mean for you?

Simplicity and functionality. I’ve always tried to make more of German design for this brand.  I think it’s a good direction, because there is no such thing as an image of a company, there is only merit such as price and ease. What else does a practical car need if not a practical and functional design? That was really exciting for me to take a part in creating a new face for a company.

How was it to work at the Dacia Duster?

It was one of the most interesting and difficult projects I have ever happened to work on. The peculiarity was in the fact that we managed to carry the project to its logical conclusion, having all the details. Usually it doesn’t happen because of lack of time.

Of course, I had a lot of fun, I could draw quite enough, but it was way difficult at the same time. First of all because I had no experience in such projects. For example, 3D model which was done for the first presentation, was nearly the first for me, after all I was still an intern then. Besides we had tough time limit – we were given two weeks to made a full-size clay model.

The pressure was building up, everything had to be done by the time of the presentation. Constant concentration was needed, since there were no possibility to build several variants of the car. The modeler said, “We can do it either this way or that way” – and we had to choose quickly. What a crazy time it was!

What kind of projects carries you the most?

It’s interesting to work at difficult projects, which are hardly limited technically. What could be more interesting than to build a cheap car? Thus we made a lot of funny projects on Dacia.

Who do you think make a trend in automotive design today?

Trends are given by marketologists, people from so-called “product planning” department. Generally, trends are a feature of fashion, and they hardly go with design.  It’s weird to watch how they depersonalize brands. Here is, for example, a quite boring trend to make BMW’s-like surfaces everywhere. This happens only because of the competition for a consumer they are simply afraid to offer something new.

When a company has to make a new product, it is “helped” by all-knowing product planning. Here comes a lady who has been selling shampoos or something and says: “You know, we want to make a new car – of such-and-such class, not too simple to scare a consumer away, still not too pronounced… something in between, something like this” – and shows a rival. “You see, our target audience is a young couple on their ‘start’. They live in Milan suburb, rent a small apartment and go to work together.  We need something they both would like”. And rival’s slides again. “They will definitely buy something like this!” – and the slides again…

These people run many things in projects, and designers are often powerless against them. If they don’t like a project, they close it up, and everybody forgets about it. They look at what is already in the market and try not to back out of the trends, they are afraid, because it is a question of big money for company which is easy to lose. “Thanks” to that people, we can see an ocean of totally equal cars with different badges.

What do you think are the main problems of design now?

I won’t talk about styling and trends again; I’ll talk about other things. There is a straight connection between the design and technical progress. As many of you know, the technical part of production is quite expensive. And the majority of automakers try to minimize risks, of course, setting profit as an objective. And they put up money to develop new bumpers, new lighting. But the technical process doesn’t develop as fast as it is wanted. I think it’s a serious problem of modern automotive design, limiting its development from all perspectives.

It is obvious that steel and aluminum are quite expensive materials, and it needs a special attitude. It’s impossible to use it forever. Each company has its own way to solve this problem. Somebody doesn’t see the problem at all, and, for instance, BMW are working out the technology of applying carbon to the production of electric cars. At the same time Renault makes new models on the base of old ones, changing only punches on its factories.

What other field would you like to try hand at?

Yacht design, for example.

What do you consider to be the most difficult thing in your occupation?

To withstand pressure of competition and remain a man at the same time, because there’is always something wrong and you should clearly recognize that it’s just a work and nothing more.

Can you describe your usual workday?

A workday always develops in a different way and depends on the workload. For instance, on a presentation which is supposed to be done in a month or even a week. Sometimes you draw the whole day till night, sometimes you don’t  manage to take a marker in you hand….

Usually my workday looks like this: at 8 I’m supposed to be at work. I come, drink some coffee, about 30 minutes talking with co-workers. Then I draw till noon. In French companies they usually have two hours for lunch, but I keep my lunch within an hour since I usually have a lot of work.  Then coffee again to perk myself up and drawing up to the end. Everybody usually goes home at 6, but sometimes you have to stay till 8-9.

How do you spend your free time?

With my friends and folks. How else? In general, in my free time I try not to think about the job and drawing, because everything should be within reasonable limits. At times I go all out at work, so I don’t want to do anything.

Any hobbies?

Taking photos, snowboarding.

What do you think you would’ve become, if you hadn’t chosen design?

Who knows… I attended courses in Bauman Moscow State Technical University, I remember I filed with Information Science and Executive Systems faculty, and if I hadn’t have come to design, I would have gone there.

What is your professional dream?

Well, I don’t know… I guess, to study all aspects of the job, learn everything that is possible in that field. I think this aim is worthy. And, what makes me happy, it is long – I mean there’s so much left to do for me!

Thank you very much for the interview! Wish you success and new career achievements!

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