X-factor: Inside ArtCenter’s pipeline to Tesla’s Model X design team

Model X seems ideal for a road trip from Pasadena to Mammoth for skiing with ample seating for seven adults and all of their gear. Photo courtesy of Tesla.

Model X seems ideal for a road trip from Pasadena to Mammoth for skiing with ample seating for seven adults and all of their gear. Photo courtesy of Tesla.

On the eve of the highly anticipated release of Tesla’s Model X electric sports utility vehicle, ArtCenter alum Javier Verdura, director of Product Design at Tesla Motors, took a few minutes to chat with us about the many ArtCenter alums contributing to this pivotal team responsible for one of the most significant car releases in recent memory. From the top design post held by Franz von Holzhausen to the current crew of interns, ArtCenter alums were front and center in all aspects of the design process. So we seized this opportunity to explore the contours of the connection linking the hottest electric carmaker on the planet and our diverse community of sharp inventors and innovators.

Tesla's Model X. Photo courtesy of Tesla Motors.

Tesla’s Model X. Photo courtesy of Tesla Motors.

Initially, Verdura was understandably reluctant to take his focus off his looming deadline. “Everyone is fully engaged on the task at hand,” Verdura said. “I’ll do my best to get to it though.” His comment reflects the key components of the ArtCenter Tesla tie: hardcore work ethic and dedication in extremely demanding situations.

“ArtCenter alums are accustomed to hard work and rigorous challenges, this is par for the course at Tesla, when we hire ArtCenter grads, we know they will not be surprised or intimidated by our pace, that is super important for us.”

Here are some highlights from our conversation followed by a partial list of ArtCenter alums at Tesla.

ArtCenter: What are the primary qualities or skills you’re seeking in new recruits?

Javier Verdura: Exceptional sketching and visual communication skills. A deep understanding of the Tesla brand, our values and what Tesla represents. These values must be communicated in all embodiments of the brand (car design, product design, UI, graphic design, etc.), humble pursuit of excellence, team players and self-starters.

AC: What do ArtCenter grads bring to the Tesla shop that you feel is most impressive or valuable?

JV: Transportation Design majors bring world-class visual communications (sketching/rendering), they also bring an understanding of business needs and strategies associated with car design.

AC: How does the Tesla mission match ArtCenter’s philosophy?

JV: From what I know of ArtCenter’s philosophy, it matches Tesla’s mission in that both entities have a commitment to socially responsible design. Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transport, we want to create cars and technologies that people desire and that are sustainable. We want to influence change by making the best vehicle on the planet that happens to be electric.

Tesla factory in Fremont, California. Courtesy of Tesla.

Tesla factory in Fremont, California. Courtesy of Tesla.

Based on informal research using LinkedIn, we discovered a total of 18 alumni populating the innovative carmaker’s quickly expanding workforce.

Franz von Holzhausen Senior Design Executive at Tesla Motors

Aimee Sadle Senior Designer, Color & Materials at Tesla Motors

Javier Verdura Director, Product Design at Tesla Motors

Kimberly Marte Senior Lead Color, Material and Trend Designer at Tesla Motors

Jennifer Lee User Experience Designer at Tesla Motors

John Kim Senior Studio Specialist at Tesla Motors

Julien Bilodeau Exterior Designer at Tesla Motors

Rodrigo Castaman Transportation / Industrial Designer at Tesla Motors

Bernard Lee Senior Lead Exterior Designer at Tesla Motors

Radu Muntean Designer at Tesla Motors since 2008!

Kevin Lee Digital Modeler at Tesla Motors

Lesli Ann Mie Agcaoili Senior Design Quality at Tesla Motors

Martin Hardy Studio Specialist at Tesla Motors

Kari Brown Purchasing Manager – Injection Molding at Tesla Motors

Patrick Hall Hard Modeling Department at Tesla Motors

Andy Lee Graphic Design Intern at Tesla Motors

Tony Tarantino Clay Modeler Intern at Tesla Motors

Margaret Frye Color and Material Design Intern at Tesla Motors

Then, there’s Bryce Shawcross who launched his career at Tesla in 2012 as an intern before officially graduating in 2013 working his way up to associate/junior graphic designer at the firm’s L.A. design studio. He recently departed Tesla to join Faraday Future, a.k.a. FF, a California-based company with a vision to design and manufacture clean connected, smart mobility for all.

Additional reporting done by Robbie Nock.

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4 thoughts on “X-factor: Inside ArtCenter’s pipeline to Tesla’s Model X design team

  1. gloria kondrup

    I believe Bryce was a senior graphic designer, not product designer. He graduated from ArtCenter with a degree in graphic design in 2013. You go Bryce!

  2. Miguel F

    Congratulations to Tesla and Art Center alumni who contributed to this car. It looks beautifully developed and luxe. Love the gull wing doors and those seats! I want it! So…..I hope I can afford it.

  3. Michelle

    Enjoyed reading your article!! I work in the LIbrary and help Transportation students with there research. Alwaus interested in info about our students and the industry

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