Finding Project Perfection Through Design and Renderings

Finding Project Perfection Through Design and Renderings

By Ben Meissner,

We’ve all seen amazing cars at shows or cruise-ins that entice our eyes to flow over every detail, while other builds barely receive our glance as we walk by. What makes one car a killer cruiser and another a total loser? Quite often it’s a result of having a good, or maybe not so good, design plan. One of the best paths to project perfection is through professional design and renderings.

For shop and garage builder alike, designers guide ideas through good design principles, avoiding visual mistakes and adding details that elevate projects above cookie cutter builds. If a shop is handling your build, not all builders are designers, nor can they always see your vision no matter how well you describe it. Navigating the design process develops the blueprints for a well thought-out and successful build, and renderings get everyone on the same visual page.

It’s fairly easy to see why professional design and renderings are great ideas, let’s look at some things that’ll help prepare you for them.

What’s it cost, and why?

A simple drawing of your car by your buddy’s kid may only be $20. A decent rendering experience will run you around $400+. Some of you are already saying “if I can get it for $20 then why pay more?” Unfortunately, some think a rendering is akin to buying a spatula, and hire based on price alone. Realistically, renderings are more similar to the car build – you get what you pay for. The best (and usually more expensive) designers have gone through design school, spent years developing skill and style, and are up to speed with industry trends. They understand the do’s and don’ts of good design, and have the knowhow to design something you can really be proud of.

Now compare the cost of design and renderings to the actual project – how much for that extra 15 horsepower? How much for that custom interior? The value of a design rendering is comparatively pennies on the dollar and cheap assurance your build starts on the right foot. It’s cheap to change a rendering, but building the car twice because it didn’t turn out right really hurts the wallet.

How do I choose a good designer?

When hiring a designer: Always look at samples of their work.

Make sure their style is a reflection of what you’re wanting. Many artists draw in cartoonish or “new car design” styling with more artistic proportions. If you like that artistic flair, make sure your builder can interpret that into more realistic dimensions on the actual car. Although some of those drawings look ultra-cool, many builders prefer to work off something with true to life dimensions.

Who is your artist?

Is it your cousin’s boyfriend’s “graphic designer” for a scrap book company neighbour? Or someone who’s been to car design school, understands good design principles, regularly attends car shows, maybe has their own build project… you get the picture. You’ll pay more for the latter, but you’re guaranteed a better experience.

Do they fit your budget?

Most designers can give you a clear estimate up front. Some charge by the hour, some by the project. If by the hour, make sure you understand each change you want to see is on the clock and it adds up quick. If they charge by the project, understand their salary translates to dollars per hour too. If you have a tough time making decisions, be conscious of their time investment. The more indecisive you are, the less they get paid. Keep them happy by being respectful of their time. Some artists start with a base fee and charge extra or switch to hourly past a set amount of time.

Can they meet your deadline?

Be realistic and upfront with your project timeline to make sure the artist’s schedule works for everyone. It’s not uncommon for designers to be booked 2-4 months out; if you needed it yesterday, plan on a hefty rush fee. Once you get started, it still may take 6-8 weeks to complete a project. Consensus among artists is renderings can take upwards of 20-30 hours. That doesn’t include design time – research, preliminary idea sketches, discussing those ideas back and forth with you, revisions, etc.

One project a month doesn’t pay bills, so designers often work on more than one at a time. Most artists are a little unorganized; that comes with creativity. If you tell them they can take their time, they probably will, as they work yours around others that have specific deadlines. If you don’t have a deadline, make one up; it’ll work in your favour.

Does the designer have other skills that add to the experience?

Some designers not only create something great but can also advise how to build what they design, suggest specific parts, and can communicate with your builder (and your budget) throughout the process to keep mods within what can realistically be done. As an example, seeking to be a better designer, I’ve attended car design school, street rod fabrication school, interned with a high quality upholstery shop, and worked as a rod shop fabricator. I’ve also built and raced cars for over 30 years. That education has been priceless, resulting in a greater value for my clients.

Finally, remember the following Designer’s tips, and you’ll end up with a great design, beautiful rendering and, eventually, a completed car you can really be proud of.

  • Plan a realistic design budget; good work ain’t cheap, cheap work ain’t good.
  • Anticipate a realistic time frame. Good design takes a little time.
  • Communicate openly. Tell the artist what you want to see, (or that you have no idea). Discuss likes and dislikes of your designer’s ideas; that helps them create something you’ll love.
  • If your designer suggests some of your ideas may not work, don’t be offended. Allow freedom to explore new ideas; you may find some of them really cool!

Good Luck and Happy project designing!


[Ben Meissner has a Bachelor’s degree in car design, an Associate’s degree in street rod fabrication, has industry work experience in performance tire and parts sales, as a restoration and fabrication technician, service centre management and more recently as Speedtech Performance USA’s creative director. He currently runs his own Street Rod Designs, a performance industry-based project design, consulting and marketing firm. He’s also a veteran enthusiast with 30+ years building and racing his own muscle cars.]

Categories: Muscle Car Plus, Tech
Tags: Rendering