Elliott Hawkins, chief designer at RDM Group, has been named as The Manufacturer’s Employee of the Month June 2017.
What is your role and what are your main responsibilities?
I am chief designer at RDM Group, a leading supplier of products and engineering services for the automotive industry. I’m based in the Advanced Engineering division in Coventry where we design and manufacture our driverless pods under the RDM Autonomous Vehicles umbrella.
My main responsibility is to oversee the external and internal design of the pods, while also being involved in everything from company graphics and branding to clothing and the interior design/layout of our buildings.
What are the key technical skills you use?
I graduated from The Royal College of Art with a Masters in Vehicle Design in 2009, and I use a lot of the technical skills gained there in my daily role. These include hand sketching, rendering and CAD modeling. I also oversee the manufacture of the parts I’ve designed, which gives us greater control of the process.
What personal characteristics help you in your role?
Every day I look forward to getting into work and creating something new, and I like to think that my passion and enthusiasm for design inspires others.
Being able to have an enjoyable, productive working relationship with all of our staff and our suppliers is key. This could involve cheerfully arguing about the visual importance of a 3mm radius with the design team (it happens!) to the merits of West Ham’s defence with our sheet metal suppliers.
What’s your biggest personal success at the company so far?
There have been a lot of successes, but I’d say I’m most proud of the design of our current four-seat Pod Zero, which is just entering production.
It is a real challenge to create an aesthetically pleasing design because the pod is effectively a large rectangle with four wheels in the corners. I have tried to combine all the design ‘tricks’ I’ve gained so far in my career to make the pod appear a sleeker, wider and more cutting-edge piece of design. Feedback has been very good so far.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I truly love what I do – being able to be so closely involved in the design and manufacture of something I’ve helped create is incredible. I have a real connection with the things I design. I see the pod as ‘my baby’ and I’m delighted it has the potential to provide ‘first/last mile transport solutions’ for people all over the world.
Career ambition I’m very fortunate in that I am trusted and given true design freedom at RDM, which is a very rare thing in our industry. I’ve never really had a career plan, apart from when I was a kid, when all I wanted to be was a car designer – that’s turned out pretty well so far.
This article first appeared in the June issue of The Manufacturer magazine. To subscribe, please click here.