seat: from compass to digital design

  • Transformation of car design revealed in archive footage from SEAT factory
  • Compasses and erasers replaced by virtual reality and 3D sketches
  • Over 1,000 engineers work at the SEAT Technical Centre, five times more than 40 years ago
  • Electronics and new driver aid systems mean more extreme tests with prototypes than ever before

Martorell, 07/06/2018.– SEAT has revealed the remarkable transformation of car design over the last four decades with new archive footage from its Martorell factory.

Rubber erasers, compasses and onion-skin paper have been replaced by virtual reality, 3D sketches and HD glasses to create the latest models like the Ateca, Arona and upcoming Tarraco.

Archive footage shows how the digital world has taken over car design as the SEAT Technical Centre has expanded to over 1,000 engineers since 1975 when just 211 were employed.

These SEAT engineers, who have worked on some of the brand’s iconic models, have now offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the evolution of the process of creating and developing a new car over the past 40 years.

The latest model benefitting from the evolution in design at SEAT is the third – and largest – SUV to join its family, the Tarraco.

  • Up to six metres of paper: Today’s designers work in front of a screen using the latest 3D technology, but four decades ago they gathered around a long drawing table to outline a full-scale car. “Everything was done by hand with paper, ruler and compass, and of course no image editing programmes,” recalls engineer Ángel Lahoz. In the 80s, one of the challenges was to project the different sections of the model design, one on top of the other, onto the paper.
  • From lead pencil to digital stylus: “There used to be a single computer in each department for the manager’s assistant and the rest of us worked at tables full of drawings and coloured pencils. It looked like an artists’ workshop,” says Lahoz. Today, this image has been replaced by interactive tablets and digital pens. Designers can now immediately apply corrections with a simple click, leaving behind the countless modifications made with rubber erasers.
  • Two tonnes of plaster compared to 5,000 kg of clay: During the creation stage of a new model, sketches are drawn alongside full-scale reproductions of the prototypes. Designers used plaster for the first generation Ibiza in the 80s, whereas today they use a clay-like resin. Lahoz points out it is “much easier to mould” and produces “great precision, down to a tenth of a millimetre”. This more manual process is combined with virtual prototypes.
  • Designers wearing HD glasses: “When I began at SEAT, if they had told me how we would be working today, I would have thought it was science fiction,” says Lahoz. Not only is it now possible to design a model using virtual reality, engineers can also experience first-hand what it feels like at the wheel. These new work tools guarantee the viability of initial sketches by around 90%.
  • Twice as many simulations thanks to virtual reality: Virtual reality has become a key aspect in recent years in the entire development stage of a model. A further example of this is collision testing. A total of 95,000 simulations were performed for the new Ibiza, which is twice as many as for the previous generation. In addition, this new technology is able to analyse up to three million elements of a car, a figure that 30 years ago topped out at 5,000.
  • The evolution of extreme tests: Before making their way onto the market, the models have to pass a series of tests in extreme conditions. “Testing has changed a lot over the years”, explains Jaume Camps, an engineer in charge of the extreme tests. Three decades ago the prototypes were already undergoing dynamic heat tests in desert regions and extreme cold in the Arctic Circle. The difference now is that the number of tests has increased due to the addition of electronics and driver aid systems in today’s cars.
  • Five times as many engineers in the workforce: The SEAT Technical Centre opened in 1975 with 211 engineers and a surface area of 130,000m2. Four decades later, this knowledge hub has a 200,000m2 facility and more than 1,000 professionals.


SEAT is the only company that designs, develops, manufactures and markets cars in Spain. A member of the Volkswagen Group, the multinational has its headquarters in Martorell (Barcelona), exporting 80% of its vehicles, and is present in over 80 countries through a network of 1,700 dealerships. In 2017, SEAT achieved worldwide sales of nearly 470,000 vehicles.

The SEAT Group employs close to 14,700 professionals at its three production centres – Barcelona, El Prat de Llobregat and Martorell, where it manufactures the highly successful Ibiza, Leon and Arona. Additionally, the company produces the Ateca and the Toledo in the Czech Republic, the Alhambra in Portugal and the Mii in Slovakia. 

The multinational has a Technical Centre, which operates as a knowledge hub that brings together 1,000 engineers who are focussed on developing innovation for Spain’s largest industrial investor in R&D. SEAT already features the latest connectivity technology in its vehicle range and is currently engaged in the company’s global digitalisation process to promote the mobility of the future.

SEAT Communications

Gemma Solà

Content&Platforms Management

T / +34 639 944 087


Vanessa Petit

Content Generation

T / +34 680 153 938 

Media Usage Terms

I agree that all creative assets including but not limited to photos, logos, sketches, images and artwork are for
editorial use only. All commercial use of these creative assets, including but not limited to advertising,
marketing and merchandising, is strictly prohibited.

I agree to these terms and conditions


SEAT Then and Now

SEAT Then and Now

Media ID: 29417
Medium 3500 x 2333 4.0 MB
Small 1500 x 1000 0.9 MB
Large 5760 x 3840 2.4 MB

© 2018 Copyright Seat. Reproduction free for editorial use only.

SEAT Then and Now

SEAT Then and Now

Media ID: 29419
Medium 3500 x 2373 3.9 MB
Small 1500 x 1017 0.9 MB
Large 3335 x 2262 3.9 MB

© 2018 Copyright Seat. Reproduction free for editorial use only.

SEAT Then and Now

SEAT Then and Now

Media ID: 29421
Medium 3500 x 3532 9.0 MB
Small 1500 x 1513 1.8 MB
Large 3789 x 3824 5.3 MB

© 2018 Copyright Seat. Reproduction free for editorial use only.


From compass to digital design

From compass to digital design

Media ID: 30504
MP4 Video 24 fps 50 MB

© 2018 Copyright Seat. Reproduction free for editorial use only.