Story by Natalee Ayala
Photos by Lynn Levitt
“Batman”, “Iron Man,” “Minority Report,” “Tron” and “Transformers” can all be identified instantly by one feature: their vehicles.
These films, as well as others, have iconic vehicles that are recognized by many people, even by those who have never seen the films.
However, the man behind the designs and concepts remains behind the scenes.
Harald Belker, 51, is a German-born automotive designer who has aided the production of these films’ iconic vehicles.
Belker, who had studied at Georgia Southern University and graduated with a degree in Industrial Technology, got his design career started after he attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.
Belker then went back to Germany to work for Porsche. In 1991, he returned and worked for Mercedes-Benz, and was part of the design team that created the smart car.
By 1994, Belker did not see himself working in the corporate world, and decided to go on his own.
He got his big break when he got the opportunity to work on the 1996 film “Batman & Robin.” The film, directed by Joel Schumacher, featured then rising-star George Clooney.
“That was the luckiest day of my life,” Belker said. “The chances for an automotive designer to get to design the Batmobile just doesn’t happen.”
Belker then went on to work for blockbuster films like “Minority Report,” “Cat in the Hat,” “Iron Man,” “Tron Legacy,” and most recently, “Battleship.”
Although his career may seem exciting, Belker spends a lot of his design time behind computer screens. In fact, he says he can spend up to 10 hours a day behind his screen working on a project.
When assigned to project, Belker meets with the director and producers to develop the basic ideas for what they’re trying to produce.
“For ‘Minority Report,’ we spent six months developing just the system for the futuristic mass transportation system,” Belker said. “Then it comes down to the vehicles themselves. Sometimes it takes one sketch, sometimes several.”
For the future, Belker wants to take his design skills to the world of Hot Wheels.
In order to make it in the design business, Pierce College’s Industrial Technology Department Chair Thomas Fortune said, “you’ve got to have some fabrication skills.”
Aside from working on films, Belker has published two design books, “Pulse” and “Ride.”
Both books depict Belker’s design dreams for the future of vehicles, including futuristic motorcycle models.
Students looking to get into the graphic design business must have undertanding, and apply the knowledge into other areas.
“Practice, practice, practice,” said Michael Cooperman, a Pierce assistant professor for the Art & Architecture Department.
Cooperman’s advice is something that Belker can attest to.