Detroit is known for both transportation design and techno music. Twice a year, these things collide at the Middlecott Sketchbattle, a party with pumping music held in a cavernous space; but instead of a dance floor, the centerpiece of the room is a long table covered in paper and Prismacolors, wielded by designers cranking out automotive renderings.
"Channeling Detroit's underground vibe and party energy, it gives participants and spectators front-row access to an exhilarating match of creativity with industry heavyweights and stellar newcomers alike. The immersive event [turns] into a techno party with opportunities to connect, network, discover talent, and dial-up job opportunities while surrounded by hand-selected car design."
The brainchild of transportation designer Brook Banham and graphic designer Judith Banham, co-founders of consultancy Middlecott Design, the event is held biannually. "It's been incredible to watch the event expand, the talent evolve, and the industry notice the exceptional work of these designers over the last 12 years," says Brook Banham.
Twenty designers compete against the clock and each other in a timed design competition. The sketching and rendering is old-school only, with no tablets or digital assistance. "No pre-made elements: Freehand ingenuity without underlays, CAD components, or backgrounds," as the rules stipulate.
Design the Ultimate Flying Muscle Car for a Sustainable Future
Craft the ultimate muscle car for 2050 that excels both on the ground and in the skies while aligning with the government's mandate to transition away from fossil fuels. As urban congestion peaks, the government has ushered in a new era of transportation by permitting Personal Air-Ground Vehicles (PAGVs) that run on alternative, sustainable fuels. These vehicles seamlessly merge the power and performance of a muscle car with the ability to take flight, offering an exhilarating and eco-conscious driving experience.
Picture a vehicle that embodies the legacy of classic muscle cars while delivering exceptional speed and power on the ground and clean, sustainable flight in the sky. The objective is to create an iconic PAGV that redefines high-performance driving and flying while contributing to a greener future.
The competition plays out over three 30-minute rounds, and after each the work goes on the wall. A panel of judges drawn from the automotive industry scores each drawing, on a scale of 1-10, for creativity and execution. Whoever has the most points at the end is crowned Sketchbattle Champion.
There's also a People's Choice Award, and for years those were the two prizes. But this edition has added a third: "The Darby Jean Award challenges the shocking underrepresentation of female designers. Named for Sketchbattle's first female champion, Darby Jean Barber, the accolade highlights the exceptional creative power of women in the field of design, boosting representation and equity in the industry."
Image: RED by Morgan. Pictured are judges Darby Jean Barber, GM designer and Adam Genei, owner of automotive design/build firm Mobsteel