Japanese automakers Infiniti and Lexus raked in four of the five coveted honors in the 13th annual EyesOn Design Awards, while Ford Motor Co. took home Best Production Vehicle for one its 2020 muscle cars.
The awards—presented Jan. 15 at the 2019 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit—involved an all-star panel of global automotive designers from industry, academia and independent design studios, who walked the show to assess this year's crop of stunning concept and production vehicles and choose their favorites for design excellence in five categories.
Awards ceremony. Photo: John Skabardonis
This year's winners are:
Innovative Use of Color, Graphics or Materials (presented by Axalta Coating Systems) Infiniti QX Inspiration. The judges said: "Embodies a modern take on materials while retaining a clean Japanese sensibility."
Best Designed Interior (presented by ABC Technologies) Infiniti QX Inspiration. The judges said: "True inspiration and functionality."
Infiniti OX Inspiration interior. Photo: Robert Grace
Best Concept Vehicle (presented by Dassault Systemes) The Infiniti QX Inspiration, again, marking the second year in a row that Infiniti has taken home this marquee honor. The judges said: "A new and fresh look that shows extraordinary sophistication and simplicity."
Lexus LC Convertible concept. Photo: Robert Grace
Best Designed Exterior Lighting (presented by Varroc Lighting Systems) Lexus LC Convertible concept car. The judges said: "Flexible functionality; large screens with individual presets for multiple users."
Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. Photo: John Skabardonis
Best Production Vehicle (presented by Covestro Group) 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. The judges said: "The next best tribute to the Mustang ... what the car really represents."
Chief judges from left to right: Dave Marek, Stewart Reed, Joel Piatkowski, Paul Snyder. Photo: John Skabardonis
A crop of all-star judges
The 2019 EyesOn Design chief judges were Dave Marek,Acura global creative director for Honda R&D Americas Inc.; Joel Piatkowski, global director of design for cars and crossovers at Ford; Stewart Reed, chair of the Transportation Design Department at Pasadena's ArtCenter College of Design; and Paul Snyder, the Paul & Helen Farago Chair of Transportation Design at Detroit's College of Creative Studies. They were assisted by a team of 20 other experienced judges (see the full list here).
A touching tribute
The organizers paused the award presentations at Cobo Center to present a tribute to Chris Svensson, a recently retired Ford designer who succumbed to cancer last July at age 53. A British native, Svensson oversaw the development of many vehicles, including the GT supercar. He worked most recently as Ford's global design director for SUVs, trucks and commercial vehicles, after serving for nearly five years as the company's design director for the Americas.
How do you say "Lifetime Achievement" in Italian?
The EyesOn Design organization also presented its annual Lifetime Achievement Award to Italian designer Leonardo Fioravanti, who while working for Pininfarina designed numerous supercars, including the Ferrari Testarossa, as well as various concept vehicles.
The EyesOn Design Awards raise money for the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology, the research arm of the Henry Ford Health System's Department of Ophthalmology. The DIO says it knows that it is only with good vision that a person can fully appreciate the beauty of good design. The DIO, the institute states on its website, "takes part in the event in part to celebrate this focus on design, and also to raise money to support its goal of assisting and educating the visually impaired—helping them to maintain independence and dignity, while learning how to live a satisfying and productive life in a sighted world."
Celebrating the role of design
One of the event's first-time sponsors—Germany-based advanced-materials supplier Covestro—was also a first-time exhibitor in the auto show's Automobili-D exhibit area, and the only plastics producer exhibiting at the event. Its support "underscores the key role that design plays in turning the future of mobility into a functional, beautiful reality," said Paul Platte, senior marketing manager for automotive.
Best Production Vehicle award. Photo: John Skabardonis
Color me 'Sahara' bronze
Meantime, sponsor Axalta, made some news of its own, as well. The former DuPont Performance Coatings introduced its fifth Automotive Color of the Year. The 2019 hue it chose is called Sahara, a golden bronze tone, that Axalta says, "radiates warmth, richness and strength for vehicles of all sizes—especially the expanding global truck and SUV markets—and can serve as the principal color for two-tone possibilities including black roofs."
Yellow/gold vehicles are most popular in India and China, the company noted, while brown/beige vehicles increased in North America more than any other region. And for the first time in its five-year history, Axalta says its Automotive Color of the Year is showcasing a color primed for vehicle customization both at manufacturing facilities and in the aftermarket.
I'm a communicator, connector and creator, with a manufacturing-and business-focused journalistic background but with an affinity for design and a desire to get these groups to collaborate more closely and effectively.