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EyesOn Design Awards 2010

by Joanna Scott    27 Jan 2010

Outstanding achievement in automotive design was recognized at the fifth annual EyesOn Design Awards held at the 2010 NAIAS in Detroit in January. Top honors were awarded to the GMC Granite urban utility vehicle in the Best Concept Vehicle category, and the Audi A8 luxury sedan for Best Production Vehicle.Frank Saucedo, Director of GM Design's California studio, and Clay Dean, Executive Director GM Advanced Global Design, accepted the award for the GMC Granite Concept and acknowledged the importance of recognition from their design peers.

Making its worldwide debut in Detroit, the Granite shows a new design direction for General Motors, and if brought to market would be the smallest GMC on the road. Dave Lyon, Executive Director of North American Interior and Global Cross-Brand Design has described the Granite as "a precision instrument wrapped in a protective, industrial case".

The GMC Granite beat off competition from the Nissan Mixim, Revenge Verde Supercar, and the Audi e-tron which were all finalists in the concept category.

Wolfgang Egger, head of Audi and Lamborghini design, was welcomed to the stage to accept the Award for Design Excellence for the 2011 Audi A8 in the production category. The judges commented on the exceptionality of the vehicle.

It is the second year in a row that Audi designers have been honored by the EyesOn Design judging panel after the Audi R8 V10 and Audi A7 Sportback Concept (awarded alongside the Cadillac Converj Concept) took glory in both award categories last year.

The Audi A8 stole the spotlight from the Bentley Mulsanne, Fiat 500, Ford Focus, and Lincoln MKX that all featured in this year's final shortlist.

Only vehicles debuting at the NAIAS qualify for the EyesOn Design Awards. Although the Audi A8 was unveiled at Miami's Design Week in November 2009, it is Detroit that proves to be the car's official global auto show debut.
A who's who in transportation and industrial design made up this year's judging panel of current and former design executives from automotive manufacturers as well as leading academics.
Tom Gale, founding chairman for the EyesOn Design Awards and former head of design for Chrysler (now retired), reinforced Michigan's prominence in automotive design. "Design is of fundamental importance to the economy of Michigan," he said. "Chrysler, General Motors, Ford, Hyundai, Toyota... all have large studios here, as do hundreds of suppliers who [contribute to] the design and engineering process. This makes Michigan the design centre of North America."

There was no doubt that a new sense of optimism was in the air at the Detroit Auto Show. William ‘Willie' G Davidson, Senior Vice President and Chief Styling Officer of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and one of the chief judges of the awards, spoke of "a renaissance in design taking place right now". He said: "As this industry reinvents itself, design becomes more important to visually tell the story of the future. New alternative powertrains create new opportunities for designers to give birth to new design direction. I think that the challenge is going to be to develop vehicles that have strong brand identity and are ‘cool'. I've spent most of my life trying to do that with our two-wheelers. If these new style vehicles can get people emotionally wrapped up in them... [then] we're going to move forward."

Chief judge Tom Matano, Executive Director of Industrial Design at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, echoed the positive vibe. "Designers are always very optimistic about the future - you can see that on the show floor today," he said. Matano added that he was also impressed with the selection of smaller cars being shown at the Detroit Auto Show. He stated that while consumers had historically, never really had the passion to own small, economical cars, "now, they are the cars you really want to own and be proud of".

EyesOn Design panel judge Anne Asensio, Vice President Design Experience for sponsor Dassault Systèmes and former Executive Director of Advanced Design at GM, talked of an industry with "greater responsibility" and one that could "think beyond boundaries". About 80 per cent of the vehicles at this year's Detroit Auto Show had, according to Asensio, been designed using the company's CATIA software. Asensio rallied the designer audience and called for "fresh perspectives" and "innovative use of software" and stated that the automotive industry was in the midst of a revolution in design tools that would radically change its development, design and production processes. "Social innovation," Asensio commented, "is at the core of transformation."

The EyesOn Design awards are presented by the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology (DIO) - an internationally recognized non-profit organization that supports the visually impaired and facilitates research related to the eye. The next EyesOn Design event - the Automotive Design Show with the theme 2010: The Evolution of Automotive Design - takes place in Michigan in June.