‘Fight Club’ of car design returns to Detroit for one-night battle of artistic proportions

As the lights dim on day two of the North American International Auto Show Press Preview (NAIAS), a crowd will be gathering for an underground battle of automotive design at the seventh annual Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment.

Billed as the “Fight Club” of car design, Sketchbattle brings automotive designers and art students into the limelight for a night of competitive sketching as they compete for a $2,500 grand prize and the title of “International Sketchmaster.”

“Our goal is to build exposure and excitement around careers in design,” says Brook Banham, partner and designer for Middlecott Design. “More importantly, we want to showcase Detroit as the global epicenter of automotive design.”

Created by Banham in 2012, Sketchbattle aims to put Detroit automotive designers on display to a global audience. Banham was joined a year later as a partner by Frank Schwartz, owner of Advanced Automotive Consulting Services (AACS). With AACS’s support the event has grown to multiple locations around the country and soon to be International. Artists compete in a live sketching "deathmatch", competing as they create original car designs in real-time. Designs reflect unique concepts inspired by the impending changes coming to transportation in the future.

“Vehicle design is becoming increasingly innovative, especially as we think about what transportation is going to look like in a future where technology changes the way consumers experience connected mobility,” said Glenn Stevens, vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives for the Detroit Regional Chamber and executive director of MICHauto and a second-year supporter of Sketchbattle.

“With autonomous and shared technologies, our interaction with cars is going to change and vehicle design is going to play a huge role in determining that relationship.”This year’s Sketchbattle—held on Tuesday, Jan. 15 at St. Andrews Hall in Detroit, will feature 16 designers, including the winners from the Las Vegas and Los Angeles events competing against last year's Detroit winner and the best competitors from around the globe. The sketches will be judged by a panel of design luminaries including Chief Judge will be Helen Emsley, Executive Direct of Design, Global GMC and Buick at General Motors. She will be joined by Jeff Hammoud, Vice President of Design for Rivian, Ryan Nagode, Chief Designer Commercial Truck and Performance Interiors at Fiat Chrysler and Adam Rabinowitz, Chief Designer Exteriors at Toyota Calty.

“Sketchbattle has grown immensely since our first in Detroit,” said Banham. “And while the Motor City will always be our home base, we are anticipating continued growth and expansion to new cities where we can bring excitement to auto design.”

Schwartz added “Even though we will soon have events around the globe, they are always done with a Detroit-based aesthetic. Detroit is out home and we always bring the winners from the other locations to Detroit for a best-of-the-best showdown”.

Tickets for the Tuesday, Jan. 15 event can be purchased online or at the door. All proceeds benefit Project Beautiful, a Detroit-area organization dedicated to building confidence and inspire hope as individuals and families—especially women in shelters and similar situations—rebuild their lives.

Sketchbattle will also include a custom car display and special guests from the hit TV series Mobsteel, music by DJ Nemo, and a silent auction including racing and art related items.

Signup for Email Alerts

Related Content

  • North American International Auto Show
    Detroit is where future mobility innovations meet the pavement. With the largest concentration of the world’s top automotive and technology executives, designers, engineers and thought leaders, the North American International Auto Show serves ...
  • MICHauto