‘Fight Club’ of car design showcases Detroit as global talent hub

As the auto industry descends upon Detroit this week for the North American International Auto Show, automotive designers and art students will gather for what is referred to as the Fight Club of Design—the Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment.

Now in its sixth year, Sketchbattle, billed as an underground industry blowout, puts automotive design and sketching in the limelight.



“Car design is becoming increasingly exciting, especially as we look at new mobility solutions like shared or even autonomous vehicle functionality,” says Brook Banham, partner and designer for Middlescott Design. “As the ways consumers interact and use their vehicles change, so will the design.”

Banham created the event in 2012 to bring attention to Detroit as the center of the automotive design world. Advanced Automotive Consulting Services Founding Principal Frank Schwartz joined forces the following year as the two began working towards a shared vision of ‘design as a talent on par with athletics.’


“The goal of Sketchbattle is to expose the general public to design as a career and to encourage people to explore their artistic talents,” says Schwartz. “More importantly we want to showcase Detroit as the center of automotive design to the world all while benefitting local charities.”

The 2018 Sketchbattle Experiment will feature more than a dozen designers, all competing live as they sketch original car designs in real-time. The event is the culmination of 2017 Sketchbattle competitions at the Las Vegas and Los Angles auto shows, as well as top contenders from around the globe.

Similar to a boxing match, the evening starts with an introduction and entrance of the contestants. In the rounds, contestants have 30 minutes to sketch a design that matches the theme. Contestants will be designing a futuristic vehicle utilizing Harman Audio Systems, a unique vehicle featuring a special BASF paint color, and a cutting edge vehicle with Lacks Enterprises wheels and grilles. After each round the sketches are judged by a panel of distinguished automotive executives including Jim Fleming, director of exterior design for Cadillac; Mark Trostle, head of Dodge and SRT design for FCA; and Michael Smith, manager of talent acquisition for Ford.

This one-night only event, features designers battling for a $2,500 cash prize, a title belt from Detroit’s own Mobsteel, and the recognition of being the World Sketchmaster Champion.

Tickets for the Tuesday, Jan. 16 event can be purchased online or at the door. All proceeds benefit Project Beautiful Inside and Out, 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.

Middlecott is a design studio in downtown Detroit specializing in industrial design, graphic design, transportation design, branding and illustration. Advanced Automotive Consulting Services is a Corporate Strategy and Business Development firm specializing in automotive suppliers headquartered in Ann Arbor with offices in California and North Carolina.
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