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Detroit 2019: The EyesOn Design Awards

15 January 2019 | by Chris Maillard

Once again, the Detroit show’s design awards rolled into action, with an absolutely top-class jury touring the show to decide on their picks for the prizes. The judges included Anne Asensio of Dassault, Chris Benjamin of FCA, ex-GM legend Wayne Cherry, Lincoln’s Kemal Curic, Dan Darancou of Qiantu, Karim Habib of Infiniti, Kevin Hunter of Toyota,  GM’s Michael Simcoe and many other industry design luminaries.

In what was a fairly thin year for both concepts and production launches, the judges’ decisions threw up a few surprises, but there was at least one clear winner across all the categories. So without further ado, here are the winners:

Most Innovative Use of Colour, Graphics or Materials

The winner here was the Infiniti QX Inspiration, which mixed marble with wood, gold with wool and leather to very impressive effect. We have, of course, written all about it here. design head Karim Habib took to the stage to accept the award, generously handing over the podium immediately to interior designer Mie Tanake, who was suitably overawed and grateful. 


Best Designed Interior

This was another win for the Infiniti QX Inspiration team – Karim Habib again handed over to one of his team, this time Takuga Karasawa, Interior Design Manager, to collect the award. The two Infiniti interior designers looked utterly delighted and overawed; it was apparently their first time at a major show, and their first time facing the media and attending awards ceremonies like this. We hope they don't expect it all to be this good (though to be fair, they did have to endure the heartbreaking disaster of the concept not arriving in time for its own unveiling).


Best Designed Exterior Lighting

The winner of this was one of the few other concepts at the show, though it was very largely a production car with a neatly executed convertible roof chop. However, it was the lighting that was being judged here, and the Lexus LC Convertible got the judges’ votes.


Best Production Vehicle

After a very touching tribute to the late Chris Svensson of Ford, who had been responsible for cars like the Ford GT and very involved with the Mustang, it was perhaps unsurprising that the award went to the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, which was one of his last projects. The muscle car was a reminder that when it comes to unashamed performance, America still holds some cards.


Best Concept Vehicle

After the previous results, it came as no great surprise to find Karim Habib and his team being called up to the stage to receive the event’s major award. The Infiniti QX Inspiration was definitely the standout concept of the show, though if they weren‘t both so civilised we’d imagine Habib’s boss Alfonso Albaisa being a little miffed that his sharp-edged Nissan IMs was overlooked. It’s Infiniti’s second year running, though Nissan won in 2017. 


Lifetime Achievement Award

The annual tribute to one of the design world’s legends found a worthy recipient this year, with Leonardo Fioravanti, one of the giants of Italian car design, being honoured. He designed some of the most desirable supercars ever as well as a string of fascinating and adventurous concepts. Well deserved.


And now, a word from our sponsors

The event, which supports a very good cause in the form of a charity that funds research into vision and helps blind and visually impaired people, was supported by some very generous sponsors. As it’s a good cause, we’d like to give them a name check, so a large thank you to the following:

  • ABC Technologies – Best Designed Interior Award
  • Varroc Lighting Systems – Best Designed Exterior Lighting
  • Dassault Systemes – Best Designed Concept Vehicle
  • Axalta – Innovative Use of Color, Graphics or Materials
  • Covestro LLC – Best Designed Production Vehicle
  • Toray International America, Ultrasuede – Red Carpet sponsor