DETROIT – Design excellence was the focus of a full day of sessions and speakers at the 2015 WardsAuto Interiors Conference here, and a special part of the agenda recognized winners of an annual design competition among transportation-design students at the College for Creative Studies.  

The competition started in January as part of a 15-week senior-level class sponsored by WardsAuto and interior suppliers Lear and International Automotive Components.

The assignment was to design an interior for a 2030 compact CUV with self-driving capabilities.

Ten seniors from the Transportation Design Dept. at CCS took on the challenge.

Five finalists were announced in April during the 2015 SAE World Congress and the winners were honored May 13 at the conference here in front of an audience of more than 600 automotive designers and engineers.

Jeongyoo Kim won the grand prize for a concept that features modular seating and a centrally located steering wheel that allows front-seat occupants to face rear-seat passengers during autonomous driving, but also provides a strong, highly bolstered center seat to provide necessary support during off-roading adventures.

Seung Joong Kim received the IAC EcoBlend Award for his elegant, minimalist design that emphasizes sustainable materials and is inspired by modular wooden furniture. The EcoBlend Award goes to the student whose design or concept best embraces green mobility or uses lightweight renewable/recyclable materials and other Earth-friendly innovations.

Zehao Liu won the Lear Design Innovation Award for his imaginative Honda compact CUV that incorporates use of a Honda Uni-Cub electric unicycle for enhanced personal mobility.

The students began their assignment with a tour of the North American International Auto Show in January. There, they saw firsthand small CUVs and SUVs currently available in the U.S., guided by class instructor Brian Stoeckel, a designer at General Motors.

They then worked through March developing and refining their concepts.

The final projects were judged by a panel of top auto industry designers: Robert Walker, chief designer-Jeep Brand Interiors at FCA; Ariel Choi, lead designer, Calty Design Research; Teckla Rhoads, executive director-Global Industrial Design for General Motors; and Milijan Jevremovic, a senior designer at Toyota.

The student projects were on display at the WardsAuto Interiors Conference at the newly renovated Cobo Center in Detroit.