General Motors designer Ken Parkinson says since auto makers began turning their attention to quality and durability, striking design has emerged as a way to stand out from the crowd. A well-executed design evokes an emotional effect, and says something about the person who buys the vehicle.

“Are the surfaces, lines, materials and execution compelling enough to draw people to say, ‘I’ll take it’?” he says. “In the end, it is a balance of these and other important attributes that bring someone to sign on the bottom line.”

In the past, certain segments demanded more design focus, such as coupes and convertibles. Now the midsize-sedan category is receiving styling makeovers with the likes of the Fusion and Hyundai Sonata and auto makers now are turning their attention to trucks and utility vehicles.

Imbuing style into a vehicle often used for work duty, such as a pickup, SUV or cross/utility vehicle, that typically is taller and wider, poses hurdles, but designers say they are ready for the challenge.

Hunter points to the redesigned ’14 Toyota Tundra pickup that blends style and functionality. “Sometimes big (vehicles) can be an asset, because the user wants to feel the vehicle is capable and rugged,” he says. “Sometimes size can benefit that experience and image.”

Mays believes designing a truck takes a different mindset. “There are designers on our team that are the best truck designers in the world, but that’s not the designers you’d necessarily want on Fusion,” he says, noting styling matters in every segment.

“A lot of my job is casting,” Mays says. “I cast the right player for the part, and if I can put the right designer on the right program, 95% of the work is done.”