Detroit Crowns a new Sketchmaster!

The past two years have seen the Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment™ organically grow from a small underground anti-black tie event to a design party so fun and over the top that even Jalopnik shows up to live stream!  Hundreds of people came to The Garden Theater on Woodward and helped raise over $6,000 for charity as they watched 17 designers battle head-to-head over 3 rounds for the title of Sketchmaster!


Created by Middlecott Design, a Detroit-based design consultancy and produced by AACS (Advanced Automotive Consulting Services), an Ann Arbor-based corporate strategy and business development firm, the Detroit event was the 9th since the inaugural event in September 2012.  Thousands of people have watched live as professional and student designers have sketched everything from headlights, to wheels and all the parts in between.  Along the way guests, contestants and sponsors have donated to various charities, always local and always vetted. The “Experiment” in the name of the Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment™ has been put to good use, as the event has at various times included graffiti artists, and a Car Battle, a moving/live car show .


The 2017 Detroit event was presented by BASF with supporting partners Kurz USA, Lacks Trim Systems, ABC GroupCovestroLinkage Design and M1 Concourse.  Before we let you know the winner, here is a small sampling of the fun you missed with a thanks and photo credit Ingo Rautenberg Fotografie.


A small crowd was already on hand before the doors opened at 7:00pm.  The 17 contestants arrived early with supplies in hand and made their way to the central table to find the their seat assigned by alphabetical order.  Some started sketching before the first round started, which I guess is like an athlete who stretches before the 100 meter dash.


The Winner gets a check!                                           Photo Credit: Jon Adams Design

Since they were seated in alphabetical order, let’s annouce the contestants the same way.  If you want to read their bios and see their portfolios go HERE!  Darby Barber (2015 Sketchmaster), Ian Bass, Ian Broeckman, Clay Davis, Aurel Francois, John Frye (2016 Los Angeles winner), Ryan Goimarac, Randy Hjelm, Aaron Hughes, Chris Kim, Katie Kleinhenz, Jonie Juan Lopez, Jack Morris, Kurt Scanlan, Siddhartha Shah, Casey Swasenger and Jason White.  Photo credits Brad Zieglar.

To judge the 3 rounds of sketching, a team of industry experts was assembled.  Led by Doyle Letson, Chief Design Interiors at Ford, the panel included Camilo Pardo and Marc Mainville, Design Manager at GM.  To read more about the judges check out their bios HERE.


Chief Judge Doyle Letson                      Photo Credit: Jon Adams Design

Round 1

Kurz Transfer Products – American Truck Interiors 

As a leading supplier of films for interior decorative trims, the Kurz Transfer Products round was to create a compelling concept interior sketch that rethinks the use of interior trim pieces focusing on American trucks -Full Sized SUVs and Pickups.  The contestants will be judged on the following three criteria:  A) New ways and places to incorporate decorative trim into the interior of a vehicle; new interpretation of materials.  B) Rethinking the actual decorative trim and how it can be functional and more than just a printed film; are imitation of real material still relevant or might there be a new way of interpretation and adding value to the decorative part. and C)  Sketch quality; how the sketch shows the idea and tells the story, level of craftsmanship and WOW.


Joerg Bachschuster of Kurz kicks off Round 1                  Photo Credit: Brad Zieglar



Photo Credit: Ingo Rautenberg Fotografie


Based on the Judging Panel’s evaluations, 8 Contestants made it through to Round 2.  Darby Barber, Ian Bass, John Frye, Ryan Goimarac, Randy Hejlm, Jonie Lopez, Casey Swasenger and Jason White.  An interesting split as it turns out 50% were Students and 50% were Professionals.


The Team behind the event: Judith Banham and Sarah Addy            Photo Credit: Brad Zieglar

Since 2014,  the Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment™ has been supporting local charities.  While the event is technically free to attend, we ask that all guests make a fully tax deductible donation to our charity of choice to gain entrance into our underground parties.  Past events have benefited The Suave Art Foundation, The Petersen Automotive Museum and others.  For 2017 we returned to Project Beautiful – Inside and Out because of the outstanding work they do “to build confidence and inspire hope as individuals and families – especially women in shelter and similar situations, in our community and beyond – rebuild their lives.”  We are happy to report that between donations at the door, the silent auction, individual donations after the event and the art car sketching, this year’s Sketcbattle raised over $6,000!


Project Beautiful Executive Director Doris Gilles and Sketchbattle creator Brook Banham discuss their great work                      Photo Credit: Ingo Rautenberg Fotografie


While the sketching was going on, event partner M1 Concourse was running their own battle on the main floor with the winner getting a full tarck day in their choice of Viper or Hellcat.  Guests were encouraged to provide their ideas on paper for the next Viper GT3 wrap that would be unveiled at the upcoming Autorama.  Congrats to winner Justin for his design that included numerous track maps.


Guests compete for a free M1 Concourse track day         Photo Credit: Brad Zieglar

As if the M1 contest wasn’t enough, guests were encouraged to donate to Project Beautiful to get a sharpie and a chance to sketch on a vintage Porsche 912 thanks to the work from Munk’s Motors and the car’s owner. 

And before we forget, the team from Mobsteel makes all of our title belts!  Mobsteel is a design / build car company that manufactures aftermarket products and builds custom cars, while celebrating the history of the automobile and the Motor City Detroit, Michigan. They start with Detroit’s finest vintage cars and turn them into modern day menacing street machines. The cars they build are a part of American History; vintage Detroit steel, not some fiberglass repro. Steel with a soul and a story. The blood, sweat and tears of our family and friends are in these motors, frames and bodies.


Round 2

Middlecott and AACS – Autonomous Convertible

After the recent Los Angeles show, and after seeing the 1 millionth uninspired autonomous pod concept, it occurred to me that the only way I would enjoy an autonomous vehicle was if it was a convertible.  I love my convertibles and nothing improves my mood faster than to drop the top, but in truth the passenger enjoys it even more.  So after discussing with my partner Brook, he created the idea to utilize this concept for our second round of competition – rethinking the idea of an autonomous car without a roof.  Judging criteria was identical to Round 1 – adherence to theme and Sketch quality; how the sketch shows the idea and tells the story, level of craftsmanship and WOW.



Jason Torchinsky of Jalopnik, snuck his way into the 2nd Round (sketch at top).  He didn’t make it to the final round                      Photo Credit: Ingo Rautenberg Fotographie

Based on the Judging Panel’s evaluations, 4 Contestants, only 1 which was a Student made it through to the Final Round.  Darby Barber, Ian Bass (student), John Frye, and Casey Swasenger.


Judges Marc Mainville and Camilo Pardo (Chief Judge Doyle Letson is hidden) discuss the merit of Ian Bass’s sketch                           Photo Credit: Brad Zieglar

Round 3

BASF – Use of Color

BASF is a leading automotive paint supplier was our partner for Round 3.  Contestants were asked to create a compelling story about a new color that is shown through a concept vehicle.  Judging criteria was unchanged, adherence to theme and sketch quality. Photo Credits Ingo Rautenberg Fotografie.



After 30 minutes of sketching, the contestants had their sketches placed on the sketchwall and the judges made their decision.  The final decision was unanimous.  Judge Camilo Pardo summed up their decision “I feel like I can learn something from that one”.

So, without any more delays,

we present the 2017 Sketchmaster – Casey Swasenger!


Having a great partner like BASF, and having the word “Experiment” allows us some leeway when it comes to our events, and here we get a great story about how it all works.  As the last two winners of the Sketchbattle have been professionals, BASF stepped up and with our support we made a decision to offer an additional prize to the top finishing Amateur/Student.  So, here is the first winner of the award, who receives a check in the amount of $1,000 compliments of BASF, Ian Bass of The College for Creative Studies.


Ian Bass is announced as the first winner of the Amateur/Student Award

In addition to our main partners, like Lacks Trim Systems which sponsored the VIP balcony upstairs, we also want to give a shout out to the rest of the great companies that make events like this happen.

Covestro is working hard with interior studios to develop materials that bring new levels of appearance and quality.  Linkage Design supports studios around the world with their elite mix of degreed industrial designers and digital modeling sculptors..  ABC Group provides the Design, Development and Production of plastic automotive systems and components for OEM’s worldwide.  IDRAW provides sketchbooks that spark creativity. And finally, if you liked my tie (many stopped ans asked me where I got it), I recommend checking out Tielab by Cyberoptix.

Brook and I couldn’t run an event of this magnitude without an awesome staff.  Judith is the unsung hero working tirelessly behind the scenes.  Satori Circus is our Master of Ceremonies and Detroit’s own Blue Man Group.  The Reverend Robert-David Jones spins mad tunes int he background and Dan Dimaggio runs our Video Screen.   Our event manager Erada and her staff of Destiny the Ring Girl, Robert, Aaron, Afi, Miles, Erin, Margo and Doc made this the first event where Brook and I actually got a chance to visit with guests.

And if you stuck around till the end, you got a chance to see the master at work.  Thanks to Camilo for sharing his sketching secrets.


Here is a photo gallery from our 3 photographers; 

Ingo Rautenberg Fotografie, Brad Zieglar and Jon Adams Design.

And here are the Step-n-Repeat photos

Feel free to share as long as you give them photo credit.

See you at the next Sketchbattle – stay tuned for a new city and date.


About Frank Schwartz

Frank Schwartz is the founder of and Advanced Automotive Consulting Services, partner in The Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment and serial entrepeneur. A long time automotive enthusiast, Frank started reading car magazines at the age of 8 and has spent 30+ years working inside the automotive industry. In his spare time Frank races with the Sports Car Club of America, spends time working on his numerous project cars and supports many local charities.
This entry was posted in Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Detroit Crowns a new Sketchmaster!

  1. John Bass says:

    Great story. Thanks for the coverage!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s