A Short History of the Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment™

With the Los Angeles Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment™ presented by BASF just around the corner at Automobility LA,  here is a brief history of past events and winners, and what they are doing now.IMG_0674

Detroit September 2012

The first ever Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment™ was held in the design offices of Middlecott Design just over 5 years ago.  Judges included Camilo Pardo, Kyle Evans, a senior designer at FCA, Chris Turner, Chiwei Lee, Chief Strategist at Facebook’s Detroit Creative Shop and Larry Erickson, Designer at Rivian Automotive.  The winner was Buffalo Huang, then a student at the College for Creative Studies who has now gone on to a successful career at Pininfarina.

Detroit January 2013

With the success of the inaugural event, the following January the first Sketchbattle was held in conjunction with an auto show.  To handle the additional guests, the location was moved to the Kunsthalle Museum of Light.  Camilo Pardo and Kyle Evans returned to judge the event and were joined by Judith Banham, partner in Middlecott Design, Matt Lisk, a faculty member at the College for Creative Studies and Bethany Shorb.  The second crowned winner was Angelo Villalba, then a student at the College for Creative Studies and now a Designer for the Brunswick Boat Group.

Detroit September 2013

With the word “Experiment” in the title, event creator Brook Banham has always been willing to try something different.  In association with the Detroit Design Festival and Design in Motion, the fall 2013 event did not feature any sketching.  Instead contestants were invited to try their hand at Graffiti and the event was held outdoors on Grand River’s famous graffiti row.  There was even a break dancing competition and a moving car show where owners were asked to “present” their cars on a closed stretch of road (yes, there were burnouts).  Judges were Bethany Schorb and ARMY and the winner of the first graffiti Sketchbattle was JMAK.


Detroit January 2014

The story of how the Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment™ ended up at the Tangent Gallery has already been toldFor this event the “Experiment” was to move the party to Friday night after the Black Tie Charity event.  Robert Walker, Chief Interior Designer of Jeep was joined by Craig Mackiewicz of Thinklabs and IDSA and Kyle Evans to judge.  This was also the first event where the winner was called the Sketchmaster.  It was also the first event where Moibsteel made a trophy.  Graham Wright took home the overall win.

Detroit September 2014

The fall Design in Motion event returned to the Tangent Gallery and once again featured a roving car show and Graffiti battle.  But the addition of an indoor space allowed a Sketchbattle to take place indoors.  Alex Klatt, formerly of Fisker and the Chair of MFA at the College for Creative Studies was the Chief Judge and joined by Larry Erickson and Camilo Pardo.  Stephen Leu, a student at Lawrence Tech University and now a Creative Designer on Interiors for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was crowned the Sketchmaster.

Detroit January 2015

The Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment™ returned to the Tangent Gallery for the 2015 North American International Auto Show.  Robert Walker returned as Chief Judge, now at his new position as Interior Design Chief at Ford.  Joining Walker was Dan Danancou, Vice President of CH Automotive and Alikhan Kuljanov, Senior Lead Designer for Buick Interiors and owner of All The Sketches.  Fresh off her appearance on Motor City Masters, Darby Barber, a student at the College for Creative Studies took home the title.  Barber is now a creative designer at General Motors.

Detroit January 2016

2016 was a year of change for the Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment™, but the Tangent gallery was by now a fixture.  Ralph Gilles, Head of Fiat Chrysler Design came onboard as the Chief Judge and was joined by Kemal Curic, Chief Designer Ford Performance exterior and Bregt Ectors, Strategic Design Manager for Buick.  For the first time, a Sketchmaster was chosen who traveled from out of town to the event.  Omar Gonzalez, a student at Art Center at Night, was crowned the winner.  This is the first event where a belt was awarded along with the cash prize.  Gonzalez, now enrolled full time at Art Center, is a fixture at our events, having competed in LA 2016, LV 2017 and is competing this week.

Los Angeles November 2016

The first ever Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment™ held outside Detroit was last year as an official part of the Los Angeles International Auto Show and Automobility LA.  The Sketchbattle was held at the Petersen Museum and Chief Judge was Chris Benjamin, Head of Interior Design at FCA.  He was joined by Bryan Thompson of Bryan Thompson Design and Michael DiTullo, Head of Design for Polk Audio,  John Frye, Digital Modeling Group Leader at Honda was the first ever professional (all previous winners were students) crowned the Sketchmaster and will be back this week to defend his crown.

Detroit January 2017

The desire to expand parking caused the Detroit event to move venues for the first time in years.  Chief Judge Doyle Letson, Chief Interior Designer for Ford was joined by Marc Mainville, Design Manager for GM’s Component Group and Camilo Pardo to form the judging panel.  The winner was Casey Swasenger, a Designer at GM.  For the first time a second cash prize was awarded to the top finishing student, Ian Bass from the College for Creative Studies.  Bass is scheduled to graduate next year so we are excited to see where he ends up.

Las Vegas November 2017

The Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment™ continues to expand to new cities and venues.  For SEMA 2017 the Sketchbattle came to downtown Las Vegas and concentrated on the aftermarket.  Tim Anness, Head of Jeep Exterior Design was chosen as the Chief Judge, and joined by Adam Genei, owner of Mobsteel and Camilo Pardo.  Daney Chhang, a designer at Embraer Jets was awarded the title of Sketchmaster and will be in LA this week to try to win the Los Angeles belt.

“The SKETCHMASTERS” Sketchbattle Winners List

  1. Detroit September 2012, Buffalo Huang/CCS now at Pininfarina
  2. Detroit January 2013, Angelo Villalba/CCS now at Brunswick Boat Works
  3. Detroit September 2013, no sketching competition
  4. Detroit January 2014, Graham Wright/CCS
  5. Detroit September 2014, Stephen Leu/LTU now at Fiat Chrysler
  6. Detroit January 2015, Darby Barber/CCS now at GM
  7. Detroit January 2016, Omar Gonzalez/Art Center
  8. Los Angeles November 2016, John Frye/Honda (Art Center)
  9. Detroit January 2017, Casey Swasenger/GM (Cleveland Institute of Art)
  10. Las Vegas November 2017, Daney Chhang/Embraer Jets (Art Center)

23795176_1521359451284321_4686959511265436874_nSchool Comparison:

  • College for Creative Studies = 4 wins
  • Art Center College of Design = 3 wins
  • Lawrence Tech School of Design = 1 win
  • Cleveland Institute of Art = 1 win

jon adams 12417967_10156400496030162_8197252827639627976_nList of Distinguished Judges

  • FCA – Ralph Gilles, Chris Benjamin, Tim Anness, Kyle Evans
  • Ford – Doyle Letson, Robert Walker, Kemal Curic, Chiwei Lee
  • GM – Bregt Ectors, Marc Mainville, Alikhan Kuljavov
  • CH Auto – Dan Darancou
  • Karma – Alex Klatt
  • Rivian – Larry Erickson
  • Others – Camilo Pardo, Bryan Thompson, Michael DiTullo, Craig Mackiewicz, Chris Turner, Bethany Schorb, Judith Banham, Matt Lisk

Jon Adams Photo Sketchbattle partners, Brook Banham and Frank Schwartz.jpgBe sure to come back this week to read the rest of the story:

And don’t forget to make a donation in advance

We expect a rather long line at the event and having your tickets in advance will shorten your queue time.  Also don’t forget we support students with deeply discounted advance tickets.MSBE Los Angeles presented by BASF v_7

Tickets for the 2017 LA event can be found here


About Frank Schwartz

Frank Schwartz is the founder of CarFriend.me 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.
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