Meet the Judges for Sketchbattle 15

Professional and student designers will be fighting to the death for the title of World Champion Sketchmaster when Sketchbattle 15 presented by BASF returns to its home in Detroit.  The “Fight Club of Design” party has visited multiple cities including Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco since its inception in 2012.  This event, the 15th in the series, features a live sketching competition, great music and an art show on Tuesday, January 15th from 7-midnight at world famous Saint Andrew’s Hall.  Over the years the event has been judged by a unique cross-industry of experts and design luminaries such as Camilo Pardo, Ralph Gilles of FCA, Doyle Letson of Ford, Bregt Ectors of GM and many others.  The panel gets to choose who receives the $2500 top prize by BASF.  For Detroit 2019, Helen Emsley of GM will be the Chief Judge, and will be joined by Ryan Nagode of FCA, Jeff Hammoud of Rivian and Adam Rabinowitz of Calty Toyota, along with guest judge Paul Czornij of BASF each themed round.


Chief Judge Helen Emsley


Helen Emsley
Executive Director of Design – Global Buick and GMC
General Motors Corporation

Inspired from young age to combine an appreciation for fashion design and family ties to England’s transportation industry, Helen Emsley, a native of Great Britain, has found vocational and creative passions fulfilled as a member of General Motors’ Global Design leadership team.  In August 2016, she was named Executive Director, Global Buick and GMC Design, which was an expansion of her role as Executive Director of Design for Global GMC and User Experience, a position she held since 2013.

“Helen has a track record for getting the best work out of her teams, and now she has an opportunity to build on Buick’s momentum and strengthen the dynamic in the U.S. and China,” said Michael Simcoe, vice president of GM Global Design.  As the champion of both the Buick and GMC brands, Emsley provides strategic design guidance and day-to-day leadership to the exterior and interior studios. Most recently, she and her team helped launch the much anticipated 2019 GMC Sierra, 2018 GMC Terrain, and the 2017 GMC Acadia.

Honing her artistic talents and future trend sensibilities during her graduate and undergraduate course work at the Royal College of Art in London and Birmingham Polytechnic, respectively, Emsley credits a fortuitous introduction to now retired VP of GM Design, Wayne Cherry, at her final Master’s exhibition that led to the job offer in his Opel Design studios in Rüsselsheim, Germany in October 1989.  That was 26 years ago and today her excitement for the job is as effusive as her praise for the talented people she works with.

In 2018, she was named to AutoCar’s 100 most Influential Women in British Automotive and was honored as the top Designer, an honor she has now received twice.  In addition, she was twice named one of the “100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry” by Automotive News in 2000 and 2015.

“My work style is open and free in every way,” says Emsley. “I have an office, but I prefer to sit with my team in the studio to keep the dialog flowing and the atmosphere fun.  I don’t need to micro-manage; everyone I work with is so talented; my job is to support them.”

When she is not working, Helen finds inspiration being mom.  She has brought many learnings from her adventures traveling with her son, Connor, who loves technology.   He has provided many insights into features that she has demanded be included in her vehicles for families.  Helen and her husband, Dave, enjoy restoring their historic 1920s home, music, travel, and reading.

Judge Jeff Hammoud


Jeff is responsible for leading Rivian’s vehicle design which includes interior, exterior, digital and clay sculpting design.  Jeff is extremely focused and passionate about design and detailed execution.  His experience includes the design and integration of engineering for numerous production vehicles.

Prior to Rivian, Jeff served as Chief of Design for the Jeep brand and passenger car interiors at FCA.  Jeff was personally responsible for the design and execution of the current Jeep Grand Cherokee as well as leading design teams to launch various core company vehicles for both interior and exterior.

Jeff earned a degree in Transportation Design from the College for Creative Studies.

Judge Ryan Nagode


Ryan C. Nagode
Chief Designer, Ram Truck/Dodge/Performance Interior Studios & Interior Systems, FCA US LLC

Ryan Nagode is Chief Designer, Ram Truck/Dodge/Performance Interior Studios & Interior Systems – FCA US LLC. Ryan attended the Cleveland institute of Art, majoring in industrial design, which includes product/toys and automotive design. Since joining the company right out of school in 2003 as a Product Designer, Ryan has held a variety of positions of increasing responsibility. Today, Ryan is responsible for developing a cohesive and consistent interior design language that represents each brand and its heritage. Ryan led the interior design of the all-new 2019 Ram 1500.

Ryan loves bringing attention to the details within the teams’ designs and always looks for creative ways to overcome challenges. He attributes this to his diverse upbringing and experiences as the son of a toy designer.

In his spare time, Ryan volunteers at charity events, including Life Remodeled. Ryan also serves on the board for Caden’s Car Show/Full Throttle Event, organized through the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Judge Adam Rabinowitz


Adam Rabinowitz
Exterior Chief Designer
Toyota Calty Design Research Ann Arbor

Adam Rabinowitz is currently an Exterior Chief Designer for Toyota/Lexus, at Calty Design Research in Ann Arbor Michigan.  At Calty their main goal is to create innovative vehicle designs that reflect US tastes as well as other global markets. Adam has 12 years of experience on two continents with extensive exterior and interior hands on knowledge.

“Global experience has taught me that it takes more than just great designers to make great cars. Design is not only about the individual. Making great products is a result of a great team. Like automobiles themselves, what makes a great vehicle is how the parts come together and complement each other, offering the best experience for the end user.”

“As a leader, design brings on a whole new definition and it is no longer only about my personal vision but supporting my team to realize theirs. Every day is exciting knowing that what we do today will shape the future of tomorrow!”

Rabinowitz is passionate about automobiles and design. He is a diehard car guy and working in the automotive industry in styling is his childhood dream come true.

Guest Judge


For the Championship Round, the theme is BASF’s color “AURORA GOLD”, and the panel will be joined by Paul Czornij.  Czornij is Head of Design for the BASF Color Excellence Group.  Read more about the rounds tomorrow.

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.


The Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment™ is presented by

            AACS and Middlecott Design.

AACS_diagram_whitelogoAACS (Advanced Automotive Consulting Services, LLC) is a business development consultancy working in all aspects of the automotive industry.  AACS specializes in helping automotive suppliers with their difficult objectives like introducing new technologies, expanding business onto new continents or breaking down walls to bring in new customers. We are experts in customer engagement!

b58cab33960182-56be35ad7e1fbMIDDLECOTT Design is an international design organization based in Detroit, Michigan. As Detroit’s premier design consultancy, MIDDLECOTT will supercharge your brand through its award-winning formula of high-octane design.

For the 2019 auto show edition of the Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment™, we are proud to bring together the Detroit Art and Business Community with assorted engineers, designers and gearheads to celebrate Automotive Design, all the while benefiting Project Beautiful – Inside and Out.  

Slide1Project Beautiful – Inside and Out is a  501(c)(3) non-profit organization that was created “to build confidence and inspire hope as individuals and families …in our community…. rebuild their lives”.   This is especially important for women in shelters and similar situations.  The charity provides some “niceties” in addition to the “necessities” (a roof over their heads, meals, clothing, etc.) which will help build confidence and inspire hope in these individuals when they need it most.

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.
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