The Kids Take Over – Sketchbattle Jr. Pilot Event

According to Sketchbattle JR. Co-Founder Frank Schwartz, “Sketching is a form of communication, so if you can sketch, you are technically bilingual”.  Original Sketchbattle Founder Brook Banham and Schwartz launched the pilot Sketchbattle JR. event in the west side industrial neighborhood of Detroit to encourage 10 to 18 year old students to explore their talents with the support of Wells Fargo Advisors Great Lakes’s Office.  As Banham added “As our children grow older, we tend to discourage their natural tendency to draw and regulate sketching to free time entertainment.  Yet sketching can lead to a lucrative career in design.”


Companies that invest in design show a 20-fold return on their investment according to a recent study.  This translates into the real world as we can see with companies like Apple and Ferrari.

SketchbattleJR2019-102In the auto industry, recent college Design graduates receive the same starting salaries as graduating engineers.  But the the recent emphasis on STEM education initiatives along with a decline in support for school’s art programs, means many people are not aware that a career in design even exists, much less that it can be financially rewarding.  Schwartz has a personal story that demonstrates this point.  “When I was a kid I drew cars all the time.  My mother gathered some of my sketches and sent them to some car companies. Ford was the only company that responded with a booklet about design and encouragement to continue.  When I got to high school and approached the guidance counselors they responded with ‘Yeah, that is not a real job.’  So I ended up pursuing a career in architecture.  It took me years to recover and return to my automotive passions.”

SketchbattleJR2019-2Earlier this year Banham and Schwartz took the successful Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment events and expanded the concept.  The previous events were re-branded as Sketchbattle Pro(TM), where the best designers compete head-to-head in a nightclub party atmosphere to award the Mobsteel Title Belt and large cash prize to the best designer.  A new Sketchbattle Team(TM) series of events was envisioned to allow Art and Design Colleges to compete in a home and away series against other schools. Since many do not have sports teams, the Team events are planned to encourage alumni to visit the campus and provide and enhanced student life experience.

SketchbattleJR2019-7The final part of the puzzle was the creation of Sketchbattle JR., an education initiative developed to encourage students to keep sketching, ignite a passion for design, and provide the parents with the tools and information so they can support their children’s aspirations.

SketchbattleJR2019-22The pilot Sketchbattle JR. event was structured with two tracks.  While the students were mentored and taught by professional designers from the area’s automotive companies, the parents, teachers, guardians and other adults were separated so they could listen to industry experts about college opportunities and the design career path.SketchbattleJR2019-56

During lunch Michael Smith, Digital Design, Tool Development Manager at Ford provided some insight on the design career opportunities at a company like Ford, as well as an overview of how a student can negotiate the process to expand their talents, gain college opportunities and eventually land their dream job.


In addition to the teaching opportunities, the event included a car show with vehicles provided by the some of the area’s auto enthusiasts.  Between the mentoring sessions the students were taken on a tour by their mentors which gave the opportunity to sit in and experience cars as diverse a 1955 Chevy Low Rider, classic 70s convertible, a race car, a VW Camper Bus, and a Viper and a Ferrari.


After the car show tour, the students who were interested competed in a low pressure sketching contest where they were asked to take their best sketch, and complete the story with details like what type of person would be driving the car, where would they take it, would the family go along on the trip and so on.  The judges Dave Lyon and Smith then picked a winner in each age group that demonstrated the best story, and the winners were awarded a 1-week class at the College of Creative Studies to further their education.


Today, colleges are scouting high schools for talent, like in sports, drafting football athletes. They do this because corporations are involved and looking to hire the most talented graduates.  Top design graduates often have multiple job offers and get to choose they wish to start their careers. Unfortunately, most high school students are ill-prepared, so the event hopes to engage with students and their parents, and provide a fun beginner sketch workshops to elevate their interest in design with a focus on sketching.


Banham added that “Design is very competitive. Literally whoever has the best sketch wins. This includes getting into the top design schools, getting the best jobs, or getting your design picked for production. Youth need that competitive edge for a head start and we developed this event to give them that start”


So was the event successful? Let’s ask the students, their parents and the event sponsors…. “encourages a child’s natural talents” “broadens perspectives” and “great to experience real world applications” the parents.  “it helped me learn to draw something new” “its fun to make new friends” “the car show was cool” “it was AWESOME” the students, “surpassed expectations” the sponsors.  In fact, the sponsors were asked to rate the Sketchbattle Jr. from 1-10 in a post-event survey, the average score? 9.85SketchbattleJR2019-128

The team at Sketchbattle are extremely appreciative of the many people who volunteered their time for the event, the biggest group of which were the mentors/instructors.

Sketchbattle JR was held as a fund raiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters Detroit chapter.  Many thanks to their volunteers who helped with registration and providing the background checks for the volunteers.SketchbattleJR2019-13.jpg

Buhl Sport Detroit provided the Lafayette Garage for our event. The garage also hosts Cars and Coffee and teen driving events and is available for rent.SketchbattleJR2019-3SketchbattleJR2019-1

Thank you to Blick Art for providing the drawing and sketching supplies for the students.SketchbattleJR2019-84.jpg

Our partner Mattel and Hot Wheels provided some premium die casts to serve as inspiration for the sketchers and support their vision to “inspire the wonder of childhood!”


Local karting track Kart2Kart also provided some free racing passes to the students.


And finally, thank you to The College for Creative Studies for awarding the summer classes to our winners.SketchbattleJR2019-185SketchbattleJR2019-179

SB JR booklet_master-page-010To see the full photo album, click here


Judges Dave Lyon and Michael Smith have a dilemma choosing the winners

Future events are planned

around the country


If you want to keep up with Sketchbattle Jr, have a student join a future event or just get general updates,       please join our Facebook page.

If your company would like more information about being a part of future Sketchbattle Jr events, please reach out to us at


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, Passion Projects, Sketchbattle JR and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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