The winners of the inaugural Car Design News People Awards were revealed at a gala dinner in London

The team at Car Design News was thrilled to host its inaugural People Awards last night, a gala dinner in London’s Leicester Square that championed individuals and teams across all aspects of automotive design. 

While this is an industry where awards shows are not exactly lacking, the CDN team saw that in most cases it is the product that receives the award – without necessarily recognising the people behind it. The awards shone a spotlight not just on the design directors but also the creative talent at every level of the design process: from the CMF team to the UX designers and everyone in-between.

Below are the winners for all 14 categories – a reflection of the diverse nature of automotive design today – and the brief that designers had to follow.

Equality by Design Award – sponsored by Volvo Cars

The first award of the night went to the team at GAC. This category looked at the design of a space that is inclusive of diverse customer needs, offering thoughtful, functional and adaptive solutions for every passenger. The shortlisted entries were:

  • Ford
  • Fisker
  • GAC
  • Skoda

Lisa Reeves, head of interior design at Volvo Cars, presented the award to the team at GAC. The judges were impressed by the consistent attention paid to interior design, which identified and addressed differing passenger needs.

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GAC took home the award for Equality by Design 

Best Exterior Design Team – sponsored by Kia

This category was about awarding dynamic, visually exciting design created by the team that thinks beyond form to create a mould-breaking innovation that brings something new to the industry. Taking home the award was Polestar, which was up against hot competition including:

  • Kia
  • Lotus
  • Mahindra Design
  • Polestar
  • Rivian
  • Tata

Kia executive design director Peter Schreyer presented the award to the team at Polestar, which impressed judges with its sharp detailing, minimalist exteriors, and the ability to establish itself as a standalone brand.

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Polestar won Best Exterior Design Team at the awards 

Best lighting design team – sponsored by Autodesk

Taking home the trophy was the Skoda lighting team. This award aimed to reward the lighting designers who use light to convey modes of driving, interior ambience, enhance the UX, and communicate with the world outside the car.

  • Hyundai
  • Kia
  • Škoda
  • Tata
  • Volvo

Presenting the award was Pierre-Paul Andriani at Autodesk. The judges were impressed by Skoda’s unique lighting signature that sets the brand apart from its rivals. Honourable mention went to Volvo for their work on lighting.

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The team at Skoda celebrates winning the Best Lighting Team award 

Best Interior Design Team – sponsored by Ultrafabrics

Taking the trophy was Volvo. This award is for the team that uses combinations of materials and textures with a strong focus on sustainability, functionality and aesthetics to create class-leading interiors.

  • Dodge
  • Fisker
  • Lotus
  • Mahindra Design
  • Volvo

Presenting the award was Ultrafabrics’ automotive senior account manager for Europe, Emma Reynolds. The judges applauded how Volvo had drawn on its Scandinavian design heritage to lead the world in interior design with warm and minimal aesthetics. Honourable mention went to Dodge, who just missed out.

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Volvo took the award for Best Interior Design Team 

Best CMF Team – sponsored by Eleather

An unexpected double winner – the Land Rover Defender team and the Range Rover team – highlighted the work going on within the wider JLR group. For this category, judges were looking for an innovative use of materials and colour to create a strong, clear aesthetic that unifies exterior and interior design. The shortlist included:

  • Automobili Pininfarina Design Team
  • Italdesign
  • Land Rover Defender Team
  • Mahindra Design
  • Range Rover Team
  • SEAT S.A
  • Tata Motors

Presenting the award was Nico den Ouden, chief commercial officer at ELeather. Both teams demonstrated astute material and colours choice to raise the bar in the vehicle segment.

Undiscovered Talent – sponsored by GAC

The winner for this category was Ken Gan. Judges were looking for undiscovered design talent. Whether they be a recent graduate with a standout portfolio on the cusp of entering the professional ranks or a talented student taking the first steps in their design education. The full shortlist included: 

  • Alan Zachariah
  • Jakub Strpka
  • Jan-Frederik Niehues
  • Jonathon Allen
  • Ken Gan

The award was presented by Pontus Fontaeus, design director of GAC Advanced Design Los Angeles. The judges praised Ken Gan’s diverse and beautifully realised portfolio, which demonstrated his ease in designing a wide variety of cars and mobility projects.

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Ken Gan celebrates the award for Best Undiscovered Talent 

Most Sustainable Design Team – sponsored by Citroen

The trophy went to the team at Hyundai. This award was for the design team that has continued to push the boundaries in terms of materials, manufacturing, carbon footprint as well as offering scalable real-world solutions to the challenges of the environment. The shortlist was:

  • Automobili Pininfarina
  • Hyundai
  • Polestar
  • Spadaconcept

Announcing the winner was Pierre Leclercq, head of global design at Citroen. The judges praised what they described as an “astonishingly detailed submission” that proved Hyundai was prepared to walk the walk when it comes to sustainability.

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Hyundai took home the award for Most Sustainable Design Team

Best Clay Modeller – sponsored by Lotus

Harry Burgess from Tata Motors went home with this one. This award is for the person or team with an almost supernatural ability to render sketches in clay at quarter and full-scale at speed. The full shortlist included:

  • Yong Hou, GAC R&D CENTER
  • Mike Farnham and Genesis Design North America Modelling Team
  • Harshad Bosale, MIT Institute of Design, Pune
  • Rivian Clay Modelling Team
  • Harry Burgess, Tata Motors 

Presenting the award was senior vice president of Lotus design, Peter Horbury. The judges praised Harry’s consummate skill and dedication to his craft.

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Tata Motors’ Harry Burgess took home the award for Best Clay Modeller

Most Supportive Design Leader – sponsored by Konzepethaus

The award went to Volvo’s Robin Page. This category aimed to reward the designer who inspires their team to push the boundaries of automotive design through leadership, creating a supportive working culture and quick decision making. The full shortlist included:

  • Russell Carr, Lotus
  • Ben Payne, Lotus
  • Mark Stehrenberger, Mark Stehrenberger Design
  • Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan
  • Robin Page, Volvo

Presenting the award was Konzepthaus CEO, Martin Groschwald. Robin Page was praised for fostering a supportive and collaborative working environment which brings out the best in his team. Honourable mention went to Russell Carr from Lotus, who just missed out.

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Volvo’s Robin Page celebrates recieving the award for Most Supportive Design Leader 

Beyond Automotive Design Award – sponsored by Lilium

Taking the award was the Royal College of Art. This award rewards holistic and circular thinking within automotive design that goes beyond the traditional automotive tropes to integrate the issues of infrastructure, design sustainability, circularity, to affect positive cultural impact within vehicle design. The full shortlist was:

  • Harman
  • Hyundai Motor Corporation
  • Rinspeed Inc
  • Royal College of Art
  • Volvo

Presenting the award was Thomas Vanicek, head of design at Lilium. The judges praised the RCA’s careful reinvention of the academic programme and the unveiling of a new multi-disciplinary studio space, moving the college beyond the traditional confines of car design. 

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The Royal College of Art took home the award for Beyond Automotive Design 

Best Digital Modelling Team Award – sponsored by Linkage 

The winner was the Kia Digital Design Team. This award was for the person or team who can take the sketch and the package – proportions, dimensions and lines – and bring those parts to life in the virtual space. They will have demonstrated how they have refined the design through improvements to geometry, texture and colour.

The finalists included:

  • Ford Supervan Team
  • Geely Design
  • Kia Digital Design Team
  • RealNum
  • Rivian

Presenting the award was Richard Cashmore, UK country manager at Linkage. The judges remarked that Kia’s digital design team is at the heart of the reinvention of the brand which has “truly transformed itself.”

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The Kia team accepts the award for best digital design

Best Sketcher Award – sponsored by Mahindra Design

Taking the award for best sketcher was Xiaolin Xu from GAC. This category is for the best freehand line drawing of a production or concept car that was built, demonstrating consummate skill and mastery of the craft. 

The finalists were:

  • Tamir Mizrahi, Air
  • Xiaolin Xu, GAC
  • Zida Run, Mercedes Benz
  • Benjamin Perot, Polestar
  • Dan Forsgren, Volvo

Presenting the award was Cosimo Amadei, studio director at Mahindra Design’s MADE studio. Colleagues from GAC collecting the award on Xiaolin’s behalf. The judges were blown away by the skill, creativity and variety of Xiaolin Xu’s work – proof there is still a place for traditional techniques in an increasingly digital world.

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The team at GAC accepts the award for best sketcher on behalf of Xiaolin Xu

Best User Experience Design Team Award – sponsored by Dassault Systèmes

The award for best UX design team went to Rivian. This category was for the team that understands what it is to create an intuitive and user-friendly with a coherent and memorable aesthetic that strengthens the connection between the car and the customer.

Making up the shortlist was:

  • Incari
  • Majeed Dolatkhahi
  • Polestar
  • Rivian
  • Tata

There to present the award on stage was Thomas Balle, expert director, industry process, Catia Design at Dassault Systèmes. The judges were impressed by Rivian’s intuitive and aesthetically pleasing UX, “a measure of the value the brand places on this new element of car design.”

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The team at Rivian took home the award for best UX design

Best Branding Team Award – sponsored by Hyundai

Taking the award was Mahindra Design. At the core of this award, is strong messaging, graphic design and story combining to tell a compelling brand story that encapsulates the values of the OEM.

  • Harman
  • Kia
  • Mahindra Design
  • Polestar
  • Volvo

Presenting the award was Peter Schreyer of Hyundai. The judges commented on how Mahindra has been skilfully repositioned as a sophisticated global brand.

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The team at Mahindra Design accept their award for best branding