a statue of a person in an orange spacesuit standing next to Hyperion car
Hyperion is betting on hydrogen fuel and created a Space Age concept car to attract attendees.

feature / alumni / transportation-design
December 21, 2022
By Emily Logan


ArtCenter Alumni Lead a More Climate Conscious Industry

“What I love most about the L.A. Auto Show is that it functions as an informal reunion of ArtCenter’s Transportation Design alumni,” said ArtCenter President Karen Hofmann at this year’s show. Year after year, this reunion takes place at the L.A. Convention Center, attracting media outlets like MotorTrend and Car Design News, automotive enthusiasts, car designers, families and more to see the latest and greatest designs in the world of mobility.

Though the 2022 L.A. Auto Show (LAAS) described its focus as being on electrification, culture, future mobility and connectivity, what was crystal clear is that the automotive industry is actively reimagining itself as more climate conscious. Everything from the parade of electrified vehicles to orange jumpsuit-clad astronauts promoting hydrogen fuel power made it apparent that the industry knows that becoming environmentally friendly is more than just good for the planet—it’s a strong selling point.

The Bulgari Fiat 500 concept car takes center stage. “Beauty and duty” is the slogan to support sustainability, nothing is too precious to be reused in the vehicle, which is one of three to be auctioned off to raise money to fight climate change.

At Fiat’s press conference, the automaker announced its aggressive electrification goals and displayed three one-off electric concept vehicles that it will auction off—with the help of Leonardo DiCaprio—to raise money to fight climate change. Designed with Italian brands Armani, Kartell and Bulgari, these sustainable luxury vehicles include features like a dashboard fascia upholstered with heritage Bulgari silk scarves and a steering wheel displaying a removeable brooch holding three semi-precious stones.

Fiat is part of the Stellantis corporation. Among those in the crowd was Ralph Giles, friend of the College and head of Stellantis Design. This past term, ArtCenter paired up with Stellantis and UK-based 3D design platform Gravity Sketch on a Sponsored Project in which students were tasked with designing the next Jeep Wrangler.

From L to R: SangYup Lee, global head of design, Genesis, and alum; Luc Donckerwolke, chief creative officer and president of Hyundai Motor Group, and alum; Ed Loh, head of editorial, MotorTrend Group; José Muñez, chief operating officer, Hyundai Motor Company; Claudia Marquez, chief operating officer, Genesis Motor North America.

At the Genesis press conference, ArtCenter alum and Hyundai’s chief creative officer and president Luc Donckerwolke (BS 91) was named World Car Person of the Year 2022 by World Car Awards. This award recognizes automotive industry professionals who have made a significant impact in the year leading up to the award.

“Since its introduction, the Genesis brand has grown to receive many accolades,” said Donckerwolke. “I am privileged to be part of the creation, launch and development of the brand alongside many of my esteemed colleagues.” Additionally, Genesis’ new G90 vehicle was named 2023 MotorTrend Car of the Year.

Another winner was the Hyundai Ioniq 5 which won 2023 MotorTrend SUV of the Year, the first fully electric vehicle to win that award. Alum and Global Head of Design at Genesis Motors SangYup Lee (BS 99) oversees the Ioniq 5.

Over the course of 10 days, ArtCenter Transportation Design department hosted free sketching workshops with ArtCenter instructors Steve Eastwood (BS 99) and Mark Clarke at the LA Auto Show.
ArtCenter student Glen George, whose Meyers Manx model was displayed at the ArtCenter booth, is pictured talking about sketching cars with Peter Schreyer, Hyundai Motor Group’s executive design advisor; Stewart Reed, chair, ArtCenter Transportation Design; and Freeman Thomas, Meyers Manx CEO and alum.

For the duration of the show, ArtCenter student work was also exhibited, including concepts developed for Meyers Manx, the California company that created the original Dune Buggy, which became synonymous with beach culture.

Meyers Manx is expanding into new vehicle segments, like electrification, and pushing the industry in new directions. The company challenged students to imagine fun and playful driving experiences for the next generation. “[The Meyers Manx studio course] was the first time I did a project with such a high level of expectation,” said Glen George, a current student whose Meyers Manx model was on display at the show, adding that they were encouraged to think outside the box. “There was so much freedom and newness with the way the class worked.”

Alum Freeman Thomas with Karen Hofmann in the new battery-electric Meyers Manx 2.0 dune buggy which morphs a '60s icon into a modern EV.

“I’ve been grinning about this pinch-me moment in the driver’s seat of the new battery-electric Meyers Manx 2.0 dune buggy,” Hofmann exclaimed after visiting the ArtCenter booth and mingling with alums and current students. “Beyond the thrill of piloting a machine synonymous with a joy ride, it was a particular honor to have alum Freeman Thomas show me his latest creation,” added Hofmann who, as an ArtCenter student, watched alums Thomas (BS 83) and J Mays (BS 80) present the Concept One VW Beetle at the College’s L.A. Times Auditorium. “It was one of those truly transformative experiences that influenced my senior project and so much more.”

Throughout the run of the show, ArtCenter also hosted free sketching workshops with instructors Steve Eastwood (BS 99) and Mark Clarke to more than 100 local middle school and high school students. “It is always great to partner with the LA Auto Show to give attendees a glimpse into how vehicles are designed,” said Jay Sanders, executive director of ArtCenter’s undergraduate Transportation Design department. “It’s exciting to help inspire young men and women to consider car design as a potential future career.”

Karen Hofmann chats with alum Bruno Gallardo and Jay Sanders about the need to stay current on creative technology. Entrepreneur Gallardo is taking ACX courses to learn as much as possible.
From L to R, are Jay Sanders, executive director, ArtCenter Transportation Design; Freeman Thomas, Meyers Manx CEO and alum; J Mays, world-renowned vehicle designer; Karen Hofmann, ArtCenter president; Stewart Reed, chair, ArtCenter Transportation Design; Frank Saucedo, Meyers Manx chief operating officer and alum; Peter Schreyer, Hyundai Motor Group’s executive design advisor; Mark Moushegian, design manager, Stellantis and alum.

ArtCenter’s Transportation Design program offers a bachelor’s degree in Transportation Design, a master’s degree in Transportation Systems and Design, and a number of extension courses (offered in person and online) that allow people of all ages and skill levels to explore the basics of car design. Not only does this give a behind the scenes look in the creation of cars, it serves as a fantastic networking opportunity for current ArtCenter students to meet their favorite car designers. ArtCenter Extension courses are offered for adults, teens and kids.