Celebrating artistic vision in the auto industry, the annual EyesOn Design Awards were created by folks who know a lot about vision and are chosen by a panel that knows a lot about automotive artistry: The Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology presents the honors each year in conjunction with the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, to help raise money for its not-for-profit work for the visually impaired; meanwhile, a who’s who of automotive design stars—like the Chrysler Group’s Ralph Gilles, Peter Schreyer of Kia, and Franz von Holhauzen, from Tesla—does the judging.
And apparently, this year’s task was unexpectedly difficult. The Cadillac ELR extended-range electric vehicle was the EyesOn Design winner in the production vehicle category, but the awards jury was unable to reach a consensus when it came to honoring a concept. As a result, prizes went to both the Ford Atlas—which previews the coming replacement for the 2013 Ford F-150—and the Nissan Resonance crossover, designed to showcase a new design direction for a post-2013 Nissan Murano.
2013 EyesOn Design Awards: Cadillac ELR
The Cadillac ELR relies on a further evolution of the Art & Science design language first introduced to the public on the precursor to the 2013 Cadillac CTS, and showcases an “aerodynamically artistic exterior … practically unchanged from the award-winning Converj concept that inspired it.” It’s just that only now is the rest of the industry starting to catch up to those show-car looks, which also bear just the right amount of resemblance to those of the 2013 Cadillac CTS Coupe.
Differentiating the two, however, are the ELR’s fast-forward stance and details like its new iteration of Cadillac’s traditional vertically shaped taillights. In the ELR, those lights have an added dimensionality that draws the eye right into the car’s aggressive side character lines.
“No other luxury car maker with a broad portfolio has a vehicle like ELR,” said Mark Adams, executive director of Global Cadillac Design. “The Cadillac brand has been building momentum for the past 10 years, and it is uniquely positioned to push to the next level by bringing this level of technology to market in a relevant and compelling way.”
2013 EyesOn Design Awards: Ford Atlas
As the Blue Oval’s design guru J Mays explained about the Ford Atlas, “We wanted the concept to reflect how Ford trucks help customers in both their worlds—professionally and personally. Every surface and feature in the vehicle has been crafted for purpose and capability while retaining an unmistakable Built Ford Tough look.”
Thus, although the Atlas ably fulfill its mission, and does show an angrier, more chiseled look, especially up front, the truck’s overall appearance doesn’t take things much beyond today’s 2013 Ford F-150. Instead, where Ford designers really stand out is in their ability to integrate a wide array of new technologies, from active wheel shutters to a new dual-mode tailgate step/bed extender, into the truck’s “purpose-driven design.”
Well, there and in the truck’s cabin, where a sculpted dash hosts “floating” instrument pods for a futuristic-yet-functional aesthetic that’s enhanced by ambient lighting, angular design cues (even on the steering wheel), and long, flowing lines.
EyesOn Design Awards 2013: Nissan Resonance
Now, in theory, the Nissan Resonance provides clues about the future style of Nissan’s crossover lineup, taking up the design mantle of products like the 2013 Nissan Murano. But unlike the Ford Atlas, the Resonance showcases the kind of dramatic, cutting-edge design that most people think of when they think of an auto show concept vehicle—which would mean a particularly bold entry even for Nissan.
Of course, that kind of thinking explicitly informed the design of the vehicle, according to Francois Bancon, Nissan’s division general manager, Product Strategy and Planning: "Resonance is meant to be provocative, energetic and engaging—even polarizing. Its edgy yet sophisticated design, combined with an environmentally sensitive powertrain and intelligent utility provides a clear, exciting view into the future of crossover innovation.
"This design is not meant to appeal to traditional two-box SUV shoppers, but rather to those whose fashion and design choices make a statement. For Nissan, this concept makes our statement about the future of this segment."