From Classroom to Showroom: Students Create Designs for Mazda

January 29, 2016—Every semester, Georgetown College Graphic Design and Animation Professor L. Collier Hyams challenges his Intro to Graphic Design students to create a series of exterior car art designs based on particular themes—and the results often find homes outside the classroom.

The current series placed a number of student works in the 2016 Washington Auto Show, and past students have developed art for Georgetown’s GUTS busses, the SafeRides logo, the IDEAA logo, and the GnuLab, as well as art cars for BMW and Mazda.

“We start the semester very hands on with an instinctual ink and paint on paper approach,” Hyams said. “We then begin research and discussion on the Art Car Series founded by Hervé Poulain in 1975 with the Alexander Caulder BMW 3.0CSL and follow with works from Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and the complete series. A design theme is chosen…and with [this] context in mind, the students begin creating five original designs each.”

This year, Hyams’ students focused on creating art for a Mazda CX-3, using “kodo”—which means “soul of motion” in Japanese—as the theme. “KODO” is also a design language for many of Mazda’s current models.

Mazda North American Operations director of design, Julien Montousse, selected the 2016 auto show winners from a pool of around 130 student entries from Hyams’ courses. Three Georgetown College students received top honors; Elle Vernerey’s “FLASH” placed first; Zack Bennett-Engler’s “HYPER” placed second; and first-year Katherine Lee’s “NATURE!” placed third. Vernerey and Bennet-Engler’s designs were featured on Mazda CX-3 vehicles, and Lee’s design was printed as a 22“ x 28“ wall-mount display.

“I wanted to evoke a sense of movement, particularly when I considered the theme of soul of motion,” said Vernerey (C’17). “As a whole, my design imitates the image of a meteor pushing through the atmosphere…I hope that it will make the viewer wonder what is behind or beyond the car, where the car is heading, and where it has been.”

For Bennett-Engler (C’18), Kodo “combines the force of motion with pure gracefulness.” His design features “lines that flow around the car originate from the front and stream off of the back, giving the impression that the car is accelerating through the air.”

Hyams is also featured in this year’s show for his Mazda Miata design “Sassy Lassie”—an homage to his grandfather, F. C. McPhearson, who spent years as a professional racing photographer during the 1950s and 1960s. “Some years ago,” explained Hyams, “I found a box of black and white photographs of amazing classic race cars in action on the gritty racing circuits of the day. What an inspiration!”

—Melissa Nyman

Related Information

The 2016 Washington Auto Show runs through January 31. For a detailed schedule of events, visit’s the show’s website.