GM Design Celebrates 85 Years

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The design studio that gave us massive tail fins, the Corvette, and many others is marking a milestone.

It's been 85 years since General Motors started their design department, which was actually two decades after the company launched its first car. The growing automotive giant clearly saw the need for influential and dazzling design if they wanted to go beyond what they currently were. The result of their efforts changed the way the world looked at cars. Over the years, some of the most iconic models began their life in the GM design studio, such as the Corvette, Camaro, and countless others from brands still around and others who've left us along the way.

Under the guidance of famed design directors such as Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell, the studio set the standard for how other automakers crafted the looks of their cars. Earl, and industrial engineer by training, was the first to make use of clay models, the wraparound windshield, the hardtop sedan, and those famous tail-fins that adorned Cadillacs of the 1950s.

GM Design is still going strong today with Ed Welburn now sitting in the director's office. He's only the sixth GM design chief in 104 years, but unlike his predecessors, he now heads a global operation. He's responsible for a total of 10 design studios that employ about 1,900 people. According to Welburn, "our global team is united around its passion for designing vehicles that make an emotional connection with customers. What was true 85 years ago is still true today: a designer's role is to create a beautifully executed exterior with great proportion to draw you in, and an interior environment that invites you into a relationship that develops and grows."

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Welburn acted as the honorary chairman of the 25th annual EyesOn Design Automotive Design Exhibition that was held last Sunday. The event raised funds for the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology. So here's to GM Design's illustrious past and their future creations.


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