Welburn Captures Lifetime Design Achievement Award

He was GM's just sixth-ever design chief.

by on Dec.07, 2017

Ed Welburn shows off the new trophy that will be given to the 2017 North American Car and Truck of the Year winners.

GM’s former chief designer Ed Welburn has been named the recipient of the 2018 Eyes on Deisgn Lifetime Achievement Award. The annual award is unique in that the selection is made by the previous winners of the award.

This group includes scores of well-known design executives, including Chris Bangle, Nuncio Bertone, Wayne Cherry, Walter de Silva, Willie G. Davidson, Tom Gale, Giorgetto Giugiaro, Chuck Jordan, Robert Lutz, Syd Mead, Shiro Nakamura, Patrick le Quement, Sergio Pininfarina, Stewart Reed, Peter Schreyer and Jack Telnack.

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The award will be presented to Welburn next June during the annual Eyes on Design weekend, which culminate in the annual automotive design exhibition, held every Father’s Day on the lakefront grounds of the Eleanor & Edsel Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores outside Detroit.
Welburn, who has been described “the man who brought beauty back to GM,”  was just the sixth head of design for General Motors. He was also the first to lead the division on a global level, placing him in the same company as such design legends as Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell.

Ed Welburn was not only the first African-American design chief but only the sixth man to head design for General Motors.

(Former GM Design Chief heads list of 2017 HOF inductees. Click Here for the story.)

During his 44-year career, Welburn oversaw many designs, including those for the Corvette, Cadillac Escalade and the revived Chevrolet Camaro along with such concept cars as the Oldsmobile Aerotech, the Cadillac Ciel and the Buick Avista.

Welburn decided early on that a career in automotive design was for him, sketching cars as a young child and writing his first letter to GM when he was 11. The company responded, and he followed their recommendations, studying design, sculpture and painting at Howard University’s school of fine arts, which led to a college internship with GM in 1971

(Click Here for more about the retired GM design chief designing the NACTOY trophy.)

One year later, he became the first African American hired to design vehicles at GM, and he’s never looked back. Besides creating the striking cars, he also designed several pace cars for the Indianapolis 500 and the most recent presidential limousine.

In 2016, GM dedicated its Center for African American Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts in Welburn’s honor. In 2017, he was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame and was awarded an honorary doctorate of fine arts by the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.

(For more about Welburn’s newly designed trophy, Click Here.)

Since his retirement from GM in 2016, he’s launched The Welburn Group, a design consultancy. He also continues to advise GM Design on its new facility in Warren, Michigan.

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