Spotlight on Transportation Design alumna Michelle Christensen

Transportation Design alumna Michele Christensen inside the 2010 Acura ZDX she designed.

Yes, transportation design is still an industry dominated by males. But things are changing and these days female designers, while still a minority, are no longer a rarity.

One of the more dramatic success stories of recent memory is Transportation Design alumna Michelle Christensen, who graduated from Art Center in 2005. While still a student at the College, Christensen began working on a groundbreaking design that caught the attention of Acura recruiters. Immediately after graduating, she was hired at Acura and became that company’s first female exterior car designer.

She spent the next several years transforming her class project into what eventually became the groundbreaking 2010 Acura ZDX crossover vehicle. “We’ve worked on almost nothing else for three years,” she told The New York Times of the process of bringing the ZDX to life, just as it was preparing to make its debut at the 2009 New York Auto Show. “You have to fight for, and justify, every element.”

What made Christensen interested in designing cars? “Growing up, my interests ranged from sketching prom dresses for friends to wanting to work in a pit crew for a racing team,” Christensen told Marie Claire in 2010. “In junior high I learned about exterior car design; it was the perfect melding of my interests in design, cars, and working with my hands.”

Later that same year, in an episode of the online show Moto-Man that focused exclusively on the ZDX, Christensen told host George Notaras that she first became aware of Art Center and car design as a profession when her dad, at a Bay Area car show, pointed out Art Center alumnus Chip Foose TRAN ’90 in the crowd.

“I asked him who Chip Foose was and he said, ‘He’s a car designer,” said Christensen. ‘And I thought, whoa, pump the brakes, he’s a what? I want to do that!”

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