ArtCenter Student Earns Inaugural Global Bold Perspective Award for Innovative Car-of-the-Future Design

Zehao “West” Zhang vision portrays autonomous vehicle for urban nomads

Published : Monday, November 25, 2019 | 5:37 AM

A student from Pasadena’s ArtCenter College of Design won the top prize in the first-ever Magna Global Bold Perspective Award, presented at the Car Design News LA Forum held last Wednesday, November 20, during the opening day of the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Zehao “West” Zhang submitted his design as he was taking up his BS in Transportation Design at ArtCenter. He finished the course in December 2018. Previous to that, he took up general accounting at Pasadena City College. He now works as a junior automotive interior designer with Geely Design, with offices and a design studio in South Pasadena.

Zhang was declared the North America winner of the Magna Global Bold Perspective Award, which required young designers based in Europe, North America and China to develop innovative vehicle exterior designs for 20 to 30 years into the future.

He designed an autonomous vehicle for urban nomads, which actually took influence from a Volkswagen campervan. In his design portfolio, Zhang asked the question: “Why should I spend 20K a year paying for someone else’s home when I can build my own and take it with me?”

To illustrate the design, he created the futuristic persona Gee Xili, who lives a peripatetic life, revolving around creativity and travel. The car has to allow for cooking, bathing, sleeping but also have space for sketching, a tablet and a computer.

Xili lives in a capsule hotel paying high rents, and when he gets a job as a freelance designer in Tokyo, he books the urban nomad service for nine hours a day; he can customise the interior as he likes. The nine hours concept also comes with access to the “living port” which the vehicle plugs into at night, giving him access to laundry, shower, restroom, security and battery charge.

One of the judges, Jay Shuster, from Pixar Animation, described Zhang’s project as the “most complete thought and presentation in the group.”

“It addresses an important aspect of life for many people right now: how to affordably support oneself in over-populated city-centres while maintaining a job and life,” Shuster said in a statement released by Car Design News.

“Zhang’s thoughtful concept met the challenge of designing what vehicles might look like in 20 to 30 years by addressing the growing needs of overcrowded cities, while also creating a very personalized and human concept,” said Larry Erickson, global director of Magna’s Exteriors Design Group, who presented the awards.

Zhang also received a $5,000 cash reward from the organizers.

To learn more about Zehao “West” Zhang and his work, visit his website,

The competition’s third best award was given to Dennis Stephan, another ArtCenter Transportation Design student who’s completing his course in 2020.

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