The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Senior takes first in Mazda challenge, showcases design

Theresa Civantos | Wednesday, November 28, 2007

While most Notre Dame students watched football and ate turkey last weekend, senior Mallory McMorrow took the spotlight at the L.A. Auto Show as the winner of Mazda’s nationwide car-designing competition.

An industrial design student, McMorrow submitted a sketch and a 150-word statement to the Mazda Design Challenge without thinking her vision of a 2018 compact sports car would win the top prize. But it did – and her vision evolved from a paper sketch to a full-scale clay model at the L.A. Auto Show, which ran from Nov. 16-25.

“I had no idea I would win,” McMorrow said.

The competition, aimed at college students, asked participants to imagine the Mazda3 of 2018 and accepted proposals from Sept. 25 to Oct. 12. McMorrow said they received 400 entries. The Mazda Design Team of North America “voted and hand-picked the top 10 ideas,” according to the competition’s official Facebook group. These finalists were announced Oct. 16 and the online voters narrowed them down to five by the end of the month.

McMorrow and the other four designers then worked with the Mazda Design Team to produce a final sketch of the 2018 Mazda3 for the final round of voting. McMorrow’s win was announced Nov. 6.

“The voting was all on Facebook,” she said. .

As part of her prize, Mazda flew McMorrow to California to attend the L.A. Auto Show, where she worked with Franz von Holzhausen – director of design for Mazda North American Operations – and his team to turn her design into a full-scale clay model. The model was unveiled Nov. 24.

“This was the first time a car company ever designed a car live at an auto show,” she said. “We built a full-scale model out of clay in front of everyone. One kid asked if the car was made of chocolate.”

The clay model lacked an interior, showing that “they were looking at shape, proportion, exterior features – not really at an inside at all,” McMorrow said.

Winning the competition is a big step toward her career goals, she said.

“It’s a big deal… I think it will help a lot,” McMorrow said.

That career may begin with the internship Mazda offered her following her performance at the L.A. Auto Show.

“They’re holding up a spot for me,” she said.

But she shared her victory with the entire design department, saying that though Notre Dame is not famous for its achievements in industrial design, she is convinced her liberal arts education prepared her for the challenge.

“I think the liberal arts at Notre Dame helped me come out first,” she said. “Mazda really wanted to get strong ideas rather than just flashy drawing. They wanted substance, not just a kid who can draw.”

She said she doesn’t think her original sketch of the design is what garnered her the top spot.

“Just based on the 2-D design, I don’t think I would have made it,” McMorrow said.

What made her an outstanding participant, she said, must have been the strength of her essay.

And maybe her gender, she said.

“[The fact I’m a woman] impacted the way a lot of people looked at me… I hadn’t really realized it, but there’s still a stigma.”

Her trip to California showed McMorrow there is a big market for female car designers.

“It felt really cool having these little girls come up to me saying, ‘I love drawing cars!’ and having a girl say I was her inspiration,” McMorrow said.

She said the competition was internationally publicized in places like India and China, getting her the kind of exposure she could not have found at Notre Dame.

“This was a random, open competition, nothing to do with Notre Dame… one thing I learned from this is, take advantage of outside opportunities,” McMorrow said.