13 Aug 18

Winning design: The story behind Formula E's new championship trophy

Winning the ABB FIA Formula E championship sure ain't easy. Just ask our newly crowned champion Jean-Eric Vergne (Techeetah Formula E), who clinched the title one race early in the Season 4 finale in New York City. To get there, the Frenchman fought his way to the front, surviving 12 rounds on the streets of 10 different countries on five different continents. He deserves a medal for that, right?

Well, sort of. Only we took it a little further than that. Ahead of the season finale, we partnered up with the prestigious Central Saint Martins art college in London, who put forward four of their finest product design graduates to design new, bespoke trophies for the all-electric racing series.

Following a brief set by Formula E and Central Saint Martins in the winter and spring of 2017/18, the students set about imagining new trophy concepts. These radical new designs needed to reflect not only the raw talent and ability to survive multiple rounds of unforgiving city street racing but also embody Formula E's founding principles, all in one beautiful handheld sculpture. Simple, no?

Several weeks, pages of concept sketches and a handful of models later and the students were ready to present their work to a panel of Formula E representatives. Judging the work was Formula E's Head of Design Steven Aspinall, Marketing Director Ben Padley, and Alberto Longo, the series' co-founder and COO. "To collaborate with a world-renowned creative institution like Central Saint Martins was an honour," says Aspinall, a former student of the college. "The creativity of the graduates and their interpretation of our brand was refreshing to see. We wanted to create championship trophies that would be uniquely Formula E."

Once reviewed, it was back to the drawing board for many of the designers, acting on the feedback from the panel to hone and develop their ideas into a polished prototype. "My creative process for this kind of brief was researching the market, getting to know the brand and getting to know the identity," explains designer Sarunas Plyskaitis. "After that, brainstorming the ideas, generating concepts and 3D as well." For Ellen Nyqvist, designing a trophy was a whole new world for the Swedish-born creative. "I'm really new to this kind of sport world, and when you get the knowledge, I just start to sketch - I'm kind of thinking with the pens," she explains.

After weeks of work and many late nights, a selection of prototypes stood proudly before the Formula E panel, awaiting a final decision on which design would become a reality. "We chose two winning designs because we felt that Ellen's design was really, really unique...it's like a piece of art - a conversation piece," said Aspinall, reflecting on his decision. Regarding Sarunas Plyskaitis' trophy, "he's taken the idea of our logo and just put so much movement into it - when you see them all lined up, they just look great," added Formula E's design chief. With the winner decided, Nyqvist's layered design, inspired by Formula E’s city circuits was chosen as the all-important championship trophy and presented to new champ Vergne on the podium in New York City. “It's by far the highlight of my career - clearly. No question about it," declared the Frenchman at the time, moments after stepping down from the podium and still firmly clutching the new trophy. Aside from its striking design, which represents Formula E's favourite tracks, as chosen by the fans, the award carries a poem, written by the Nyqvist and subtly inscribed along the edge of the gold track:

“Formula E. Adrenaline still pumping like electricity in your veins, zoom out from your tunnel vision and let your eyes meet the audience.

Let it sink in, embrace it. When you hold me, it’s all calm again. Like the world is catching her breath. Everything you went for, what made your heartbeat raise, what made your foot press the pedal, is now history.

A history you made, a history you’re holding in your hands, a history setting the lead towards the future.”

For Plyskaitis' design, inspired by Formula E's logo, the trophies will be presented to the first three drivers across the line in Season 5 of the championship. But choosing the winning designs was just the beginning. Working to turn the prototypes into polished products was down to trophy production company Special EFX, which built the sculptures from scratch, sourcing the finest materials and assembling them by hand. With each podium finisher getting to keep their award, it’s a little different for the championship trophy, where the winning driver will receive a replica, while the original is kept on display at Formula E’s headquarters in London.

For now, however, our champion - and his hard-earned trophy can rest - but not for long. In just a matter of months, we'll be right back at it, with 22 brand new cars and 11 teams lining up on the start line in Saudi Arabia for Season 5 of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship. A new era, with new cars, new rules, new circuits and, thanks to the work of our designers, a selection of shiny new trophies. Who will claim them? Join us to find out. It's going to be one hell of a ride.