Woman makes mark in auto design world

PASADENA, Calif. The 2010 Acura ZDX is a morphing of coupe, sedan and SUV in a distinctive shape drawn by a young local woman.

"To get the opportunity to sketch with a team and come up with something totally new and just totally blue sky was overwhelming and really exciting," said Michele Christensen.

Michele grabbed the brass ring right out of design school. Her initial sketch got the ball rolling on the project.

"Michele has just been wonderful for the studio, give a new perspective from a female perspective, but also just an alternative perspective to what was already there, so that sketch was super refreshing," said Damon Schell, design team leader.

Michelle and the others on the design team had been toiling away on the ZDX for some time. When she joined other Acura staff at the media launch of the car, she had never even driven the vehicle, so ABC7's Dave Kunz insisted she take a spin.

"This is so cool," she said.

Michele is a true California girl, growing up in a car family in San Jose. She is now living a car designer's dream, working in a studio in Southern California.

As a young girl, she spent countless hours helping her father in the garage. To get her future career on the right path, she enrolled at Art Center College in Pasadena, one of the top schools in the world for transportation design.

"Hard to get into, hard to get through, it's kind of a designer boot camp. But I think the result is amazing, and there's a lot of people in the industry that are your instructors, so it's like a big four-year interview," Michele said.

But the long boot camp experience has obviously paid off for this young designer. Her first project is setting Acura on a bold new course, and she's setting off on her own career course, shaping the cars of the future.

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