This fall will see the European launch of the new Mercedes-Benz GLK SUV. With its striking design, combining the rugged form of an authentic off-roader with the archetypal styling of all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, this model is destined to set new standards in the SUV world. To mark the launch of the new GLK, Mercedes-Benz has devised a unique design competition that extends way beyond the parameters of automotive design: "The design:project". In short, the Stuttgart manufacturer is inviting entries from students at six European universities and also offering design fans an opportunity to take a look at their creative work in progress.

The design project is characterized by three phases that last in total for six months. "The:contest", "The:insight", and "The:place" offer an unseen and exciting insight into the new GLK. "For a Mercedes-Benz, the GLK features a completely new type of form. And thanks to its distinctive design, it offers a new approach to the world of the brand Mercedes-Benz," says Dr. Olaf Goettgens, Vice President Brand Communications Mercedes-Benz Cars. "At the same time, our design competition gives us an opportunity to communicate with a new, young target group and to encourage them to engage with the Mercedes-Benz brand and design."

"The contest" interdisciplinary design competition

The European design competition is an initiative of Professor Peter Pfeiffer, long-standing Chief Designer at Mercedes-Benz, who is due to retire this summer. The GLK is the very last masterpiece of Mercedes-Benz design created under his aegis. The aim of the project is to fire the imagination of design students from six European design capitals with the groundbreaking styling of the new off-roader and to inspire them to produce some exceptional design creations of their own. The six participating universities have each been asked to put together an interdisciplinary team, which must then create, by the end of July, various objects in different design areas, such as furniture, everyday objects, and technical equipment, all of which are in line with an overarching theme developed especially for this competition. The designs can be submitted in any form, ranging from sketches, graphics, and drawings to CAD designs, animations, and models. The condition is that all the objects and designs of each design team should be presentable within a surface area measuring 10 x 15 meters. The works submitted will then be judged by an international jury of experts. The team that produces the most stringent interpretation of the creative leitmotif across all the design disciplines will be rewarded with a cash prize of €10,000. In addition, there is a special prize of €5,000 for the most outstanding individual design, irrespective of the leitmotif.
The participating universities are as follows: the Istituto Europeo di Design in Barcelona, the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Budapest, the Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften in Hamburg, the École Cantonale d'Art de Lausanne (ECAL), the Istituto Marangoni in Milan, and the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

"The insight": A trip to Europe's design capitals

Mercedes-Benz is also inviting design fans from throughout Europeto drop in on the participating design teams in June or July and take a look at the work in progress. Via the special GLK website (, anyone interested can now apply for the chance to win a two-day trip to one of the six European design capitals. The schedule will feature not only studio visits but also an opportunity to discover, in the company of the participating design students, some of the destination's trendiest bars, restaurants, and clubs as well as its architectural highlights. A camera team will accompany the winners throughout their trip and record their experiences.

"The:place" design show at national GLK launches

From the end of September, the design objects created for the competition, as well as the film and photo reports documenting the visits of the design fans, will go on public display at the national launch of the new GLK at selected European locations. Design students will therefore have an opportunity to present their work to a large audience.