Prodigious Design: The Hands Behind Acura’s New NSX

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One of the most anticipated releases at this year’s North American International Auto Show was the redesigned Acura NSX, which promised supercar performance from a reliable vehicle from 1990 to 2005.

(See Also: 2016 Acura NSX Revealed)

When it was first introduced, the Honda NSX was presented as the culmination of 10 years of research and development. It was comprised of countless new advances, such as an all-aluminum monocoque, electric power-assisted steering, variable valve timing and four-channel anti-lock brakes, all of which have since been adopted by nearly ever manufacturer.

In 2013, the NSX Concept made a debut at the 2013 New York Auto Show, and the world held its breath, waiting for the production model that Honda and Acura found worthy of carrying the NSX badge. Not even two years later, it’s finally arrived, and unlike so many other landmark designs, this NSX came with a heavy dose of a woman’s touch.

Michelle Christensen with the NSX at the North American International Auto Show
Michelle Christensen with the NSX at the North American International Auto Show

Michelle Christensen is the person behind the monumental exterior design of the second generation NSX, and she’s just 34 years old. The LA Times had a chance to speak with her in a Jan. 11 article, and found out that Christensen isn’t just a quick study – she’s an exceptional designer. Christensen’s understanding of the design process’s complexity came quickly, and though the NSX redesign was the first project she was head of, the result is more than a success.

“It looks fast even when it’s parked,” Mike Accavitti, Acura General Manager, told the LA Times. “It is the ultimate expression of the Acura brand.”

Her first major design went to production when she was just 25 years old and an incredibly recent hire at Honda’s design team. In March 2013, USA Today ran an article detailing the creation of Acura’s ZDX, a crossover SUV created to fill a hole in Acura’s model lineup.


An in-house design contest pointed out those holes, and though she didn’t get to head up the project, Christensen’s concept was the winner. Autonews.com published an article in October of 2009 about the competition, saying she remained involved in the design and production process until the end.

“I’d say 85 to 90 percent of my concept is still there,” Christensen said to Autonews.com. “I’ve been staring at it for a couple years, but when I look at my original sketches, it’s really close.”

She takes her inspiration from a variety of fields and experiences, ranging from the provocative designs of Alexander McQueen’s triple-buckle boots, as she told Marie Claire in September of 2010, to the smell of gas and the sound of an engine from the cars her dad used to work on. This stark contrast helped bridge the necessities of function and beauty in the NSX’s new design, every inch of which needed to serve a purpose.


“The result had what Christensen terms ’emotional surfaces’ that demand attention and imply movement,” described the Times’ article. It explained how she understands that great design requires a sense of storytelling to sell the design language, something that the second generation NSX displays in spades.

We’ll be counting down the days until we get to see Christensen’s design in person and test it out on the road, but until then, we’ll look forward to seeing her next great work of automotive art.


[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”105″ gal_title=”2016 Acura NSX”]

(Source: LA Times, Marie Claire, Autonews.com, USA Today)

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