Philip Mason was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the late 1960's. Growing up in the 70's and 80's as an only child, during a time of social growth and pop icons, things seemed larger than life.
Early on, his grandmother, Mimi, exposed Philip to all manner of art. She became a great influence in his energy, teaching him to paint, encouraging him to draw from nature, and instilling the love of art in all its forms. Since Mimi lived in Boca Raton with her husband, Poompa, Philip and his mother spent most of the important holidays in Florida. These were special times for him and certainly continue to motivate his passions.
Continuously drawing and sketching throughout grade school, while not playing hockey or outside playing ball with the neighborhood kids, Philip began to gain some recognition at an early age. He was approached in eighth grade to create illustrations for a comic book of regional acclaim. After completing the ten page layouts the company refused to pay, saying he was to young to have produced the artwork. Undisturbed, he continued to draw and hone his talent.
High school led to many local awards and commissions for various companies. Philip was offered a draftsman position in a major firm at sixteen after winning a contest and scholarship from the Birmingham Bloomfield JayCees. During this time he won the most talented artist award at his high school, Brother Rice HS, every year until graduation when he relinquished it to an upcoming freshman.
For college, he received full scholarship offers from both Cranbrook Academy and College For Creative Studies, but was "encouraged" to attend a more viable school by his parents. They claimed, "You can't make any money being a starving artist". So he attended University of Michigan and studied engineering, liberal arts, and took art classes as well. This was all short lived, uninspiring, and a low point for him emotionally. He quit going to lectures after three years and moved to a basement apartment in downtown Detroit. This is where Philip really began to learn about Art.
During his last days in Ann Arbor just before moving, Philip came across a japanese magazine "Car Styling" which changed his life. Inside the non-english book were photos of students drawing and modeling automobiles, on their way to working at a major car company. He looked closely through the japanese writing and discovered one of the top schools was in Detroit, and they had actually offered him a scholarship four years earlier!
Through a family friend, Philip had the opportunity to interview at Ford Motor Company for the position as car stylist before committing to further schooling. It was a quick meeting with the design director, "Nice work kid, but you've got to learn from the professionals... go to CCS and come back after you graduate". And this is exactly what Philip did.
One thousand people applied to CCS that year. One hundred were accepted into the various departments. After the second year, twenty-eight made it into the prestigious automotive transportation program. At the end of each semester, all the students had their work reviewed and if it was found that the efforts were not up to par the student was asked to leave the program. Thirteen of Philip's peers remained at the end of four years and they all graduated with a BFA - bachelor of fine art. Only three students got jobs straight out of school, Philip, his roommate, and a car designer's son. Philip became a car stylist five years after seeing that magazine and is still very proud to have been in the automotive community.
Being part of the Ford Motor Company Design Staff was a dream job for Philip. He says it was like being a super spy in a suit and tie everyday who lived in the future. He worked on car designs that would not see the public eye for many years and he was sworn to secrecy not to tell anyone what he was doing. This was every boy's dream!
He admired the men and women who had come before him, the people who made all those iconic vehicles. The nostalgia and the surroundings made this almost a romantic workplace. This was Philip's favorite place with the terrazzo floors, mahogany walled executive offices, and the courtyard with four large turn-tables to display the clay car designs for review by the upper management. He worked in all the major studios, trucks, cars, and the advanced styling studio where they design the show cars.
During this time he was asked to create many of the retirement paintings for some of the most prestigious automotive design executives including Andy Jacobson, Fritz Mayhew and the vice-president of design Jack Telnack. It was all a great honor. Philip was also asked to paint classic cars and concept illustrations for some of the design director's offices. At the same time these execs left, the economy dropped and the nature of car design changed forever. After interviewing with several other major car companies and learning that car styling was no longer what it once was, Philip too saw this as the right time to leave and resigned from Ford design staff.
Over the next 12+ years, Philip built several internet companies, the most success came during the "dot-com" boom where as a CEO he oversaw a large staff of 30+ designers and website developers. Developing applications, ecommerce platforms, and websites for the likes of GM, Ford, Rock Star Games, Nokia, and many advertising companies, he gained some further notoriety by assisting the then Michigan Governor Jennifer Grandholm with Detroit's Creative Class and speaking at several of her events at the Mackinaw Hotel, Michigan.
Philip returned to CCS during his "internet years" as an adjunct professor and passed on what he had learned to students in the graphic design department. He saw this as a way of giving back to a place that had provided so much for him those many years earlier.
Return to Ford. Recently, as part of Team Edison, Philip led the group that developed the 15.5 in screen and cluster for the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E, from personally co-writing the concept paper to the initial prototype that became the actual screen now in all of the Ford vehicles. It was called Project Menlo, and changed the development culture at Ford.
Today, Philip leads the Ford Motor Company EV strategic intelligence staff and is working on product planning for the next generation of electric vehicles.
~ Updated: 04/23/23
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