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May 13, 2012
IRVINE, Calif. -- When Mazda released its first passenger car, the R360 Coupe in 1960, it quickly gained recognition for its minimalist form and great practicality. For Mazda, it opened a new chapter in the company's history as a builder of passenger cars. For Japanese consumers, the R360 Coupe realized their dreams by making such a desirable car affordable.
Since then, Mazda design has consistently aimed to distinguish itself with its unique personality. At Mazda, design goals go beyond the usual practical focus of industrial design, and instead set out to evoke a sense of excitement and expectation in all who see or drive a Mazda. Underlying this approach is the simple fact that every Mazda designer is fundamentally passionate about cars. As such, their aim is to breathe life into their designs and endow them with true emotional character. The goal is to create designs that communicate Mazda’s design vision with people around the world. It is this design philosophy that has challenged Mazda designers to continue chasing perfection for half a century.
Now, 50 years later, Mazda Design is entering a new phase. By exploring the meaning of ‘the passionate drive,' Mazda Design seeks to discover which vehicle form represents the ultimate Mazda persona. This exploration underpins the vision for the coming new generation of Mazda cars and SUVs.
‘KODO – Soul of Motion’
Throughout its history, Mazda Design has explored various forms that depict ‘motion’. In recent years, this has been fused with the graceful beauty found in movement in nature, in wind and the flow of water, to realize a unique design expression for Mazda. This was known as Nagare, or “flow.”
With Nagare as a basis for creativity and exploration, Mazda's approach is now evolving. The underlying design philosophy for the next generation of Mazda cars is adding the power and beauty that one sees in the instantaneous movement of animals or humans. This is the form displayed in the moment motion begins – for example, the instant when a cheetah pounces on its prey, or the moment of a sword strike in the ancient Japanese martial art of kendo. It is this moment where accumulated force is released that contains the most finely-honed balance of strength and streamlined beauty. It is in this instant – which requires maximum concentration – that we feel instantaneous power, speed, a dignified tension, a sophisticated beauty. It is, in its way, highly seductive.
Mazda has positioned this instantaneous movement, filled with vitality and the stirring of the emotions, as the ultimate form of motion, and has defined it as ‘KODO’. KODO will be incorporated into all Mazda designs, to express a faster, more forceful movement, and to include a more soulful element. This is embodied in the design language of ‘KODO – Soul of Motion’ and it represents the next generation of Mazda design.
Keywords: Speed, Tense, and Alluring
Speed: Vehicle form conveys speed and looking at the car awakens a wild instinct to want to drive this machine; a machine which is an expression of speed with power.
Tense: The form generates a finely-honed sense of tension, of the moment just as motion begins. A form that is refined, without waste and which embodies the spirit of Japanese simplicity.
Alluring: A quality feel that conveys depth and sophistication, expresses craftsmanship, and invokes the human touch of a product made by hand.
We aim to combine these three value elements to form ‘KODO – Soul of Motion’.
Concept Car ‘Mazda SHINARI’
Mazda SHINARI – Fast and strong motion that strikes the heart
The Mazda SHINARI is a pure design concept model of a four-door, four-seater sports coupe which perfectly expresses the ‘KODO – Soul of Motion’ design theme in a graceful and carefree form.
The Japanese word shinari describes the powerful yet supple appearance of great resilient force when objects of high tensile strength, such as steel or bamboo, are twisted or bent. It also refers to the appearance of a person or animal as it flexibly transforms its body to generate a fast movement. Within this movement, Mazda designers discovered the potential to realize ‘KODO – Soul of Motion’.
One glance at SHINARI stirs the emotions. Its form expresses the powerful movement of a lean body with highly developed muscles, supple but at the same time filled with tension. Mazda’s desire is to reach car lovers’ hearts and go beyond the notion of rational logic. This form purely embodies that desire.
Yasushi Nakamuta, the chief designer who led the design of the third generation Mazda MX-5, was the first to begin the ideation of the SHINARI concept: “The challenge for us was to create an innovative new expression for energetic and powerful movement; something that we had never attempted before. We began by developing the design around the image of a predator, as it strikes at its prey, or the stabbing movement in kendo, Japanese fencing, to express the instant where accumulated force is released.”
Translating this initial moment of ‘instantaneous movement’ being pursued by Mazda design into the SHINARI concept car presented various challenges to both the designers and the modelers working on the project. The process involved a series of activities that saw the team draw inspiration from a variety of places. This included each team member creating sketches and freely sculpting models from clay to represent their own perceptions of ‘KODO – Soul of Motion’. It then continued with the exploration of the functional beauty seen in traditional Japanese crafts and the motion witnessed in Japan’s ancient martial arts.
As the team continued this exploratory process, Nakamuta focused on a force so powerful that it can bend a strong section of steel plate. The Mazda SHINARI design adds subtle twists and tension to create forms that express agile and powerful movement, resulting in the expression of ‘KODO – Soul of Motion’.
Exterior – unbridled expression of agile movement
With an image of strength emanating across every panel and component, the Mazda SHINARI looks ready to leap at any second. The strong backbone running through the body, the sudden release of pent-up energy, and the interplay of beautiful, supple movements – this form is the expression of all of these elements.
The appearance of the A-pillar, which tapers towards the rear of the body, the shape of the cabin, the front fender; these and SHINARI's other elements combine to create proportions that suggest the instantaneous release of energy to propel the car forward.
The distinctive front fenders represent the further evolution of the prominent fenders introduced in the RX-8. They emphasize the front wheels and accentuate the dynamic movement expressed in the side of the body, in a style that is both sporty and elegant. Character lines flow rearward from the front fenders and meet those traveling forward from the rear fenders in a multi-layered effect. This fusion creates an appearance that suggests a forceful sense of tension with a graceful beauty.
All of SHINARI's body surfaces appear as if constantly undergoing transformation. There is no static shape to be found, as if the car is in perpetual motion. For instance the subtle control of the angle of the upper surface of the side sill, from the front to the rear, results in a form that suggests a flash of speed along the body of the car.
The three-dimensional sculpting of the front grille proudly emphasizes the Mazda lineage. A powerful line of movement originates at the grille and continues through the bonnet, fender, front lamp modules and bumper. In particular the floating bar – which links the grille with the headlights – is a three-dimensional expression of speed, an accent that represents a new signature element for Mazda. For the headlights, Mazda's designers have created a headlamp structure with no outer lens, exposing the deep-set lights and suggesting the eyes of a wild animal about to pounce on its prey.
Aerodynamic performance was a major priority for SHINARI, and the center of the lower sections – on both the front and rear bumpers – are designed to optimize the flow of air along the underbody of the car. The flared line that connects the front bumper with the side sills and rear bumper, fulfils a similar role and streamlines the flow of air along the body, while further contributing to the aerodynamic performance of the car.
The outer mirror, wheels and tailpipes accentuate the sense of agility and lightness and convey a hand-made feel with a human touch which contributes to the impression of superior, premium quality.
Interior – Exploring a new approach of oneness between car and driver
When creating the SHINARI concept interior Mazda's objective was to design a distinctive premium cockpit that incorporates its interior DNA. While the exterior design can be appreciated through motion, the interior, meanwhile, is experienced in a static, seated position. A commitment to essential mechanical function and excellent ergonomics has created a driver focused interior that embodies the ‘ultimate athletic space’ while expressing a sense of speed inside the vehicle.
Entering the vehicle your eye is immediately drawn to the driver focused cockpit which surrounds the driver. Its angle and surface movement sets the tone for the whole of the interior. The highlight of interior is a surfacing between the upper and the lower instrument panel which is contrasted by crisp surface edges and precision mechanical details. Interior craftsmanship is characterized by the use of bright trim work integrated along the cockpit’s perimeter and accentuating the sensation of speed. An authentic application of materials including machined aluminum, soft natural leathers and the precision design of instrumentation and controls, gives the interior an alluring quality that exceeds expectations.
Craftsmanship meets total car control
Mazda Design wanted to re-define the proximity of the driver to the instrumentation and controls by establishing intuitive ‘reach zones’; what Mazda calls ‘dedicated driving ergonomics’. All instrumentation and controls have been designed and positioned to enhance the driving experience. By separating the instrument panel into two individual zones, the driver cockpit is isolated from the rest of the interior and allows the driver to focus on the task of driving.
To reinforce the message of driver orientation, the design of the primary and secondary instruments echoes the main cockpit shape, to provide a clean uncluttered view from the driver’s seat. Seated behind a thick-rimmed, three-spoke steering wheel the driver sits within a uniquely contoured seat, providing maximum comfort and support.
The principle of ‘dedicated driving ergonomics’ is further reflected in the car’s next generation Human Machine Interface (HMI). The availability of smaller electronic components has allowed SHINARI’s designers to create a floating HMI three-dimensional display; a design element that represents the very latest HMI technology. The system offers three distinct modes: ‘Business, Pleasure and Sport’.
The Business-mode enables the driver to stay connected to his work day tasks. In Pleasure-mode, focus is on comfort and entertainment, allowing the driver to tailor the interior mood creating a relaxed atmosphere. In Sport-mode the driving set-up is changed; the paddle shifter is activated, suspension settings are tuned for performance driving, and controls are simplified allowing the driver to focus solely on the driving experience.
The main dashboard surfaces are positioned low, and away from the occupants, creating a unique sensation of openness. The HMI interface and the dedicated seating controls for the front seat passenger represent a new level of detail and functionality for a Mazda premium interior. Even though the interior volumes have been rearranged in this way there is a high level of sportiness to enhance the feeling of driving dynamics.
SHINARI represents the profound connection of driver and machine and the beginning of Mazda's latest design theme ‘KODO-Soul in Motion’. SHINARI exhibits a functional aesthetic that will continue to evolve as Mazda continues to define its next generation of vehicles.
The quest for a Mazda original and a Japanese original
With SHINARI as the first step, Ikuo Maeda, general manager of Mazda’s design division, aims to create original Mazda designs that will be recognized around the world. He summarizes his resolve in the following words:
“My goal is to create designs that people can point to proudly and say, ‘This is a Mazda design’. There is no need for Mazda to build cars for people who are only concerned with ‘style’ and ‘trends’. Whether working on sports cars or compact cars, I have always worked to create designs that evoke an emotional response in people and I hope to keep doing the same as I remain fully committed to develop designs for people who love and admire cars. It is my personal belief that the only way to create designs that fundamentally connect with people and to create designs they love, is if the people creating them are absolutely passionate about cars and are willing to make that passion a firm policy for design expression.
“Further, I consider it vitally important to have an awareness of Japanese originality in designing cars for Mazda. This is not merely about incorporating traditional Japanese elements into car design. I believe in reflecting the Japanese spirit in car designs as part of a subconscious practice. So, while I consider where this may lead in the future, my plan is to create cars that will be instantly recognizable as a Mazda, even when viewed at a distance. My ultimate goal is to create a brand presence that car lovers around the world recognize as representing both Mazda originality and Japanese originality. Future Mazda’s will move people physically and emotionally – this is ‘KODO – Soul of Motion’”
Global Design Team
The Zoom-Zoom spirit informs all of Mazda Design
Mazda Design comprises four global design studios – located in Irvine, California, USA, Oberursel, near Frankfurt, Germany and Yokohama and Hiroshima, Japan – which all operate under the guidance of Ikuo Maeda, General Manager of Mazda Design Division.
Each of Mazda's four design studios play a vital role in feeding ideas for production and concept vehicles globally, back to headquarters in Japan. Similarly, each of the studios focuses on the creation of products for their local markets. In Irvine, Mazda’s North American design studio works on vehicles and concepts for North America, under the daily direction of Director of Design Derek Jenkins. In Oberursel , Design Chief Peter Birtwhistle’s European R&D studio focuses on vehicles and concepts for Europe. Meanwhile in Yokohama, Japan at Mazda's Design Strategic Studio – under the guidance of Chief Designer Yasushi Nakamuta – energy is mainly directed on advanced design and researching on future trends.
But the local studios don’t only focus on local markets, in fact the process of design ideation is far more global, and the multinational nature of Mazda's design teams means each center is capable of generating designs for other regions. For example, in practice it is not unheard of for a European concept design to be generated in Irvine and Oberursel before being developed and built in Hiroshima for launch at a key European motor show. Mazda's latest concept vehicle – SHINARI – has an exterior which was designed in Japan, while the interior design was created in the MNAO studio in Irvine, California.
All ideas are fed back to Ikuo Maeda at Mazda Design's headquarters in Hiroshima, which guides overall global design strategy and engineering integration. In recent years, advances in communication and computer-aided design and visualization technologies have meant that designers in one region can continue the design development of a vehicle when designers from a different region have left for the day. All teams worldwide are able to update and synchronize product designs in real time, if so required. The result is that each of the studios is effectively globally-focused but with local expertise. This leads to a healthy environment of competition within the global design team. At the same time openness ensures efficient working processes get the job done, while a sense of teamwork exists that extends far beyond geographical borders.
Each studio works in three different areas: creating concept cars, contributing to the development of production vehicles and evolving Mazda's future design strategy. The latter element of the team's design work – which can be summed up by attempting to answer the question of ‘where are we headed and what do we need to do to get there?’ – is crucial to Mazda's business, reflecting the innovative spirit that lies at the heart of the company.
This willingness to try new things has seen Mazda become a materials and technology leader, constantly striving to make cars that are more exciting, more efficient, lighter and cleaner than their predecessors, and which continue to exhibit Mazda's stylish, spirited, and distinctive design. This harmony between driving pleasure and environmental and safety features is at the heart of Mazda’s long-term technology development vision, called 'Sustainable Zoom-Zoom'.
Mazda's design headquarters in Hiroshima, which is located geographically closest to Mazda's advanced engineering and production facilities, usually has the strongest focus on the design and development of production vehicles. The Hiroshima studio is equipped with virtual visualization technologies, including a large digital display for design work using life-size vehicle images – called a ‘Power Wall’ - to help advance the digital design process. In practice, this means that the other three studios have the most time available to generate concepts and to undertake other exploratory work, in parallel to their contribution in the development of each new production model’s design.
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