Breathing Life into the Car
The Power of Design

Seeing the beauty of instantaneous motion in a living creature can be a strikingly emotional, inspiring experience.
Fascinated with this feeling, the designer relies on his honed aesthetic sensibilities to recreate it in a beautiful, pure three dimensional form.


The excitement around Design’s work rallies everyone around making Mazdas.

“Designers and engineers used to reach a middle ground on technical issues by making compromises. Luckily, we designers now have the privilege to pursue an ideal and create jaw-droppingly cool design. We stand back with the engineers to view the design and share the excitement and enthusiasm. If we get more people to say, “wow how cool is that, I definitely want this car”, everyone starts to get aligned in reaching the same goal, which in turn becomes one big movement. So designers at Mazda are responsible for creating and showing off designs that knock our colleagues out.”


That whole new process began with SHINARI*, a design concept car launched in 2010.

“SHINARI is a concept car based on KODO Design, which was made to internally present our desired direction. That’s why it wasn’t just a show car, it was what we call a vision model. 2010 was the time when I was appointed General Manager of the Design Division, it was when Monotsukuri (Manufacturing) Innovation was underway to develop SKYACTIV Technology.”

“I was deeply impressed by our engineers’ unwavering commitment to the technology. I said to myself, well, if the engineers are innovating technologies, design must exceed the technological innovation and make our cars look absolutely sensational. That’s how we created the SHINARI. The car was a message to the world that at Mazda, we make cars that we think are an ideal by getting our technology and design in perfect snyc.”

*SHINARI was a Mazda concept car launched in September 2010. The car was launched as the first concept car to embody the new “KODO - Soul of Motion” design theme.

 The excitement around Design’s work rallies everyone around making Mazdas.

Maeda tells me that at Mazda, he has witnessed a series of dramatic events led by employees who appreciated that message.

“I set up a meeting for all the people involved in development, to communicate the underlying concept of KODO Design. The good thing was, those who got the message started to make things happen. In one instance, we had some engineers show us their version of the KODO sculpture created by the designers, but made by hand planing steel. They applied their own method to create the sculpture in steel. They tried to understand what we designers meant by the “dynamic beauty of life” by using their own hands. I was overwhelmed with emotions.”

“What we do at Mazda would probably never happen at other car companies. The process has permeated throughout the Mazda organization, and we are seeing an ongoing improvement in design quality. Brand design can only come to life by getting all the employees to embrace the same attitude and mind-set.”

Getting all the employees aligned around the same direction, taking part in a journey to the ideal future for Mazda. Mazda is steadily creating a unique organizational culture to consistently deliver exceptional design.

Refining car design by applying Japanese aesthetic sensibilities.

 A new vision: refining car design by applying Japanese aesthetic sensibilities.-1

Maeda wants the Mazda brand to conquer the global market. His strategy? Applying Japanese aesthetic sensibilities.

“Auto brands are entering an increased number of markets worldwide, with China being a good example. A key reason for the Mazda brand to be selected by customers in different markets is that our cars are “made in Japan”. A brand’s country of origin is very important, and many customers know that the Japanese cars are made-to-last and great value. We must also get those people to say that the Japanese cars are really cool. To create and spread that perception, I think that Mazda needs to take a leadership role in raising Japanese car design to new heights.”

“Japan is a country that has a long history, which has spawned highly sophisticated aesthetic sensibilities rooted in a unique set of values. You see that washoku (Japanese cuisine) is a pure reflection of very subtle, delicate and fine sensibilities. Completely and intricately calculated beauty has a noble dignity. In form creation, which is the most exhaustive part of the design process, a streamlined shape is so perfect that the shape imparts tension, and that to me expresses Japanese aesthetic sensibilities. Prioritizing the many elements and getting them all to generate a form that has a pure essence can create a stronger, more permanent impression. We call it beauty through purity. Ordering everything to singular purity describes our ideal form. We know that the current trend is to add different elements to a design to create many expressions, which in a way is easier, but to us that goes against the aesthetic sensibilities of Japan.”

“In the new-generation of products since the development of the CX-5, I’d say that the MX-5 Miata comes closest to achieving ultimate beauty through purity. We didn’t rely on character lines to express a sense of motion as we had with all the previous generation of models, we used the reflection of light instead. With the CX-3, we avoided adding excessive complex curves, instead we used a single, flowing line to express dynamism. Those 2 models look pure and refined, with a great feeling of energy. Both models embody the ideal of KODO Design.”

“Now I’m looking forward to the many challenges and experimentation so that we can further pursue an expression that truly reflects Japanese aesthetic sensibilities.”

 A new vision: refining car design by applying Japanese aesthetic sensibilities.-2

Armed with his unique design philosophy and Japanese aesthetic sensibilities, Maeda is determined to compete against global players. Every word that he speaks is a clear indication of Mazda’s future design direction.


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