Mazda Design : The Car as Art


Art into Life

Back in 2010, Mazda Design announced Mazda’s design philosophy “KODO -Soul of Motion-” in Milan, which is widely regarded as the center of design.
In 2013, Mazda exhibited at Milan Design Week for the first time introducing “The source of KODO” which captured the Japanese aesthetic.

And in 2015, Mazda exhibited at Milan Design Week to demonstrate “The breadth of KODO Design” by exhibiting the latest KODO Design models,
the Mazda CX-3 and Mazda MX-5, each with art pieces that express the same philosophies as their respective cars.

By exploring the expression of unrestricted motion paired with studied introspection ,
we were able to further imbue their dynamic forms with a Japanese aesthetic.

From the outset, Japanese craftsmanship has valued simplicity of form that is achieved through the prioritization of an object’s elements.
This simplicity embodies a self-restrained dignity and a sensuality, which connects with the viewer on an emotional level.

Mazda defines the characteristic of self-restrained dignity in Japanese as RIN and alluring sensuality as EN.
The expression of beauty that Mazda Design strives for is achieved through the harmonization of these two contrasting elements.
When these two elements do exist in harmony,a unique sense of Japanese elegance is felt.

Show on the page below are the pieces created using the EN and RIN aesthetic that were exhibited at Milan Design Week.

Bike by KODO concept

The inherent beauty of the bicycle is refined and restated in a track racer. Shorn of all superfluous elements, its honed simplicity expresses the same pure dynamism as the MX-5 with a sense of forward-motion evocative of the racer’s final sprint to the finish line. The frame is beaten from a steel panel by highly-skilled Mazda craftsmen, and the hand-sewn leather saddle features the same exquisite stitching as the MX-5’s upholstery. The color scheme is black and an charasmatic red, typical of KODO. The red is also used as an accent on the reverse of the saddle and handlebars in the elegant Japanese style of concealed beauty.

Bike by KODO concept

Sofa by KODO concept

The KODO design philosophy was the inspiration for the many talented people who collaborated in the creation of this piece, including the Milan-based creative directors Setsu and Shinobu Ito, designers at Mazda Europe, and highly skilled Italian furniture makers. A demonstration of the perfect balance between the sensitivity of Mazda Design and traditional European craftsmanship, this piece offers a refined and welcoming warmth. The sofa, evoking the strong, planted stance common to all Mazda cars, has striking polished aluminum frames at the front and rear that visualize tension in the form, while a vivid red used only on the back provides an alluring accent in the characteristic Japanese manner of concealed beauty.
The matching table features a wooden base shaped to symbolize wings, and a plate glass top. Metallic trim on the wooden frame echoes the signature wing detail found on the front grill of all Mazda cars, and adds a bold contrast to the sofa’s form.

Sofa by KODO concept

Collaboration Art

Astonishing masterpieces, inspired by Mazda’s KODO philosophy and created by traditional Japanese craftsmen.


コラボレーションアート鎚起銅器「魂銅器(こどうき)」紹介動畫(ミラノデザインウィーク2015「Mazda Designクルマはアート」)

KODOKI by Gyokusendo

Tsuiki copperware

Based in the town of Tsubame, known worldwide for its metalwork, Gyokusendo is a studio with a history stretching back two centuries. The studio is famed for its tsuiki copperware, created by hammering and shaping a single sheet of copper into beautiful and functional items such as vases, kettles and cups. Gyokusendo’s artisans found Mazda’s KODO design philosophy of breathing life into a car – originally just a mass of metal – to be very close to their own spirit of ‘creating the ideal form through putting the craftsman’s heart and soul into the hammer forming of metal.’ In the creation of KODOKI, they returned to their own roots and revived a technique from the days before copper was available in flat sheets: they began with a copper ingot and beat it into a thick sheet by hand. Shaping the copper into the finished work by countless hammer-blows demanded the utmost skill and concentration in working with the metal as the piece emerged almost of its own volition. Finally, color was added using Gyokusendo’s own method involving a reaction between tin plated on the piece’s surface and a unique mix of natural compounds. This coloration highlights the pattern of hammer beats, resulting in a feeling of fluctuation and motion – a dynamic beauty realized through the synergy of the KODO and Gyokusendo philosphies.


Lacquered box created with the carved cho-shitsu technique and crushed eggshells

Japanese lacquerware is prized worldwide for its beauty and quality. KINJO-IKKOKUSAI is the seventh generation in a family of lacquerware makers in Hiroshima, inheriting his distinctive technique from his ancestors. Moved by the dynamic expressions of KODO design, he chose Shiraito-no-taki (a World Heritage waterfall in Japan resembling a cascade of thin white ribbons) as the theme for his collaborative artwork, aiming to convey the spiritual feel of water, light and wind – the rich workings of nature. The streams of water, pure white against an indigo background, are painstakingly built up by individually applying tiny flakes of eggshell to the lacquer base. After repeating this process countless times, subtly different shades of lacquer are applied before the surface is carved and polished to reveal the white flakes as delicate traces of streams of water. This sophisticated cho-shitsu (carved lacquer) technique achieves tension through detail in tandem with a smooth, beautifully reflective glossy surface. The finished work, SHIRAITO, is imbued with a refreshing vitality that evokes the graceful sound of falling water.