Breathing Life into the Car
The Power of Design
Vol. 1

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. 

Ikuo Maeda is the guy who created Mazda’s KODO: Soul of Motion design theme which, many have said, revolutionized Mazda Design. His obsession goes beyond the automobile and extends to brand design, which becomes evident when he talks about his own design philosophy.


“One thing I’ve persistently told everyone involved with the Design Division over the past few years is to have a brand-led design perspective. Thanks to our new direction the job of a designer is no longer focused on maximizing the appeal of every car model, but to make sure that when our cars are lined up together, the line-up fascinates customers. It doesn’t mean that we are paying less attention to the beauty of each model, but what we do today is to create designs that enable the whole Mazda line-up to represent a unique, consistent message.

 The secret behind the ongoing creation of beauty: “Exploratory Preparation”.

The secret behind the ongoing creation of beauty

“What sets Mazda Design apart from other brands is an obsession with the ultimate form of beauty. I’d say that’s also our strength. We’re obsessed with the power of human hands, and artistic forms that can only be shaped by human hands. We continually experiment with new ideas to translate the artistic forms into a car’s design. We call the process, Exploratory Preparation. Our design process doesn’t start with car design. We create objects with different forms and explore how these forms move into people’s hearts.”

“When you cook Japanese food, the way you cook dashi (cooking stock or broth) will have a significant influence on how the food tastes. Making the perfect dashi’ is a good analogy for what we’re doing to continually create the ultimate form of beauty. We use the form to decide on the role of each model in the Mazda line-up. That form’s role is discussed with the chief designer in charge of each model, and the discussion inspires the designers to visualize what the final picture looks like. So as you can see, we use different approaches for creating expressions of the Mazda brand’s different strengths yet in a consistent way”

 The secret behind the ongoing creation of beauty: “Exploratory Preparation”.2

KODO Design: Breathing Life into the Car

“To sum up what we mean by KODO Design, it’s about creating cars that embody the dynamic beauty of life. Cars that visually suggest different expressions of this energy. In Japan, we feel that craftspeople inject life into what they make, so objects that receive the love and caring attention of these craftspeople have a vital force; a soul. As we are a Japanese car company, we believe that a form sincerely and painstakingly made by human hands receives a soul.”

 “For everyone connected to Mazda, a car is not a means of getting from A to B, but actually a partner you can rely on and that inspires you. That’s why we want Mazdas to express the beauty of instantaneous motion seen in living creatures. That’s what KODO Design stands for.”

 Maeda tells me that a car capable of expressing life beyond its form and shape can stimulate creativity and imagination of those who look at the car.

 KODO Design: Breathing Life into the Car.

“Mazda’s current design concept is called KODO Design, and to tell you the truth, it was a long and winding road to find the right name. You may think, oh it’s just a name, but it’s the name that inspires designers. So choosing the right name is extremely important. What we did was to come up with 3 Japanese words that expressed our vision – “rin”, “dou” and “en”. The word “rin” is a pure, refined presence, “dou” stands for dynamic motion which is the tradition of Mazda Design, and “en” refers to the sensuality of a living creature. We said, let’s try to balance those 3 words to define the scope of design. We wanted to come up with a single word, and it took us almost 12 months to create the word “KODO”. The word Kodo is actually written in a different way to how it is usually written in Japanese. We made this change to the first set of characters to add another layer of meaning to the word Kodo. The blended meaning takes Kodo’s normal meaning of “heartbeat” and adds the idea of imbuing something with life; of giving it a soul. I still remember how we were overcome with emotion when we finally got the right name.”


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