Mazda Design Workshop 2008

Automotive Design 29 May 2008
Mazda Design Workshop 2008

Mazda has released an official document which summarizes the brand’s design philosophy and methods, illustrates its Nagare design language and gives information about the leading designers.

The document is divided into three sections: Mazda Design World (reported below), Nagare, a new design language and Mazda people – The spirit of Mazda.

It also includes many previously unreleased images as well as interesting information about the design processes at Mazda.

Mazda design world

Related Documents:

 Appendix: 25 years of Mazda design


Mazda’s design DNA

Mazda design DNA - styling cuesTo come up with a new design identity for Mazda, Laurens van den Acker and his design team had to condense and refine important heritage and brand identifiers into future design DNA.

But what is design DNA?

As its name would suggest, it’s not so different from a human genome.

Design DNA is a name for the basic building blocks that makes a car recognisable. It’s a design element that ensures a car shares visual characteristics with other vehicles in the same family, while at the same time distinguishing it from other brands and other products.

Mazda Ryuga - design sketch Mazda Ryuga – design sketch

Essentially they are the visual features that a family of cars has in common – in this case the elements that make a Mazda look like a Mazda.

Usually these elements include the look and shape of the grille, the roof angle and the shape of the headlights and even rear taillights.

It can also mean a crease in a body panel, the shape of a window or even an unusual wheel design that is visually identifiable with a car brand. If these are the essential ingredients for a design language then the combination of them together, crafted expertly, and when well executed, should lead to a number of distinctive and brand unique new cars.

In this case the goal is to create a family of beautiful vehicles, all uniquely different, yet recognizably Mazda.

Car design: one integrated process from concept to creation

Mazda Hakaze - design sketch Mazda Hakaze – design sketch

At Mazda concept car development plays a vital role in enhancing consumer brand perception and represents a vital opportunity to communicate good ideas and assess consumer reaction.

But the origins of a concept vehicle rarely – though sometimes – originates solely in the design studio. In fact, concept vehicle development begins with early Advanced Product Strategy (APS) – strategic team meetings comprising team members from design, marketing and engineering.

This strategic planning starts with research into emerging consumer lifestyle and future automotive trends to determine the market’s requirement and potential acceptance of a concept vehicle.

Often, this early research involves documenting the nature of consumers’ lifestyles through observation; by watching how consumers use the vehicles they own and documenting how they feel about them.

Mazda Hakaze Concept - CAD development Mazda Hakaze Concept – CAD development

In combination with market data – which indicates consumers’ buying habits – the APS team is able to evaluate the potential marketability of future vehicles.

At this point the APS team is able to create a design and development strategy for any given concept vehicle while ensuring that any such development remains faithful to the Mazda brand and fulfils the strategic goal for the concept.

With engineering, planning and design professionals all working together as one group, the design development process is enhanced. At this stage a comprehensive design brief is created and full concept development begins.

From here designers work with packaging engineers to develop the vehicle concept, ensuring it meets the needs of target consumers. Designers begin to create vehicle sketches for the possible concept vehicle.

This is called concept generation. At this stage the design is considered more ‘free’, sketches are inventive and investigate a range of ideas involving proportions and form, and even more detailed explorations of face graphics and surface texture.

Designers take into account packaging and platform constraints and vehicle ‘hard points’ – the underpinnings of the vehicle chassis and powertrain – determined by engineers and often from a ‘donor vehicle’.

Mazda Hakaze - clay modelling Mazda Ryuga - clay modelling
Mazda Hakaze – clay modelling Mazda Ryuga – clay modelling

Once a design is determined further sketches are developed, comprising different vehicle views and interior and exterior details. From here three-dimensional clay model development of the concept vehicle begins.

Mazda Taiki - Interior CAD rendering Mazda Taiki – Interior CAD rendering

This continues with digital modeling via the use of computer aided design techniques so that different views of the vehicle – often in different environments and different lighting conditions – can be evaluated.

Interior designers begin in earnest to create interior designs for the concept, working closely with colour and trim specialists who are developing mood boards and colour palettes – including interesting textures and materials.

Once an interior design is identified digital modeling gets underway to generate three-dimensional renderings and ultimately modeling data.

Mazda Furai - Clay model construction Mazda Furai – Clay model construction

From here interior and exterior prototype components are developed for the final concept vehicle build.

This is usually assembled in the design studio, or may be built off-site by a specialist concept vehicle and prototype construction supplier.

This development process involves hundreds of steps to successfully realize a full-size three-dimensional and faithful iteration of the car design team’s original sketches.

For concept cars this process usually takes 12-18 months. Should the concept go on to production, it may take as long as five years before the production vehicle comes to market.

How to design a car: 9 steps to sketching a concept

Almost all car design begins with design sketches. Though these are approached from a number of perspectives, the One-Point Perspective is the easiest to master and the quickest to execute and is where most designers’ ideation begins.

  • Mazda6 - design sketch - step 1Step 1 – the foundations
    Using a pencil start by drawing a ground line, set two wheel positions and create a shoulder line. It is important to keep your lines light so that you can change things easily and correct mistakes as the design progresses without succumbing to the desire to start again.

  • Mazda6 - design sketch - step 2Step 2 – rough proportion
    Mark out the rough proportions of the vehicle, of what will become the vehicle’s bodywork, using a centre line and the window opening.

  • Step 3 – defining bodywork
    Outline the top edge of the vehicle’s body from the rear bumper, across the roof and down to the front bumper. Note that the closer the roofline is to the centre line the less the curvature is implied.

  • Mazda6 - design sketch - step 3Step 4 – adding detail
    Once you are happy with the general shape and proportions of your vehicle youcan begin to add detail such as the bumpers, headlamps and wheels.

  • Step 5 – firming up the details

    This will be the final stage before adding some colour.  If you are happy with the way your design is progressing then you can add more details indicating surface texture and wheel design.

  • Mazda6 - design sketch - step 4Step 6 – adding shading, suggesting light
    If your are happy with your design so far then you can begin to add some shading of the windows and wheels using a marker. Note that if you make the front wheels darker than the rear wheels you are better able to suggest movement.

  • Mazda6 - design sketch - step 5Step 7 – horizon and scenery
    This is the stage that requires some courage. Take a coloured marker and begin to suggest the reflection of light in the windows and body surface. Imagine where the horizon line is behind you and imagine how that would be reflected in the vehicle’s surfaces and even the scenery behind you.

  • Mazda6 - design sketch - step 6Step 8 – adding colour
    Apply the colour marker or pastel of your choice across the length of the bodywork, centering just below the shoulder line.Note it is best to choose a colour that is similar to your earlier marker work.

  • Step 9 – cleaning up
    This is the final stage. Take an eraser and try to determine which of the surfaces are upwards facing. If you have accidentally coloured these then remove it. This should ensure that you have the best opportunity to suggest three-dimensional form.

Mazda Design: from concept to production

In most cases, concept-cars give a preview of design cues of future mass production models. Following are two examples of such an evolution:

Ibuki concept to Mazda MX-5 (3rd generation)

Mazda MX-5 - design sketch (2005) Mazda MX-5 – design sketch (2005)

Inspired by the face and form of the original 1990 MX-5 design, Mazda launched the distinctive Ibuki concept in 2004 Tokyo motor show.

Meaning ‘breathing new energy into’, the Ibuki name suggested the concept car’s secret – that it really was the new MX-5 – while the world’s press reported that any link was merely theoretical.

In fact, the Ibuki’s ovular design motif – which was apparent all over the car – really would become the design motif of the next generation Mazda MX-5 when launched at the Geneva Motor Show 2005. The ovular headlights and pronounced arches and the clean, uncluttered and clear surfaces would all ultimately be seen in the final vehicle. Inside the production MX-5 kept some elements from Ibuki’s design, such as the three-point steering wheel and ovular centre console, the strong centre tunnel and rectangular door-pull handles.

Mazda MX-5 (2005)What’s more, for the Ibuki concept, Mazda moved the entire drivetrain rearwards and downwards to make the centre of gravity lower and closer to the center of the car.

The goal was to improve balance and handling, and maintain the 50/50 weight distribution. The resulting concept had unusually short overhangs and was a full foot shorter than Mazda’s current production MX-5.

By the time of the launch of the subsequent MX-5, the production vehicle did indeed exhibit shorter overhangs and improved handling.

Sassou concept to Mazda2 (2nd generation)

The Mazda Sassou concept suggested what Mazda’s next generation B-segment product could look like when it was introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2005.

Mazda Sassou SketchDesigned at Mazda’s design center in Oberursel, Germany, the name Sassou is a Japanese term that means having an optimistic state of mind.

The concept was designed to appeal to young, first-time buyers and explored what young people would want from a car in terms of future technologies. As a result of this research, Sassou’s interior was based on a concept of ‘illumination’ and an interactive connectivity ideal which saw the car’s entertainment and personalisation system uploaded to the vehicle’s hard drive via a user-operated  USB stick key.

Though the interior contributed much to the concept’s success it was the exterior design that would prevail to the Mazda2 production vehicle.

Sassou contained many Mazda design features that would ultimately be apparent in the later Mazda2 production model, including the overall form, the surface creases and the front end – with its large, sporty five-point grille and bonnet – itself an evolution of the Mazda RX-8 front end.

Mazda2 - design sketch Mazda2 - design sketch

Mazda2 – Design Renderings

See also:

Advanced design at Mazda: four global studios in full flow

The responsibility for the successful worldwide introduction of Mazda design falls to four global design studios – located in Irvine, California, Oberursel, near Frankfurt, Germany and Yokohama and Hiroshima, Japan – all guided by Laurens van den Acker.

This is an incredible challenge, not least in communication terms alone. As Laurens van den Acker is based at the firm’s global Mazda’s headquarters in Hiroshima, Japan, it means he spends a lot of time traveling between studios.

All four of Mazda’s studios are playing a vital role in the supply of ideas for future design directions. At its simplest each of the studios focus 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 Franz von Holzhausen. In Frankfurt, Peter Birtwhistle’s studio focuses on vehicles for Europe. While back in Japan, Yokohama – under Atsuhiko Yamada – concentrates its energy on products for Asia, together with the design headquarters in Hiroshima which guides overall global design strategy and engineering integration.

The reality is rather more complex, with product origination in one geographic location via import from different global design studios and often destined for more than one market. The result is that each of the studios is effectively globally focused but with local expertise. This leads to an incredibly healthy environment of competition and rivalry in the global design team, but still with openness that ensures efficient working processes.

Each studio works in three different areas, creating concept cars, crafting production vehicles and evolving a better understanding of how to improve future Mazda vehicles. All are aspects that will crucially affect design. But, arguably, it is the third aspect that is the most important as it asks ‘where are we headed and what do we need to do to get there?’

It is usually this ‘third way’ that most impacts vehicle architecture and packaging. It starts with a philosophy and then leads to questions as essential as ‘how will we build these cars and what will we build them from?’

Usually the design studio located geographically closest to production design and advanced engineering and planning that spends the most time focusing on how and where to build a car. This leaves more time available to generate concepts and other ‘experimental’ work to secondary studios. These studios are vital in the development of cars, simply because they have more time to ask questions that their ‘client’, the design headquarters, may not yet even has asked.

Under van den Acker, each of the studios are encouraged to imagine ‘further out’, to explore future ideas and concepts.

(Source: Mazda)


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