Creating an inviting and driver-centered cabin relies heavily on philosophies and aesthetics. For Julien Montousse, director of design at Mazda North American Operations, and Jeanette Chatsworth, home interior designer, design is a tool that better connects a driver to their car.
For Montousse and Mazda, the ancient term “Jinba Ittai,” a Japanese four-character symbol, is a more directed approach to designing cars and one of the cornerstones of the new Mazda MX-5 Miata. Simply put, the translated phrase means “when horse and rider become one.”
It’s as much about the science of perception as it is about the aesthetics of design. Form, color, material and texture come together to create an inviting feeling that makes even a five-minute dash to the dry cleaners a small oasis within your day. These are some of the principles:
- Symmetry: This is one of the first components of making us feel connected to our cars. A symmetrical cockpit psychologically creates a feeling of connection. Mazda designers are obsessed with not only the psychological implications of instrumentation placement but also with using placement to improve everything, including increased safety. “A flat cockpit with the instrumentation farther away from our eyes not only creates a feeling of instability, but it also actually increases injury in the event of a crash,” Montousse said.
- Color palettes: As home interior designer Chatsworth points out, “Browns have typically conveyed warmth, while grays have been used to trigger feelings of safety.” The combined effect of the leather seats and trim with the slate gray dash provides an inviting, yet secure environment. Montousse elaborates that color is also a tool that can to focus the driver’s attention on the dashboard to the most critical areas of the dashboard. “Through a color breakup, you can direct the eye on the dash to further enhance the feeling of being balanced,” Montousse said.
- Structure: Just as within a home’s design, the placement of the structural elements in a vehicle is crucial to the overall flow of the space. In the MX-5, the placement of the side “A” pillars are as far apart as possible to create the widest field of vision, further connecting driver to car.
- Rule-breaking: There must be a willingness to push the envelope and be daring. “On the MX-5, we have a lot of exterior body color that merges into the interior on the upper door,” Montousee said. “In a way we’re trying to break away from the typical frontier of exterior and interior to make you feel you are more connected to the car. And it works very well in the same way you’d feel if you were riding a motorcycle.”