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Inside Mazda

The Artist’s Hand Translates Concept to Reality

All New CX-9 Sketch

Mazda developed its KODO – Soul of Motion design language to capture the moment when energy turns into movement. The physical language of KODO shapes every Mazda product made today and now extends beyond the world of automobile manufacturing.

“It’s about infusing emotion into car design,” said Mazda’s North American Director of Design Julien Montousse. “We really embrace that practice, and we expanded the practice toward different objects like the sofa and bicycle.”


The “Car as Art” presentation, first shown in Milan, Italy, and has been put on display in the United States as well and provides Mazda owners and media a first-hand look at the freehand sketch work and painstaking sculpturing process that leads to a finished design. The show includes concept and production vehicles from Mazda as well as products such as a sofa and a bicycle that have been designed according to the KODO Design language.

Mazda’s artistic design philosophy begins with abstract shapes known as speed forms. These forms offer an initial idea – the sweep of a curving line and the tension of three-dimensional surfaces – for the Mazda’s designers and sculptors to translate into the shape of a car that evokes an emotional response.

“We believe that with human hands, you build energy into the product,” Montousse explained. “When the driver interacts with the vehicle, that energy is released. We’re not just explaining this practice, we’re showing it.”

mx-5 rf

One of the ways in which Mazda brings the artist’s aesthetic to the human-centric design process is by employing artists throughout the process, whether free-drawing concept sketches or molding clay to reveal the shape conceived in the designer’s mind.

“It’s about the handmade approach,” Montousse said. “As designers, we want to transfer energy and emotion through a physical object. The best way to do that is to use human hands to drive and draw this emotion in three dimensions.”

Bringing the artist’s vision to automobile design has a long history, but it is often overshadowed by functional requirements. At Mazda, engineers work hand-in-hand with designers to bring the artist’s concept to production.

“Everyone is looking at the speed forms – designers, engineers, and even marketing,” Montousse explains. “They’ve aligned the entire company to one particular emotion. That’s powerful and no one else is doing that.”