Traditional Japanese beauty expresses an elegance that is found nowhere else in the world. It is a style that grows out of an exquisite sense of balance—beautifully restrained, with every element perfectly emphasized. Much of Japanese traditional culture is based on the concept of “less is more.” It places emphasis on carefully eschewing superfluous elements to create an abundance of empty space, that enhances the essential elements. In this style, a sense of richness emanates from something that appears deceptively simple in design.
Mazda is on a mission to use cars as a medium to introduce traditional Japanese beauty to the world. Leaning on their rich heritage as pioneers in world-class automotive design, Mazda designers bring profound depth to their vehicles’ design, resulting in a pure, essential beauty that raises the car to the level of fine art.
The Evolution of KODO Design
Introduced in 2010, Mazda’s KODO-Soul of Motion Design is rooted in the idea of capturing the dynamic beauty of life. Mazda’s latest generation of KODO Design expands on this concept by taking inspiration from traditional Japanese beauty and creating essential, stunning designs that express a new form of elegance. Debuting with the RX-VISION concept car exhibited at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2015 and the VISION COUPE in 2017, the all-new Mazda3 sedan and five-door hatchback are the first production models to adopt KODO Design’s evolved expression.
“We have set out a design philosophy which encapsulates a distinctively Japanese kind of beauty—a style cultivated since ancient times as a look that is sublime yet subtle,” said Ikuo Maeda, head of Global Design and Brand Style at Mazda.
The Beauty of Empty Space
Traditional Japanese beauty calls for a delicate sense of balance – eliminating all but the truly essential elements to create precious spaces surrounding simple forms. The Japanese cherish these empty spaces, a virtue expressed in their gardens, cuisine, calligraphy and poetry.
“In places where there is nothing, we sense beauty. I want to respect this sensitivity,” Maeda explained. “In Ikebana, for instance, Japanese flower arrangement, they often talk about arranging not the flowers, but the spaces between them. Removing unnecessary elements, highlights the lines of the plant, purposefully incorporating room around the subject, creating a beauty of spaces.”
The Mazda3 headlamp design exemplifies this focus on simplicity. All unnecessary elements were shaved away to leave only the essence of the lighting fixture. The development team felt that limiting the design to the minimum necessary elements—the light source, lens and base—creates a more sleek and attractive look.
The Artistry of Light
Utsuori, shifting light, is a characteristic of Japanese design and architecture that focuses on a sensitivity to exquisite patterns of light and shadow that change by the moment and with the seasons.
For the all-new Mazda3, Mazda designers focused on stripping unnecessary elements to create a canvas that showcases light and reflections across the body, creating dramatic transformations as the car moves. A never-ending interplay of light and shadow glides over the bodywork as the viewing angle changes, creating a car that truly looks alive.
“Japan has four beautiful and distinct seasons and people have an aesthetic appreciation of delicate changes in light,” Maeda said. “With this sensibility, we thought we could create an expression with a uniquely Japanese aesthetic, and that is the challenge we took on for this new generation of cars.”
A Connected Interior
The interior of the all-new Mazda3 applies a concept from traditional Japanese architecture called “Ma,” which translates to “space.” Its focus is to create an interior that maintains a feeling of connection with the outside world.
This crafted space allows occupants to feel connected in a safe environment in order to fully engage with the pleasure of driving.
To further strengthen the connection between car and driver, every aspect of the cockpit is laid out in perfect vertical symmetry around the driver. The design goal was simplicity throughout based on the concept of “less is more.” For example, the climate-control panel and passenger-side louvers are integrated into the left right axis that follows the line of the instrument panel. This results in a clean and simple design that creates an intuitive environment in which the car and driver engage in a natural dialogue, enabling the driver to focus solely on driving.
The all-new Mazda3 is the kind of car that can be created only in Japan. With its next-generation design, Mazda is rediscovering the very essence of traditional Japanese beauty, creating an elegance and vitality that makes Mazda cars feel truly alive.