One of the reasons Mazda’s cars provide so much driving pleasure is the people who craft them love to drive, too. While it’s natural to consider the part the engineers play in achieving this, the design staff has a significant role in the process.
Norio Terauchi is a clay modeler in Mazda’s design department. It is his responsibility to take the lines and forms created by the design team and faithfully render them in three dimensions.
“Mazda is working hard on design development using handmade clay models.” Terauchi said. “Clay modeling enables us to intuitively create forms with appeal to people’s hearts. While making repeated slight changes, a perfect line gradually emerges.”
And indeed, the seductive lines of the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata could only have emerged from the hand and eye of passionate human beings.
Ensuring the optimal interplay of light and shadow requires a human touch.
“As a clay modeler, I care particularly about adjustments to make reflected light look beautiful,” Terauchi said. “If something is wrong with the surface, light doesn’t reflect back smoothly. I will fine-tune the finish over and over again until it does.”
Color also plays a significant role in the emotional response one has to a car. It can have a tremendous effect upon the experience of driving it. The launch color for the 2016 Mazda MX-5 is a very difficult-to-master hue called “Soul Red.”
“Soul Red is achieved by layering multiple colors of paint,” Kazumitsu Tamai, Mazda master painter, said. “Getting it just right is a challenge. Each of the colors has to be correctly applied to get to the effect you want. Getting it right requires many subtle adjustments. This ultimately comes down to the expression of color through my own sensibilities.”
Painting the hard model is the finishing touch in the design process. Because of this, Tamai is keenly aware of the way his hands directly influence manufacturing at Mazda. His spray gun movements play a crucial role in achieving just the right shade. To apply the colors exactly as intended, Tamai relies upon the acuteness of his touch, which he has gained over years of experience.
“Ultimately, my job is about applying the colors approved by a color designer with my spray gun, to ensure the finished paint job fully reflects the development model’s image,” Tamai said.
The Interior Designer
As important as the exterior of the car is, the interior also plays a huge role in overall design and comfort. Mazda interior designer Masaya Suzuki sees his job as creating an environment in which people want to drive the car simply by looking at it. However, it is equally important he achieve harmony between the emotional and the rational. To accomplish this, Suzuki draws upon his own experiences as a driver when conceptualizing new ideas.
“Mazda’s cars focus on the driver,” Suzuki said. “When it comes to the interior design, what we try to do is to figure out what layout would make people feel the urge to drive the car the moment they sit in the driver’s seat. This feeling can most readily be evoked with a layout creating an impression of forward motion. Another way is to give drivers the sense of being enveloped—something like what a pilot would feel when sitting in a cockpit.”
In the case of the new MX-5, the interior does both. And, in the process, the interior simultaneously creates a sense of excitement, adventure, security and control. These qualities are among the essential elements of driving pleasure.
“Our goal is to create a design appealing to people’s emotions when they see it, when they are driving it and even when they’re getting out of it,” Suzuki said. “There is no end to what the designer needs to do.”
Expressing driving pleasure and enhancing people’s lives through design are the challenges Mazda’s design team tackle every day. Because they are drivers, too, their instinct guides them to produce vehicles that do just that.