AUTO TECH AND ROAD SAFETY

Designer Diary: Ford Chief Creative Officer J. Mays

Designer Diary: Ford Chief Creative Officer J. Mays image

Text: Iñigo S. Roces / Photos: Iñigo S. Roces, Ford Press | posted January 25, 2012 15:33

AutoIndustriya.com interviews J Mays

Smitten by the EcoSport? So were we, which is why we didn’t pass up the chance to interview one of the men responsible for its evocative design, J Mays, Group Vice President, Design, and Chief Creative Officer of Ford Motor Company.

We pulled him aside during the launch of the EcoSport and he gladly obliged to answering a few questions amid the hustle and bustle of the crowd.

Interviewer:
Where do you draw your inspiration?
JM:
I’m interested in hotels, restaurants, food and product design. All of that has influenced in some way.

Interviewer:
In your words, how would you describe the EcoSport’s look?
JM: I think it’s very premium. That’s probably the best word. Everything we’re trying to do right now is to give a new generation of car buyers that are buying their first car a premium experience for good money.

Interviewer: Is it a challenge to create the premium look with more affordable materials?
JM:
It’s tough. Part of it’s materials, part of it is the way you shape the car, part of it is attitude. A conservative suit can look more expensive than a bright yellow one. You have to pick your colors, the materials, you also have to pick the cut of the clothes that go on the vehicle.

Interviewer: This being a One Ford Global car, Is it difficult designing for a global market?
JM: Not really, we have our own idea of what a Ford should look like. I use the analogy of the iPhone. We got a look and feel to our cars and we’re pretty sure that people are going to gravitate to them. When we design the car, we keep the customer in mind, but we have a very good idea of what we want the cars to look like.

Interviewer:
So how long did it take to create the EcoSport?
JM: It’s a long design process. We do a lot of pre work that takes 2 years on every car, before we even start designing. We’re trying to learn about the customer, the market that it’s in, the price the car is going to be. All that time we’re assembling that information, we’re garnering ideas on where we’d like the design to go. So when we finally push the start button on the design process, it comes together very quickly. Majority of the last year and a half is just working on quality.

Interviewer: We’re seeing less concept cars at Ford. Are they still as important to a company?
JM:
I don’t think they’re as important as they used to be. I used to get very excited about concept cars but I get a lot more excited about putting something into production these days. I get a lot more satisfaction seeing people drive the cars. If you see people driving your car, you hopefully improve their quality of life a little bit. I get more satisfaction from that than a concept car on the cover of a car magazine. People are more quickly getting the cars they want into production. We don’t talk a lot about this but should — production cars look more and more like concept cars. They look more cool these days.

Interviewer:
How restrtictive are pedestrian safety systems on a car’s design?
JM:
It really does dictate, but it dictates the same to every manufacturer. Pedestrian protection and how people fall onto the hood, or how the car hits them in the ankle so they’re not swept under a car are down to the millimeter that we have to follow. We do it and can still be creative. It can sometimes spur you to be more creative. It’s always something, be it aerodynamics or weight or overall height or width or pedestrian protection, all of those things are just part of doing business.

Interviewer:
What was it like designing for the traditional Ford system versus the One Ford now?
JM:
Traditional Ford was a bit of a mess because we were designing cars for Asia Pacific, a different set for Europe and another set for America and my team had to do all of those and it was a lot of work. Now, we design one car and put a lot more effort and time into the detail of that car which obviously creates a better car. So it’s the same amount of people designing one car but really doing it with a depth of details as opposed to the same amount of people doing three cars but with less detail.

Interviewer:
The EcoSport was from south America, any trouble adapting its design to a global market?
JM:
No, not really. We learned a lot from the South American audience. When we started talking to india, Indonesia and Vietnam, we saw a lot of synergies there. We don’t make small changes for every individual market. We used to do that and it cost us a lot and didn’t make the customers any happier. So we design the car we think is right and it just happens to be right for the customer as well.

Interviewer:
Do you consider the longevity of a design; how it will look 3-5 years after it’s launched?
JM:
We put a lot of thought into that. I’m anti fashion. What’s fashionable is here today and the moment it’s released, it’s dead. I want to do cars that are anti-fashion. The classic cars we loved from 50 years ago were not fashionable but were classic. Classic beautiful cars are a lot more appealing.

Interviewer:
What are your favourite cars that you designed?
JM: I still like the Range Rover Sport from when we still had Jaguar and Land Rover. When I was at Audi, the TT. It’s still a pretty good looking car. The range of Audi’s I did still look good even at 15 years old now. When we had Aston Martin at the time, we did the DBS. That’s still a pretty good looking car. We’ve also made mistakes along the way. We had a vehicle called the Ford 500 which was a very conservative car. I’m still kicking myself as to why we did it.