Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. has begun imparting its culture of advanced automotive design through a series of design forums titled the "Imagination Factory," a first for an automotive manufacturer. The design forums aspire to tell the story of how the company's designers derive inspiration from their living environment, personal values and vision to drive their design works. The "Imagination Factory" is also aimed at encouraging students who want to pursue a career in car or industrial design, as well as raise public interest in automotive design.

Starting in Singapore in August 2006, the "Imagination Factory" has made its way to various countries in Asia. In Taiwan, Yulon Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (which proudly houses one of Nissan's six design studios worldwide) hosted the event at Eslite Bookstore in Taipei, with the design forum including panel discussions between Nissan designers and local designers from various fields, and a workshop for design students.

The "Imagination Factory" recently found its way to local shores through the joint efforts of Nissan Motors Philippines Inc. and Universal Motors Corporation, showcasing Nissan's design philosophy and the creative development process involved in designing a car. The event also showcased an exhibition that was opened to the public to provide visitors with a sense and feel of Nissan's design studios.

The first day's activities saw a media presentation and panel discussion among the top brass of Nissan Project Design Centers from Japan and America together with distinguished local designers. A sunset party ended the opening day with participants being serenaded by top local violinist Jay Cayuca.

The next two days saw hundreds of students from various schools and universities immersed in a workshop on Nissan's design philosophy, process and strategy. The students were given the opportunity to design concept cars that were presented to the Nissan designers afterward.

Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. project design director Taiji Toyota, who admitted that he has no relation to a rival car manufacturer of the same name, explained the various "vocabularies" on which Nissan designers based in several countries adhering to in order not to veer away from the Nissan philosophy in making cars: symbolic (meaning iconic and memorable); advanced (progressive, fresh and new); broad planes (dynamic tension, solid and sturdy); simplicity (pure, natural and clean); finessed (refined and nuanced); and humancentric (attuned and sensitive).

"Designing Nissan cars is a collective effort of all our team of designers from around the world. It takes a lot of effort to build just one car and it passes a lot of scrutiny from the first day of its design up to its time of production," said Toyota, who is responsible for designing SUVs, trucks and LCV models. As a product chief designer, he supervised the creation of the exterior and interior design of the Murano, Infiniti FX and the Note. He is also in charge of the design of the Chappo and aT concept cars, and was also the chief designer of the X-Trail.

Toyota added that Nissan designers value the three Cs-Clear, Creative and Consistent-in which the design of the company's cars has taken shape. "Our cars have the distinctive Japanese DNA that we share with the world," added Toyota.

Bruce Campbell, vice president for design of Nissan Design America (NDA), was also on hand to field questions and assist in the holding of the two-day students' workshops. He said that cars that we see in our everyday life are products of imagination and design that are put to life in various car manufacturers' drawing boards.

Both Toyota and Campbell joined local Filipino designers such as Jojie Lloren, president of the Fashion and Design Council of the Philippines; Christopher Lacson, president of Habitat Manila; and Gerard Torres, dean of La Salle College of St. Benilde, School of Design and Arts, during the panel discussion that delved on the emotional and functional value of design, cross-cultural perspective of design and its influences on design works.

Aside from tons of materials such as design process showcases, design philosophy panels, statues, color samples, toolkits, sketches and quarter-scale models that serve as a mobile museum of automotive design, the forum also heralded top clay modeler Hideki Murayama from Nissan Motor Ltd., who displayed his expertise during a live clay-modeling demonstration of the Grand Livina.