Livesketching With Car-Design Legend J Mays

Uploaded by drive on 29.08.2012


JASON TORCHINSKY: OK, we're live, and it looks great.
OK, so we're going to go ahead and get started.
All right, well, hello, everybody.
Again, I'm Jason Torchinsky, and with me today is J Mays,
if I can tilt and point the camera.
J MAYS: Hello, everyone.
JASON TORCHINSKY: You're the, I believe, head--
Chief Creative at Ford right now?
J MAYS: That would be it.
JASON TORCHINSKY: That would be it.
And, of course, everybody knows J Mays because he's
designed a great number of very iconic cars that we've
seen all over the place.
The new Beetle, of course, being possibly one of the most
famous ones, the new Thunderbird, all of Ford's new
design vocabulary.
And what we're going to be doing today is--
do we still have video?
Oh, we're not live.
OK, well, then we'll hold things until they come back.
J MAYS: OK, that's good.
JASON TORCHINSKY: It should, when you log in, yeah.
So let's see.
J MAYS: Log in.
JASON TORCHINSKY: Yeah, are you streaming?
We'll keep it informal.

OK, we're up on YouTube, I see, but not
up on Jalopnik yet.

Well, then those will get to see a little bit of the
behind-the-scenes stuff.

Where are you based out of?
Are you based out of Michigan?
J MAYS: No, I'm based out of London.
Oh, OK.
Is that where Ford's big design studio is?
We have 11 of them, so I'm kind of all over the place.
So we've got several in Britain.
We've got them in Germany, China, Australia--
J MAYS: --South America, several here in the US.
They're kind of all over the map.
JASON TORCHINSKY: But your design strategy for Ford now
is basically one--
J MAYS: Yeah, it's global.
Hopefully, that's showing up.
JASON TORCHINSKY: Yeah, well, I think it is.
Although I kind of miss the fact that there used to be
weird stuff that we didn't get over here.
And we'll cover--
J MAYS: I think the good news is that the weird stuff that
didn't used to be over here, won't be over here.
JASON TORCHINSKY: Yep, well, that would be great.
J MAYS: Everybody seems pretty pleased that they're going to
be able to get a Focus S2 here.
There's a couple of other old Ford freaky famous ones I want
to talk to you about.
J MAYS: Yeah.
we're not on yet, right?
J MAYS: The Fiesta ST we've announced this
coming year, right?
J MAYS: Fiesta ST?
J MAYS: OK, All right.
We probably want to do that.
I can't remember--
JASON TORCHINSKY: I know our audience would love it, if
that was the case.
J MAYS: That would be a really quick check.
Hold up a sign.
J MAYS: I bet Marisa knows.

Or actually I think Drive and Jalopnik, but I have
to check and see.
MATT (OFFSCREEN): Drive is on.
I checked the Jalopnik page.
We should be going live very soon.

OK, so we should be live on Jalopnik now.

OK, it will you to the front page, so we've
got about two minutes.
You used to be based out of LA, right?
I guess when you were working for VW or Audi?
J MAYS: I was out in Simi Valley here.
J MAYS: So was there for about three years, and then I was
back in Ingolstadt with Audi.
And then I came back out here as an independent consultant
in the '90s And then ended up back in Dearborn for seven
years there as well before going back to Ford.
J MAYS: I drove an old Beetle out here today, actually.
J MAYS: Oh, good or you.
We're up and live.
We'll start again here.
So again, let me just check one thing.
Matt, are you see it live on screen?
You are?
OK, good, because I'm just seeing black.
MATT (OFFSCREEN): It's great.
All right, hi, everybody.
So I'm Jason Torchinsky--
and why am I still seeing that?
Oh, well.
You're seeing it live, though?
MATT (OFFSCREEN): I see you live.
JASON TORCHINSKY: OK, I'm Jason Torchinsky, and I'm here
today talking to J Mays, who is, of course--
J MAYS: Hi there.
JASON TORCHINSKY: --Head Creative for Ford and is also
one of the most famous automotive designers for our
time right now.
I think if I had to ask my mom to name an automotive
designer, you might be the only one whose
name she could possibly--
J MAYS: Gosh, that's good to know.
JASON TORCHINSKY: That's a big deal.
J MAYS: That your mom would know that is really--
JASON TORCHINSKY: The Mrs. Torchinsky
demographic is a huge deal.
J MAYS: That's the only one that counts for me.
That's what I'm glad to hear.
Of course, J. Mays designed a lot of iconic cars we know
today-- the Volkswagen new Beetle, Audi TT, [INAUDIBLE]
with other people, the whole new Ford design vocabulary,
the new Mustang.
So what we're going to do is take questions from all of you
out there in Kendricks.
I'm sure you have a lot of exciting things.
And to make this a little more interesting, we want to make
it more visual.
So I'm going to be drawing and J's going to be guiding me.
And if J wants to grab a pen, he's more than
welcome to a drawing.
I don't know--
I'm not saying that will happen, but we'll just see.
So to get things started while we're waiting for some
questions to come in, i wanted to just ask
you something quick.
JASON TORCHINSKY: So this will be a visual one.
So if we think about what you did with the old Beetle, so
I'm just quickly going to draw an old Beetle here really
fast, with a 368 one.
OK, so we've got old Beetle here.

Now the process you took to go from the old Beetle here to
the new one here.
OK, so we get the old Beetle.
The process of going from there to the new Beetle, which
was, of course--
it borrowed very heavily from the old Beetle, but it was
much more modernized.
You simplified the shapes in a very dramatic way and it
became kind of like this geometric ideal of what the
Beetle was.
And here's my question.
Now that you're at Ford, Ford, of course, has a huge number
of interesting names and properties, a
long history of language.
And the one that maybe arguably is the biggest one is
one that's never been touched for any kind of retro
futuristic treatment.
And I'm going to draw that one here, and I want you to talk
me through how you could possibly take this extremely
iconic Ford design, and how do you modernize it?
Because I think this one's never been touched because
it's so difficult, and nobody really knows
exactly how to do this.
And I'm hoping by now you can see where I'm going.
J MAYS: Yep.
JASON TORCHINSKY: So how do you take the Model T, possibly
the most iconic of all the Fords in many ways, the car
that put America on wheels, how do you take something like
this, which is so far removed from modern vehicles?
If you were to talk me through a process by which we can take
a Model T--
take the new Beetle, too.
Where we normally have lot of details and things to
modernites might consider fussy, there's a process of
streamlining but it looks modern.
How do we do that for something like this?
Where would you start?
J MAYS: It can't.
I'm sorry to say that, but just because you think you
can, doesn't mean you should.
J MAYS: So let me just back up and see if I can explain how
we got the new Beetle, and I think that will shed some
light on why you wouldn't want to do that for the Model T.
The new Beetle was surely--
in peoples' minds had some sort of connection to the
original car.
But if you go back into the history of car design and look
at the original Beetle, you'll find that-- and I bet you'll
remember this, certainly, being in California--
that there were a lot of people replacing the hoods on
the original Beetle with Ford--
JASON TORCHINSKY: Oh, sure, yeah.
Yeah, you get that--
J MAYS: So you saw we had it all out.
JASON TORCHINSKY: Yeah, you squared it off.
J MAYS: So it looked for all the world like a '40 Ford.
J MAYS: And it had the at the same back end
and the slanted shape.
This was just a car that had--
So it had that feeling of a lot of cars.
J MAYS: So the whole point of the new Beetle wasn't to make
the car just look like the old Beetle but was to make the car
communicate the same values that the original car had.
So I always thought that the original car's whole reason
for being was simplicity.
And so if you break simplicity down into a geometric shape,
you end up with the most simple geometric shape of all,
which is a circle.
J MAYS: And by taking three circles, one for the front
wheel, one for the rear wheel, and one for the passenger
compartment, I can't make a car any more simple than that.
That has got a lot going for it.
It's a simple communication of the idea of simplicity.
It's also a very motherly shape, so they're round,
cuddly forms.
And this whole concept, by the way, didn't escape Walk Disney
when he created Mickey Mouse.
J MAYS: Because if you turn the new Beetle on its head,
you've actually got Mickey.
JASON TORCHINSKY: Yeah, that's true.
J MAYS: So that's kind of cool.
And that was about as simple as we were going to make it.
So I can do that because there are actually forms on the
original car that I could then relate and communicate in a
more simple way on the new car.
J MAYS: Now, unfortunately, the Model T came at a point
that's more closely associated with the horse and buggy as
opposed to any type of style that had been put into cars.
So it's almost impossible to take the idea of taking the
original Model T and then trying to do a model
iteration of it.
By the way, I would be lying to say that I hadn't tried it
or thought about it.
J MAYS: It isn't going to happen.
JASON TORCHINSKY: Before we leave it, though, now that
you've got me intrigued that you've at least though about
it, even if things are failures and we totally
understand Ford is not going to do it, what do you do?
How do you start?
For me, I can see this grill shape somehow and the big
round lights in something.
I don't know.
J MAYS: It ended up looking like the superficial nonsense,
is the only thing I can say.

It's OK that a car has character.
In fact, I think it's really important
that a car has character.
That's what wins us in at the end of the day.
J MAYS: But these ended up looking like caricatures.
And that's something slightly different, because you don't
want to just create a series of joke cars.
J MAYS: And I think that's what the Model T would become
if you tried to literally translate that
into a modern car.
JASON TORCHINSKY: How far did that process get?
J MAYS: About 15 minutes.
J MAYS: It's just not the car to do it with.
And I agree with you, it's one of Ford's most famous cars.
But it is so long in the distant past and such a big
misty look back over our shoulder that I don't think
that's worth revisiting.
That's fair.
So we got a couple of questions that came in.
First up.
What car do you like the most?
What's your favorite car?
You can pick anything you want, which I imagine you
could, anyway.
J MAYS: Oh, gosh.
You know, I pick a different one every single time.
A short wheel base 250GT Ferrari, it's
hard to beat that.
Hard to beat that, OK.
J MAYS: Certainly as Sergio Pininfarina just passed away,
let's use that one.
Gosh, wasn't that one of his best?
JASON TORCHINSKY: It's his a stunning car car.
J MAYS: Absolutely.
JASON TORCHINSKY: And then how would you make a sportier
version of the Fusion?
J MAYS: Well, I could do that a number of ways.
I could go a sportier version of it by putting
bigger wheels on it.
I could put a body kit on it.
I could lower it.
I could put on a new set of doors, I could do
any number of things.
JASON TORCHINSKY: What would you--
like what would be your--
J MAYS: I think if you look at--
much in the same way that we look at that Focus, we have
the mainstream Focus, and we have sportier
versions of the Focus.
Or we have a mainstream Explorer, and we have sportier
versions of Explorer.
So all of the usual tricks that immediately involves
lowering the vehicle slightly, like larger wheels, a really
well-integrated body kit, and the right colors.
J MAYS: And that takes a big step in making a
car look more sporty.
Let's see.
Also, how much longer will designers be using the upward
belt line, upward-sloping belt line and hatches?
All right, so this one's worth looking at on
the sketching deck.
So currently, what they're talking about is a lot of cars
right now have--
even the most generic cars, they've got a belt line that
kind of is sloping upward on almost everything now.
And things are getting very uniform-looking.
So if we look at the car, no matter if it's a hatch or a
wagon, there's this center belt line, this thing--
J MAYS: There's a lot of wedge to the car.
JASON TORCHINSKY: A lot of wedge to the car coming here.
You've got your greenhouse.
How much longer do you think that trend will be going?
Because if you remember, in the Corvair in the '60s, there
was a big trend for these very kind of tub-like--
J MAYS: Yep.
J MAYS: Well, I think you've seen that
run its course already.
Because although there will always be some cars with wedge
because of the package--
I'll give you a good example.
The Fusion that we're launching in the fall is going
to also be sold as the Mondeo in Europe.
J MAYS: Now, if you look at the current Mondeo, that
vehicle has a lot more wedge to the vehicle than the new
Mondeo will.
J MAYS: So we've already started to back that off.
Because you can only continue to raise things and raise
things and raise things--
JASON TORCHINSKY: Yeah, of course.
It's absurd.
J MAYS: --until it becomes absurd.
J MAYS: I rest my case.
So I think we're already seeing it back off.
Now that doesn't mean that some company might
not want to do that.
But at Ford we've got something we call silhouette
innovation and by extension what we call perceived
Well, perceived efficiency should not only be
aerodynamic, it should sort of look aerodynamic.
So I still love the idea of the teardrop, which takes us
all the way back to the '30s.
J MAYS: Yeah, Rumpler, Jaray, all of the greatest guys.
And so although I'm not suggesting that we're going to
end up building pure teardrops, I would start to
suggest that maybe the wedge has sort of run it's day.
The wedge really started in earnest in the '80s, and I
think it's just about run its course.
JASON TORCHINSKY: Now, what about the--
now come teardrops for the cab-forward style Buckminster
Fuller teardrop.
I think for John Taharda-- or how do we pronounce his name?
J MAYS: Tjaarda.
JASON TORCHINSKY: Tjaarda was experimenting with a lot of
these back in the era.
What are the chances of some kind of
comeback like this era?
J MAYS: Absolutely not.
Keep in mind, I love all those old designs.
Although I'm not a huge fan of Buckminster Fuller, I'm a huge
fan of Norman Bel Geddes--
JASON TORCHINSKY: That's who I was
thinking of was Bel Geddes.
J MAYS: Raymond Loewy--
J MAYS: --all of those guys.
At the time, there was something quite
interesting going on.
So you had in Europe aerodynamicists like Jaray--
J MAYS: --that were doing pure aerodynamics.
And in the US--
I guess, too, maybe.
J MAYS: Yes, also.
And in the US, you had guys like Norman Bel Geddes and
Raymond Loewy doing streamline, which was
JASON TORCHINSKY: Pencil sharpening.
J MAYS: Which was essentially giving aerodynamics some sort
of emotional connection to the consumer.
And I though that was great.
JASON TORCHINSKY: And there was--
who was it?
The guy who designed the phone.
Someone had once made fun of a Raymond Loewy design by
showing this pencil sharpener he made and
emphasizing the screws.
I can't remember the-- yeah, and also
the thermostat design.
J MAYS: Was it Henry Dreyfuss?
JASON TORCHINSKY: Yes, Henry Dreyfuss.
Thank you very much.
Let's see.
We've got some more questions.
J MAYS: I feel like I'm on a game show.
This is great.
Name That Designer.
"For a student studying industrial design, would a
Coventry Master be a good next step?"
J MAYS: A good next step past what, I
guess would be my question?
I'm assuming a good next step toward becoming
an automotive designer--
JASON TORCHINSKY: I would imagine, yeah.
J MAYS: --he or she means.
I'll tell you.
This is a serious answer.
The best thing you can do if you want to become an
automotive designer is not the university or the school that
you go to, but it's the portfolio
that you put together.
So I look at probably 10 to 15 portfolios a week, and I could
never care less about the resume.
I just set it to the side, open up their artwork, and
look at the artwork.
If there's a great portfolio, I don't care if they come from
Coventry, Royal College of Art, CCS in Detroit, Art
Center in Pasadena.
If the portfolio is great, then we'll be on
the phone to you.
JASON TORCHINSKY: What do you look for in a portfolio to
make it great?
What are the things that tend to be--
J MAYS: I look at originality.
I'll look at a sense of style.
A lot people have good taste.
And having good taste is a very different thing from
having a great sense of style.
So a great sense of style will leap out at you, and you can
tell that somebody's just got that definitive edge over
others that separates them out from the pack.
So even if I look at designers that are currently working in
the industry, 95% of them are doing the same work.
And then there's that 5% that actually are on the leading
edge that all of these other designers copy.
So I'm not interested in just having another 95 percenter.
I want somebody that's going to make me think, challenge
me, and possibly come up with a
next-generation design language.
Let's see.
Let's take a couple other questions we're getting also
from our YouTube.
"What industries do you take influence from when you're
designing vehicles?" I guess other industries that aren't
J MAYS: Yeah, that's a good question.
I think you're only as good as what you know, and all of your
life's experiences will help you design a better car, a
better product, a better house.
So you need to know a lot about architecture.
You need to know about fashion.
You need to know about the culinary arts, weirdly.
Why is that?
J MAYS: Well, because culinary arts are increasingly visual
as well as how things taste.
How's it presented?
It's a sense of style.
Hotel design.
Product design.
I'm interested in what things sound like, so
I'm really a fan--
I just flew over from London yesterday, and I must have
watched the new Avengers film about three times.
I watched it twice, and the third time I just turned off
the screen and just listened to the sound effects.
Because if you've never heard Ironman suit rub together,
it's fantastic.
And that is, in itself, a piece of design.
So you need to understand that at every point of contact with
your customer that you're hoping to emotionally engage
with, you've got a chance there to hook them in, and
reel them in, and hopefully give them a cool experience.
All right.
Now I want to do another quick visual question.
And this one, actually, I'm going to do one of mine for--
which I will do for the people watching this, too.
I just reviewed the C-Max.
And I noticed, design-wise--
and a lot of cars that have very specific looks for
hybrids and other cars have very specific goals, where
they have a lot of interior room they have to deal with.
And because of the hybrid nature and for space
maximization, we've got some small wheels.
You've got a big body and small wheels.
And the C-Max is an attractive0looking car, but I
feel like there are certain things to make it look more
aggressive that don't necessarily fit in with how
the car actually--
I don't know.
It feels a little tacked on to a body style that maybe
doesn't need to be that aggressive.
And the idea of a big body and small wheels
is not going anywhere.
It's going to happen.
And right now, we're in an era where a short greenhouse and
big wheels are defining a lot of style and what a lot of
people are looking for.
How do you take the tall-body, small-wheels formula and make
it compelling?
J MAYS: Well, you don't.

If you ask any designer, whether it's automotive or a
fashion designer, everyone wants long and lean.
So in the ideal long, beautiful car, in my mind, it
goes all the way back to the '30s Duesenbergs.
You've got an incredibly long wheelbase.
You've got a long hood, possibly short close-coupled
greenhouse, and a short truck.
But these cars were really long.
They'd give you a chance to stretch out the lines and make
them beautiful.
J MAYS: That's the same thing as when you see a supermodel
running down a catwalk, they're usually about 6'3",
and they're not particularly wide.
They're very long and lean.
J MAYS: Then when you get to the practicality of moving a
family around--
JASON TORCHINSKY: That doesn't do it.
J MAYS: That's a very different thing.
So it becomes like wearing a parka.
So you've got a stubbier car that's taller, and you're
absolutely right, with small wheels.
So the entire hierarchy of what we're trying to do shifts
from being stylish to fulfilling a practical need.
Now the practical need of the C-Max is to move a
standard-sized family around, have plenty of space, so it's
space utilization.
It's suitability for that family.
And you need to do it in a way that still looks like you're
giving a family a certain sense of style.
Now, I happen to think that C-Max, considering its
proportion, still looks great.
In fact, it looks better than any of the other vehicles in
that class.
But the reason people buy the C-Max is for space
utilization, first and foremost, and then, in its
hybrid form, it's that 570 miles per tank--
which I doubt that you can mention, but I will just
because I like doing it--
is about 120 miles per tank better than the Toyota Prius.
So style-wise, though, I personally would feel there's
still maybe something.
Maybe it's not long and elegant.
But something that can define this small-wheeled tall car
that makes it visually compelling.
J MAYS: Well, what we did on the C-Max is, and of course,
we don't have a photo here.
But we put relatively large wheel arches.
JASON TORCHINSKY: Yeah, you did.
J MAYS: Over those wheels.
JASON TORCHINSKY: Very sculpted wheel arches.
J MAYS: Which helps us eat up some of that height.
JASON TORCHINSKY: And you had a very
Aston-Martin-looking grill.
J MAYS: No, we like to think of that as an inverted
trapezoid, which has been on all our cars since probably
about seven years now.
So that grill continues to evolve and make its way up
higher onto the front of the vehicle.
What I like about that is it continues to make the car look
more expensive.

A couple other questions we got here.

"When did you decide to become an auto designer?"
J MAYS: I was flunking out of journalism school, so it was
an easy decision.
I was going to the University of Oklahoma.
This would have been about 1975.
And I found out by complete accident that there was a
school out in California that you could go and learn how to
become a commercial artist.
So I sent for the brochure.
And keep in mind, I came from Oklahoma.
I hadn't been too many places in 1975.
And when the brochure arrived, by complete accident, I
realized that there was a degree that would teach you
how to draw cars.
And that they would actually pay a grown man money to do
that when it was all said and done.
So I thought, gosh, this is too good to be true.
So I worked all summer on a portfolio, send it up to the
art center.
They accepted me, which was a really thrilling
moment in my life.
And I got in my car and drove out and went to school there.
So from--
JASON TORCHINSKY: What were you driving at the time?
J MAYS: At the time, I went out there I was driving a
Volvo 240GL.
JASON TORCHINSKY: Oh, yeah, yeah.
J MAYS: It had the first sort of forward-slanting nose.
And not what I'd call one of the most stylish cars in the
world, but a very character car.
"What was the project--" I believe this was another one
from our questions-- "that you liked working on the most?"
J MAYS: Probably the Audi Avus.
JASON TORCHINSKY: The show car, right.
J MAYS: Which was a show vehicle that I think really
informed and continues to inform the design language of
Audi to this day.
That's sort of when the lights came on for me about how
design is a communications tool.
And if you use design and think of it as a visual
vocabulary or a visual language wrote the language
you're speaking, you want to be able to communicate with
customers just in the way the marketing man might use
advertising to communicate with customers.
So that was the car that really brought it home for me.
Can you tell us anything--
I know the next Mustang, you said, is not going to be a
retro design.
That's what I heard.
J MAYS: I don't believe I said anything about the Mustang.
JASON TORCHINSKY: You didn't say-- well, I heard it said.
Maybe people were putting words in my mouth.
J MAYS: I've heard it said as well, and I'm going to ask you
and yours just to hold fire, wait up, and at the right
time, we're going to be talking about that.
JASON TORCHINSKY: The big rumor I heard was the Mustang
II, was that it was going to be based all on that.
JASON TORCHINSKY: The Pinto-based Mustang II.
J MAYS: There's a lot of rumors going around, and I
read them all as well with a good chuckle.
But we're going to wait.
And it'll have to be a perfect time.
I'm going to come back here, and I will be happy to share
it with you.
JASON TORCHINSKY: I would love that, actually.
That would be a good treat.
How much time we got?
JASON TORCHINSKY: Well, again, J, thank you so much.
I really appreciate this.
J MAYS: Yeah, that was great fun, and very quick.
JASON TORCHINSKY: I'm glad you liked it.
And so J is going to be answering some questions
online on [INAUDIBLE]
typing in answers.
But that's it for the video portion.
So again, thanks everybody, and check [INAUDIBLE]
for the answers.
Thanks again.
J MAYS: All right.
Thank you.