Mazda’s KODO Design Process and Why it’s a Big Deal

Mazda highly values the aesthetic nature of their cars, so they’ve implemented a unique, refined design process called KODO, which is Japanese for “soul of motion”.

In fact, Mazda values design so much that they give their designers privilege over their engineers, who have to work around each car’s finalized design.

The KODO process is a pretty big deal. Actually, many would say that it’s the future of Mazda.

Maroon MX5

“I’d say that the MX-5 Miata comes closest to achieving ultimate beauty through purity.” – Ikuo Maeda, the executive officer and general manager of Mazda’s design division.

How the KODO Process Began

In 2010, Mazda decided to give the KODO design process a shot. As a result, the SHINARI, a concept car based on the KODO design, was created. It was such a hit that Mazda decided to permanently implement the KODO process throughout the company, getting all their employees to embrace it as well.

Shinari

The SHINARI concept car

The new process inspired employees from different departments to work with each other in the creative process. This, in turn, improved communication between departments and resulted in a more streamlined process.

An Outline of the KODO Process

The KODO design process consists of several important steps:

  1. The designer conjures up the emotion Mazda wants people to feel when they see the car
  2. When the designer defines, understands, and internalizes the target emotion, s/he sketches the car that s/he believes would make people feel that emotion (Mazda calls this step “[transferring the] energy from craftsman to object and from object to the viewer”)
  3. The designer brings the modeler on board and they both go over the sketches
  4. The modeler brings the designer’s vision to life by shaping it with clay
  5. If the clay model successfully provokes the target emotion in others, Mazda adopts the design for its model

The designer and the modeler review the sketches

The modeler shapes the clay to match the designer’s vision

We have the effective KODO process to thank for all the drop-dead gorgeous Mazda models that have been popping up lately. Among them are Miata models, one of which will definitely replace the first-generation as the Miata model that’s most likely to become a coveted classic.

Here's a beautiful video of the KODO process: