After becoming an in-house designer, I realized how different industrial design is from artistic design, and the many difficult hurdles that need to be overcome before arriving at the final design. It's not enough for a car just to look stylish. With industrial design, it has to meet customer needs too. What functions are required? What style should the design have? You can't get to grips with these questions just using written materials and conceptual plans. So I start by putting myself in the customer's position. I go to see the places where the customers I am thinking of live and work and I engage in the same routines. In short I experience their experience at first hand. Having done that, I make sketches that encapsulate the style and the functions that I think the customer is likely to want. But a sketch shows the world in 2D. Sometimes, I can see that it's going to end up different in 3D. So I go back and forth between the sketch and the simple 3D model to compare the design with the picture I formed at the "experiencing" stage. It's like taking the contents of my head and pouring them into a physical mold.
Why is the design of the same car assigned to different people for the interior fittings and the exterior styling? Until I joined the company I always thought it was strange. The fact is, the amount of work involved is enormous. And on top of that, having both internal and external designers offer suggestions in their respective highly specialized fields obviously has its benefits. But although it was asking the impossible, I couldn't help think that ideally the same person should be in charge of both the interior and exterior designs. Although I'm a vehicle interior designer, I would sometimes attend meetings to discuss exterior styling or draw sketches and show them to colleagues in the exterior styling department. So, I carried on learning and promoting my ideas as much as I could. And then my chance arrived. The vehicle was the RAV4. The amount of work I had to do in preparation for presenting my idea for both the interior and exterior designs was enormous. Literally twice the amount that I would have had to do if I were just designing the interior. But I staked everything on the project. Thanks to having that motivation, both my interior and exterior designs were adopted for the same car. I came one step closer to realizing my concept of ideal product design. That result was due not so much to my efforts, but to the understanding and the support I got from my managers, who let me take on both projects, and from the rest of the team. I learned that it's important to try something, giving it your every effort, and not be bound by preconceived concepts. This experience made me feel that Toyota is a company that will give anyone with the will the chance to prove him or herself.
When I talk about having my interior and exterior design proposals adopted in the same car, what was actually adopted at the time was no more than the concept itself. What I think is important is the Toyota design people turning the ideas into reality while retaining the necessary design integrity. Whatever the idea, it's having the expert ability and technical skill to give it concrete shape that counts when it comes to presenting a design that meets individual customer needs with a correspondingly wide range of models. For the individual designer, that's a great work environment. No matter how challenging the idea, as long as customer needs and the original concept have been taken on board. you can be confident in presenting it. That's why I want to keep taking on new challenges. We're able to meet customer needs precisely because Toyota provides a work environment where designers can concentrate on their ideas.
I think that in any job, good ideas come from not only knowledge, but also, importantly, practical experience. So I don't separate time at work and time away. I consciously keep them in overlapping compartments, and I'm always trying to do a range of different things. When I first joined the company, I used to make fancy dress outfits and bathrobes. It was a fun way of learning about sheets and fabrics and other materials and learning about stitching techniques. I even bought an industrial sewing machine, so perhaps it was more than just a hobby. Apart from that, I take wedding videos for friends and colleagues, often including footage from various locations that have special meaning for the couple involved. And I do renovation work to turn rooms into café-style spaces with DJ booths. I always try and stay attuned to the world around me, and try to cultivate my sense of curiosity.
If I talk about designing an ambience, it sounds vague, but I actually also do DJ-ing as a hobby. Because it's strictly a hobby, I wouldn't try to compete with pro DJs, but I do have my own ideas about it. When I design a musical ambience, that doesn't mean I decide everything the way I want it. You keep track of the needs of the moment in real time, from the situation on the dance floor, the fashions of the people there, their facial expressions, and then you pick the track to keep things flowing. Do you run one song melodiously into the next, or do you employ some radical scratching? You need to combine the ability to handle the turntable with the ability to read the mood of the dance floor. Actually, the process of creating a design has a similar feel. Just like you pick up on the atmosphere of the dance floor, you use your left brain to read the style and the functions that customers want. And just like you keep things flowing by instantly picking just the right track, you use your right brain to give concrete shape to customer emotions. In that sense, perhaps being a DJ is good practice for strengthening the coordination between left and right brain activity.
Work days and days off are part of the same time axis. You have to see how much you can achieve within a fixed space of time. I set rules for myself to see how many I can manage of the things I want to do. The key to it is my appetite for experience. I just can't pass up an opportunity. The most pressured times are when the crucial phase in a design competition coincides with making a wedding video for a friend or a DJ event. Sometimes I stay up half the night several days in a row. But because I'm enjoying what I'm doing, I never feel tired. In fact when I've finished a DJ event I often carry on partying until the morning. Of course, I make sure I'm fully focused for design competitions. With all this going on, when everything has gone well in work and my social life, the feeling of achievement is tremendous. The busier I am, the more exciting life is. The challenge is how to fit all the different things into a tight schedule. To continue growing on a personal level, I work hard and play hard.