Colors of contemporary living

Keiko Shishido
Color Designer

At Work

Color design that makes the car

Color design involves coordinating the color and materials of the vehicle body and interior. The way I work is to intuitively devise new color schemes and materials after taking into account such things as the different preferences of different regions and the number of units sold by color. Then, I build a logical case by backing my choice up with other relevant information and materials. In general, car styling is seen as coming first and color design as following afterwards. I think that if we could reverse that thinking to ‘color design that makes the car,' we might be able to discover a whole new kind of appeal. In other words I think that if we created a form of styling from the perspective of color design, that would lead to new shapes that have never been seen with cars before. For instance, we could think up shapes and spaces that bring out the distinctive character of the materials and colors. It is because of the countless combinations of color and material that I feel color design has limitless possibilities.

Unique qualities that color design brings to a car

There is a single-person vehicle called the i-swing that was showcased at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show. Even kids can use it to pop out to the shop. Its people-friendly nature is designed to blend naturally into the spaces we live in. It has the feel of a partner who is always at our side. I thought it would be interesting if the colors and materials could be chosen to suit the driver's mood or the weather on that day, like a change of clothes. So I wanted to bring in the concept of fashion as much as possible through the use of different colors and materials. After factoring in the customer perspective, current trends, and other objective considerations, what I came up with was a design that is given a kimono-like image by tie-dye and flower print motifs that look hand-drawn. By selecting colors and materials that pique the interest of customers due to their personal interests and tastes, I think I was able to make a futuristic product feel more accessible. Color can express things that shape alone cannot. One can capture the feel of the times and create a more personal level of comfort and satisfaction for the customer. That's the true value of color design.

Combining color and materials to respond to individual needs

What should Toyota design mean in a car? We take cars, which are a mass-market product, and perfect them as much as possible to meet all potential needs. Ultimately, our idea is that we want to deliver cars individually matched to individual customers. In this sense, you can say that color design plays an important role in giving concrete shape to Toyota design. For instance, although a car may have only one vehicle grade, if there are a range of exterior and interior color choices, customers can select their preferred combination from a large number of options. Our everyday environment abounds with color, in the clothes we like to wear, the interior décor we choose to relax in, and the colorful foods we like to eat. Letting people exercise the same kind of preference when they choose their cars is what Toyota's color design is working toward.

Personal Time

Reactions to art

On my days off, I often go to art galleries. Not because I am a student of art, but because I like galleries. Not only artworks themselves, but also the spaces and buildings housing them. Sometimes though, I happen to pick up a little inspiration for my work too. Whether in classic or modern art, the motifs or the composition of the work sometimes suggest a possibility to me. At other times, the building provides me with inspiration. Looking at the way the reflection of light defines a certain space, I wonder if I can't replicate the effect in a vehicle to give it a greater audience. When people visit art galleries, everyone appreciates the gallery and works in their own unique way. But I think the way I approach a gallery is probably a bit different because I am always wondering why something is the way it is, and then I have the urge to try to find out, test out theories and translate things into vehicle terms. Unconsciously I am storing ideas. Perhaps that is the difference. It is probably something peculiar to being a color designer.

Asking why and what — every day

Even in everyday situations, I have a way of looking at things that is a bit different to other people. For instance, my habit of people-watching on the street. I often find myself trying to discover traits in common among people I see on the street. I might think for instance: "I bet the person I saw just now and the one sitting over there have the same kind of taste. They look completely different but the items they're using are the same." I start making imaginary classifications and conclusions, guessing what style the world will go for next. I am forever asking why and what. I suppose it's part of a color designer's curiosity. Perhaps I have become extra sensitive through an unconscious process. I think if I lost this curiosity, I would miss it badly. If you don't train your thoughts when you're not working, when the time comes to select colors and materials, the ideas don't come straight away. Not all of my wondering about why and what leads on to ideas. But I think that this curiosity and inquisitiveness does have benefits for a color designer.

Thinking from the customer perspective

A color designer is not an artist. Because it's about developing a vehicle, we have to think within fixed parameters. It's also important to develop the optimal idea within the time available. And above all it's essential to respond to customer needs. What is required is to think from the perspective of a customer and then to use the skills of a professional to realize your vision without compromising. Thinking from the customer perspective enables one to grasp customer sensibilities from contemporary trends, in vogue colors, and the mood of the times. Using professional skills means that you can work on the color design while at the same time making clear-headed appraisals of marketing data and past sales figures and meeting the unique requirements of the vehicle. You can be outstanding at one of these, but unless you have both abilities, I don't think really good color design is possible. Is this really the style of color and material that customers are looking for? Is this really the car they want? I always make sure to run these questions through the filter of my own experience and then go back to work again on the design.


  • Simon Humphries
    General Manager

  • Yuji Fujiwara
    Exterior Designer

  • Akira Matsuda
    Clay Modeler

  • Masaki Motozaki

  • Kazuo Horibe
    Wood Modeler

  • Keiko Shishido
    Color Designer