A decade of Mazda's Kodo design

3 min read
Mazda CX 3
Mazda CX 3 ©
Nov. 19. 2020
Facebook Twitter Reddit
Minato, Tokyo, Japan - Mazda’s unique Kodo Design philosophy was first introduced by Head Designer Ikuo Maeda in 2010

With the “Kodo – Soul of Motion” design philosophy, Head Designer Ikuo Maeda set a bold new direction for design at Mazda. Introduced ten years ago at the 2010 LA Motor Show with the Shinari concept car, Kodo Design has been defining and elevating Mazda’s award-winning styling ever since, with its core principle remaining unchanged: to explore the powerful and irresistible beauty of natural movement in a still object.

Kodo was first unveiled in 2010 with Shinari, Mazda’s stunning four-door sports coupe concept which gave the world vision of an animal ready to pounce, foreshadowing an exciting future for Mazda design. The following year, Mazda teased the world with another example of Kodo Design with Minagi, a compact crossover SUV concept which later evolved into the award-winning Mazda CX-5.

Inspired by the beauty and power of nature allied with the emotion of motion, the first Kodo Designs were strongly inspired by the image of a cheetah about to pounce. Mazda designers closely observed how these powerful mammals used their entire body as a spring to convert pent-up energy into highly controlled motion. Launched in 2012, the Mazda CX-5 was the first production vehicle to embody Kodo Design, combining go-anywhere muscularity, hold-all functionality and appealing dynamism in equal measure.

A turning point for Kodo Design was reached with the two awe-inspiring concept cars, RX-Vision and Vision Coupe, evoking a powerful and emotional design with as few elements as possible. Introduced at the 2015 and 2017 Tokyo Motor Show respectively, both concepts anticipated the new elegance and yet more pronounced minimalist aesthetic of recent interpretations of Kodo Design. Dynamic and emotional forms are achieved by shaving off any unnecessary elements to bring out the very essence of beauty and motion.

The Mazda CX-30 was developed to follow this design concept with exterior styling that exudes the supple and flowing elegance of a coupe combined with the toughness of an SUV. While retaining the vitality of Kodo Design and following a new ‘Charge and Release’ design expression inspired by the brushwork used in Japanese calligraphy, the Mazda CX-30 achieves styling with both the beauty of a work of art and a powerful sense of dynamism. In particular, Sori is clearly embodied in the arc of the shoulder running from the front wing to the rear wheel, giving a sense of speed and vitality. Utsuroi may be seen in the body surfaces beneath the shoulder line, which reflect the surroundings in a distinctive ‘S’ shape that changes as the car moves.

The most recent addition to Mazda’s current global line-up, the Mazda MX-30, breaks new ground for Kodo Design. Though retaining the beautiful, hand-crafted forms of Mazda’s design philosophy, the styling of the Mazda MX-30 represents an exploration of a more modern aesthetic which focuses on the futuristic values and lifestyles that are beginning to emerge. While other Kodo models focussed on surface reflections, Mazda’s first fully-electric vehicle expresses Kodo Design in a more utilitarian way. The exterior is uncompromisingly simple to emphasise its beauty as a solid mass, and the cabin design – with its framed top and freestyle doors – embodies an image of lightness while proactively incorporating sustainability as an element for the interior materials.

Since its inception ten years ago, Mazda’s Kodo Design philosophy has been the driving force behind multiple award-winning styling across the world. Both the RX-Vision and the Vision Coupe have being named the “Most Beautiful Concept Car of the Year” and the revamped Mazda MX-5 won the “World Car Design Award” in 2015. More recently, the Mazda CX-30 and the new MX-30 have won a Red Dot Award 2020 in the “Product Design” category, while the Mazda3 was named World Car Design of the year in the distinguished 2020 World Car Awards.

Over the last ten years, Kodo Design has not just been confined to automotive design. In order to fulfil the promise of creating designs with a soul, the design team set up a process that combines creativity, craftsmanship and cooperation to explore the boundaries of Kodo Design. Mazda designers are encouraged to create their own pieces of art inspired by the principles of Kodo Design with the aim of infusing the vitality of living creatures into simple household objects. In the past, the Mazda Design team has created unique handcrafted Kodo-inspired objects including an award-winning perfume, dress, bowl, knife and futuristic Kodo chair which exuded motion with a ready-to-pounce forward-leaning stance.