A Lesson in Lexus Design

Lexus IS Spindle Grille

Forbes writer Matthew de Paula has published an excellent interview with Tokuo Fukuichi, chief of design for Toyota and the man responsible for the new Lexus design revolution — the entire article is worth reading, but there’s one passage that I found particularly interesting:

…as distinctive as the new spindle grille is, Fukuichi is not overly attached to it. “Maybe we should change the shape in the future,” he says.

It isn’t that he doesn’t like the look. It’s just that Fukuichi is not one to get caught up in a particular styling detail for its own sake. He believes design needs to keep evolving. “Regarding changes in design, no one has 100 percent confidence,” he says. “No one can really say with pure certainty that, ‘In two years, this will sell well.’”

This makes for a surprising insight — using the spindle grille on all Lexus models was not just a design decision, but indicates a huge shift in the way all design decisions are made. Lexus is prepared to continually reinvent itself.

Another great quote:

…[Fukuichi] has at least one guiding principle for everyone: each Lexus car design must have the “J-factor.”

He pulls up a slide on his iPad to illustrate: it shows a white circle and a red square. They represent opposing ideas seemingly in conflict.

Lexus J-Factor

The Western way, he says, would be to favor one over the other and end up compromising on both. He points to a diagram of a gray square with rounded edges to represent the compromise.

Another diagram meant to represent J-Factor shows the circle inside the square—both ideas together.

This is a great way to demonstrate the design philosophy of Lexus, two conflicting elements coming together to form a balanced whole — what a brilliant illustration.

Read the rest of the Fukuichi-san interview at Forbes