Cool Hunting Interview with Lexus International President Yoshihiro Sawa

Lexus LS Interior

The website Cool Hunting has an excellent interview with Lexus International president Yoshihiro Sawa on the brand’s L-Finesse design language:

“It’s a complicated answer,” Sawa says, when asked to describe the philosophy behind L-Finesse. “It’s hard to explain simply; it’s like a religion.”

Established more than a decade ago, L-Finesse is based on the highly particular Japanese sense of beauty. It’s a very specific school of aesthetics that’s different from not only its European counterparts, but also those of its nearby Asian neighbors. “The L stands for ‘leading edge’ and finesse is ‘finished level,’ sophistication,” he notes. “So leading edge and sophistication have to be blended together, but without compromise. Two opposite elements, combined in harmony to create a new sense of value.”

L-Finesse is made up of three core principles: Incisive Simplicity, Intriguing Elegance, and Seamless Anticipation. These three tenets all have the same contrast, and manifest themselves throughout the design process. Seemless Anticipation is well described by Sawa-san:

“We call it ‘Timing Design,'” Sawa says. “In order to anticipate a customer’s behavior or attitude, we have to think about the time element. So from closing the car, opening the door, getting in, starting the drive—we always think about those kinds of sequences. And also the exterior: how to make the ‘surface movement,'” he says, mentioning the way light moves along the sheet metal of a car.

“The variety of sunlight conditions, or maybe artificial lights—in front of a casino, or in front of the hotel, or a California sunset” all comes into play. Sawa explaining, “We imagine lots of conditions, and then we decide the shape of a fender, etc.”

Highly recommend reading the full article, as it provides some real insight into the Lexus design language:

There are other details as well, some as simple as the bevel angle of the vent knobs. “When you move it up and down you always feel the same kind of pressure so you can control it easily as a blind touch,” he explains. This is certainly a small detail, but small details are the very foundation for Omotenashi—as they are for each of Lexus’ trio of aesthetic laws. “Those three elements, and those three feelings, we always satisfy,” vows Sawa-san. “So eventually we reach a level that is completely different from previous, or existing, European brands.”