J Mays is a world reknown automotive designer responsible for various automobiles including the New Beetle and the Ford Focus as well as the New Mustang.
Recently Esquire Magazine asked him what he learned over his years of design.
These are his answers and I thought you Counters out there might like to read them.
Anybody can make a toaster toast. Very few people can make a toaster something you covet.
If you go into a person's house and look at his surroundings, you'll see exactly who he is. If you look at the same person in his car, you'll see who he wants to be.
Believe it or not, there's an art to plowing a field. My father had an exact way he wanted it done, a laser-straight line over the length of the field. I just had to train my eye. If you lay out the first line wrong, then all the other lines that you disc will turn out crooked. There was a precision in those fields that I took into automotive design.
The dirty little secret about simplicity is that it's really hard to do.
A designer is only as good as what he or she knows. If all you know is what you've garnered from fifteen years of living in Detroit, it's going to limit what you can lay down. If you've had experiences around the world, you'll be able to design a much richer story for people to enjoy.
Not every car has a story, and not every movie has a story. A lot of movies are no more than special effects. A lot of cars are no more than special effects as well, and they're all crap.
There have been more not-quite-right Mustangs than Mustangs. It had gone a little bit off the rails in the seventies, came back in the eighties, and went a little off the rails in the nineties. We did a lot of research before we designed the 2005, and we came to the conclusion that the ones that were really important, the ones that everybody logged in their heart, were between '64 and '70. I wanted the 2005 to feel like we were picking up in '71. So I basically erased thirty-five years of Mustangs in order to get the story focused in everybody's mind again.
I don't think cars are as important to young people as their computers.
There is a cutoff point where the design is, quote unquote, finished. That's the day they're dragging the clay out from under my fingernails.
Wanting a certain cell phone as a status symbol borders on the ridiculous.
People often mistake putting on a crappy suit with a shirt and tie for being well dressed. That's more formal, but it has nothing to do with being stylish.
Success has a lot of fathers.
Clichés are more correct than we give them credit for.
I encourage friendly competition among the design team. But I also remind everyone that their colleague sitting across the desk is not the enemy. That's Honda and Toyota.
Cars in the fifties had tail fins. They looked like they were built with rockets in them. That was a reflection of the optimism of the time.
What does the cutlery look like? What's the plate look like? How's the food laid out on the plate? Has the environment been completely thought through? Part of the reason I go to a nice restaurant is to get the entire vibe.
I don't think Americans see themselves as clearly as Europeans see them.
I still measure myself against the hunger that I see coming out of college. At the point that I don't think I can cut them off at the knees, then I'll get out of the business. But I still can.
They're not writing songs about cars anymore.