＊Masks were worn at all times during this interview, except when taking photographs.
[Participants] (From the right in the photo)
Takayuki Nakajima, TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION
Haruto Noguchi, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.
Koichi Tanaka, Honda Motor Co., Ltd.
Takuma Endo, SUZUKI MOTOR CORPORATION
Taku Sasajima, Isuzu Motors Limited
Katsunori Sasaki, Daihatsu Motor Co., Ltd.
JAID was founded in 2015 by automotive interior designers from nine major Japanese automakers. The designers of rival companies, who usually compete with each other with sparks flying, met through a feature project in a magazine, hit it off, and came together under the banner of All Japan. Milano Design Week was the catalyst that brought JAID and AGC together. The AGC Group has been exhibiting at this world's largest design festival held in Milan, Italy since 2015. At the 2018 event, AGC exhibited glass speakers, which caught the attention of Daihatsu Motor Co., Ltd. (Daihatsu). AGC quickly went to Daihatsu to give a presentation and was introduced to JAID, marking the start of the relationship between the two organizations.
Ms. Yamamoto JAID is a group that continues to create new design values through holding such events as the "1kg Exhibition" under the theme of the "Interior of the new car." AGC thought something interesting could be created by collaborating with JAID and took the initiative to approach them. I joined the collaboration midway and what happened the first was that I was shown a concept movie of the Japanese local Awa Odori dance, which made me wonder what exactly these people were doing (laughs).
Mr. Noguchi The essence of JAID's activities comes from having fun like enjoying a festival. For people from competing manufacturers to get together and do something meaningful, it is essential to first build a relationship of trust. I think the quickest way to achieve this is to have a common goal. A wide variety of people gathering to have fun together. This is generally described as a festival at JAID.
Mr. Nakajima Naturally, we go to various places and hold events, but social gatherings are also important. It took us a year to be able to talk openly to each other. The rule in place when speaking is "No Seriousness Allowed." If you're too serious, you're bound by your own values and constraints, and you can't expect to come up with anything interesting.
Mr. Sasaki Compared to JAID, which was like an extension of club activities, I had an image of AGC as a rigid and serious company, just like glass. On the other hand, I could sense that AGC was challenging to do something edgy and new, like the exhibition in Milan and this collaboration, and I thought that we could do something interesting depending on how we did it.
Mr. Endo Glass is an unknown material to automotive interior designers, so it was difficult to imagine a collaboration. However, after seeing the variety of materials at AGC Studio, I felt more excited about the possibility of doing something interesting.
Mr. Tanaka I also don't usually have any contact with glass, so I didn't even know if what I proposed could really be done. Therefore, the members had to learn about glass from the point of view of what it is.
Mr. Nakajima As part of the education, we toured the flat glass factory at the AGC Yokohama Technical Center (YTC). I was impressed by the color, heat, and equipment when I saw molten glass being turned into a product for the first time. At that time, I felt that I could do a lot of things with this material.
A display showing the process of understanding glass as a material and exploring its potential.
Mr. Noguchi Despite the fact that glass is a material that abounds in our daily lives, none of us know much about it. Or rather, most of us have never really thought deeply about glass. So, started by making a mind map and verbalizing what kind of moments people are conscious of glass. In the process, I think we were able to reaffirm the potential of glass as a material that has the highest affinity with people, for example, as a gateway to information.
Mr. Sasajima Since We often work with plastic in our designs, our initial idea was to just swap what we could do with plastic with glass. It was not easy to switch to the idea of what can be done with glass. But when we looked at glass as a material and explored it, we found that there were many things we did not know about it and that it is a material with different possibilities from plastic.
The theme of this exhibition is "8.2 seconds." The time it takes for a person to be moved by or like something from the moment they first encounter it is said to be 8.2 seconds. Over a period of about two years, JAID designers and AGC employees involved in R&D worked on several projects, conceiving and collaborating on a variety of stories that occur during the 8.2-second period when glass intervenes. What kind of stance did JAID and AGC each take toward this collaboration?
Mr. Nakajima For this collaboration, we first solicited ideas with 8.2 seconds at the core and ideas to give shape to those ideas from the main members of JAID and dozens of young designers. Normally, we show them on a monitor and compare them, but we printed them out one by one and laid dozens or hundreds of them on the floor for everyone to look at and jabber away sharing our views. As we did this, some shining ones emerged from them, and we further narrowed the ideas down by sharing our opinions about them. That's how we chose the seven exhibits for this time.
Mr. Noguchi When I chose something that I thought was typical of my own company, the other members would say, "This is one more interesting than that stiff idea." (laughs).
Mr. Endo When Suzuki proposed something stylish, people often commented, "That's not Suzuki-esque." (laughs). I think this made us realize that there are things that only we can express. If JAID's activities had not been ruled by "No Seriousness Allowed," something less edgy might have been selected.
Ms. Yamamoto On the AGC side, we created a dedicated room for collaborative projects with JAID in the newly completed AO Lab* at YTC ahead of other organizations. In the room, we installed a whiteboard on the entire wall so that other project members could see the sketches and notes drawn there and get new inspiration.
Mr. Noguchi We'll make a dedicated room for you! That was a great sales pitch, wasn't it? (laughs)
Ms. Yamamoto Not only did we secure a dedicated room, but we also had our employees look at the sketches laid out on the floor mentioned earlier, and asked them to raise their hands if they wanted to participate in the collaboration. Until this event, it was common for AGC to appoint a person in charge of collaboration with other companies, but this time six people signed up through a completely open call. We dubbed them "Samurai" and had them try collaboration with JAID.
The project seemed to be off to a smooth start, but an unexpected obstacle, the COVID-19 pandemic, abruptly stood in the way of the members. Consequently, the original plan to have AGC and JAID members collaborate through materials at the YTC AO was shattered rather easily. How did the members overcome this situation and make the exhibition a reality?
Mr. Noguchi The lack of a common language between us and the samurai at AGC was more of a problem than the fact that we were mainly meeting online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For interior designers like us, communicating with the engineers in charge of design at our companies is something we do as a matter of course, so I thought it would be similar this time. But, in reality, it was completely different.
The AGC people were not used to talking to designers, and it was not easy for designers to understand the AGC brand statement, "Your Dreams, Our Challenge." The interior designers and engineers of automobile manufacturers search for a happy medium after each pushing their own agendas, clashing at times before setting priorities.
However, in the collaboration with AGC, the stance was to achieve what the designers wanted to do rather than AGC's aims, and it took some time to get used to that perspective.
Mr. Endo Our engineers would clearly say "It cannot be done" if they thought something was not possible. However, AGC's samurai were willing to take on the challenge of difficult proposals by saying, "I'll do it" or "I'll try." As a result, even if I failed, I was able to pivot to a different direction immediately, so it was a very fresh feeling different from my normal work.
A variety of works were created through the exploration and challenge of both the samurai and the designers.
Mr. Tanaka I agree. I thought of my AGC counterparts as engineers and communicated my intentions to them as such, but when I saw what they came back with, I often felt that I hadn't been successful in fully conveying them. Eventually, I realized that the samurai at AGC were not engineers, but researchers who develop materials. After that, I communicated with people at my own company in similar roles in the same way when interacting with them and our communication improved tremendously.
Mr. Sasaki Designers start with feelings and sensations, and then go through the process of connecting them to the final product. In contrast, AGC calculates backwards from the output and considers the process in terms of logic. Because of this, at first we didn't understand each other at all, and we exchanged our opinions again and again until we came to speak a common language.
Mr. Sasajima We had the same experience, and it made me realize that I might not be getting my point across well enough to our own engineers as well. In that sense as well, this collaboration was a very good experience for us.
Ms. Yamamoto We at AGC have developed the habit of always thinking in terms of function. Therefore, when we look at a design, we first break it down into its constituent elements and try to find the shortest solution as to what functional materials are needed. However, when I talked with the interior designers, they often used onomatopoeic expression such as "twinkle" and "beep" to describe their work, and it was difficult to translate and convert them into material functions.
Mr. Sasajima Looking back, We only had a few face-to-face meetings with the AGC samurai and we were forced to exchange opinions and hold many of the meetings online. Although it was unavoidable, I think that if we could have communicated more deeply, we could have learned more about AGC's materials other than glass.
Mr. Nakajima One of the goals of JAID is to gain outside knowledge and experience, but in this collaboration, we were not able to do so fully due to the limitations imposed by COVID-19. Therefore, this exhibition was just a warm-up, and I would like to make the next one like a glass that transcends glass, something that will blow us designers away. I think glass has that much potential.
Mr. Tanaka Deepening communication will be a requisite to accomplish that. If we could understand each other much better, we might have thought great things could be achieved by collaborating with AGC.
Mr. Sasaki If there's a next time, I'd like to have the AGC samurai join us from the stage of placing sketches on the floor, so that we can frankly exchange opinions and we’ll get more interesting output.
Mr. Sasajima I think we were able to create something very interesting with each company expressing its own characteristics. I hope visitors will enjoy seeing and touching the exhibits themselves.
Mr. Endo Many people were involved in this collaboration, including those within our own companies. This is the result of our serious efforts, although we said No Seriousness Allowed. They are exhibited in a prime location in the heart of Tokyo, so I really encourage people to stop by.
Mr. Tanaka I commuted to AGC Studio many, many times as the person in charge of the venue. That's why I'm so attached to each of the exhibits. In addition to viewing the exhibits on the first floor, the second floor shows the process through to completion, including examples of failures, so I hope visitors will take a look there as well.
Mr. Noguchi I would like people to experience the creativity of the interior design of automobile manufacturers to the fullest. I would like young aspiring designers to see how much fun and how exciting it can be to collaborate with companies from different industries like AGC.
Mr. Nakajima For this collaboration, many designers gathered even after regular hours in our companies and freely shared ideas while laughing and giggling. It was a really fun time, and I hope that visitors will enjoy the moment when the ideas that came out of that collaboration with AGC induced a chemical reaction and were awakened as a form never seen before.
Mr. Sasaki Collaborating with AGC was fun and felt like a cultural festival. It was a very valuable experience that stimulated my own creativity. I hope visitors will feel the playfulness, intellectual curiosity, and inquiring minds of JAID and AGC members behind each exhibit.