Mazda’s Design Theory Of Everything

In today’s highly competitive world, coming up with new product design ideas is challenging across all industry fields. People have become overwhelmed with all the existing solutions and tend to think nothing can surprise them. Designers who want to refute this belief have a difficult task ahead of them.

The automobile industry is not spared of this difficulty, by no means. Although the car manufacturers continue to deliver unique concepts, considering the rising number of startups and new vehicles on the market, they must have been facing quite a few issues along the way.

In the last couple of years, we’ve seen car manufacturers mostly focus on producing EVs for a more sustainable future. Thus, we can say most of them think of car design in some kind of futuristic styling they believe customers expect and desire. But what motivation stands behind their design philosophies?

This is where things become interesting. While Mercedes-Benz goes with the modern “Intelligence and Emotion” phrase, Mazda boasts the “Jinba Ittai” expression for its design philosophy. The latter is maybe one of the most innovative phrases we’ve heard lately.

What does Jinba Ittai mean? How does it translate in vehicle design? Read on to find out all the interesting details about Jinba Ittai, Mazda’s design ethos.

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Where Does The Jinba Ittai Come From, And What Does It Mean?

The unity of the rider and the horse.
Via: Mazda

To start from the etymology, Jinba Ittai is a Japanese four-character idiom that translates into something like “a person and a horse as one body.” In a more liberate description, the phrase describes the unity of a rider and a horse that has been crucial for Yabusame, a Japanese mounted archery.

Interestingly enough, Yabusame dates back to 300 AD, when archers would mount their horses with bows in their hands and ride for honor and/or entertainment. In this activity, archers needed to be in complete unity with their horses to hit the target and win — hence, Jinba Ittai was born as a crucial goal of the game.

Thus, as Mazda took over the Jinba Ittai to mark their design philosophy, the brand was calling upon a long-lasting tradition. But what does that have to do with cars?

“If someone asked me what Jinba-Ittai was, I would reply, ‘safety and peace of mind.’ These two things are of predominant importance. Literally translated, Jinba-Ittai means ‘the rider and horse as one,’” explained Hiroyuki Matsumoto, executive officer at Mazda. “Without any context, this might bring to mind images of an equestrian running laps around a track or even along a rugged mountain path. However, the Mazda definition of Jinba-Ittai centers around our desire to provide our customers with a safe and stress-free driving experience. As long as humans are steering cars, the Mazda ideal car is one that provides a sense of oneness between car and driver so that the car feels like an extension of your own body.”

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Jinba Ittai Became The Central Part Of The Mazda Design Philosophy

The 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata on a parking lot.
Via: Mazda Newsroom

As we’ve seen in the quote above, Mazda uses Jinba Ittai to describe the relationship between a driver and a car. Without a connection much like the one an archer and a horse should have to win Yabusame, no driver can fully enjoy a vehicle (or a race, for that matter). So, the phrase in this modern light basically means gripping the steering wheel and feeling unity with the ride.

Mazda MX-5 Miata was one of the first vehicles that bore the Jinba Ittai design philosophy. The engineers kept unity at the center of their car concept and designed a vehicle that feels like a natural extension of the driver, or at least Mazda claims so. Upon exploring the vehicle in question, we have to admit that the Miata has those smooth and appealing styling capable of bringing an exceptional driving (and aesthetic) experience. Many owners also think this ride is a perfect explanation of the Jinba Ittai phrase.

All The New Mazda Cars Whisper Jinba Ittai

Mazda's engineer working on a car prototype.
Via: Mazda

In general terms, Mazda achieved success with its Jinba Ittai design philosophy. The brand seemingly plans to continue working on it, or better say, implementing it in all future concepts. Just explore the photo above, taken from the official Mazda webpage. It tells us the very essence of the Mazda philosophy through an engineer imagining how a car should feel and then designing it from that initial vision.

As mentioned above, this feeling of “oneness” is at the very core of Mazda’s operations. Tetsu Kasahara, Assistant Manager at Mazda, who was there from the beginning of the Jinba Ittai phase, said about the early Mazda MX-5: “There was a moment when I was driving that I suddenly no longer felt the existence of the car. I didn’t feel any ‘strangeness’. I thought, this is it.”

This sentence explains the entire approach of the famous Japanese car manufacturer to car production. Jinba Ittai is not only about the MX-5 but about every vehicle that comes from Mazda. It’s about celebrating and maintaining a perfect relationship between the driver and the car, which will undoubtedly be Mazda’s design philosophy for years to come.

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