Behind the Scenes of Honda Design
“The role of the R&D Center is not to research technology, but to investigate ‘what people like.’”
These are the words on Soichiro Honda, the founder of Honda.
Honda stresses that in building products, the importance of constantly exploring and creating “what it means to be liked” and “what value people will love” far outweighs considering past examples and procedures.
“Being useful” and “convenient” are important, but Honda constantly thought about and pursued “what makes people love” the company’s products.
This is the essence of how Honda builds its products.
Honda Design has, and always will, build products that are deeply rooted in people’s desire.
Are you enjoying your private time?
Big or small, we all have dreams and hopes, and our individual hobbies and tastes.
Our passions and activities do not only enrich us, but keep us young, and motivate us.
From ancient times, mankind has created a multitude of cultures. They may differ from age to age, but the desire to feel enriched, to have fun, are constant, and may be embedded in human nature.
Dreams and aspirations create interaction with people, sensitivity to society and information, and heighten curiosity.
This is what drives the creative sensitivities of Honda’s designers.
In these modern times, we have immediate access to a wealth of information, but there are worlds we do not know.
Experiencing, being a part of something new, not only enriches us through stimulation and new discoveries, but teaches us to feel the different social environments and changes in time. This, as was the case for patriots of the closing days of the shogunate, fuels us to create a new age, to overcome old status quos.
Soichiro once queried:
“Don’t look, see!” “Where is a cow’s ear? What does an apple taste like?”
Honda Design prizes “actually feeling, and absorbing” over theoretical knowledge.
Designers take to the streets and explore the outside world rather than staying inside a lab. Sometimes, they go overseas to “see a new world, and feel what it has to offer.”
Each new discovery and experience enhances their sensitivity, and creates a wider and deeper perspective that discovers the truth that cannot be found on the desktop.
Honda Design is powered by what each of its designers have felt through their experiences.
Isn’t imagining fun things or matters exciting?
With design, vision and expression is free and infinite.
Eye-opening approaches and ideas provide the hints to creating new values.
The normal approach to developing product designs usually adheres to the requirements of society and people. That leads to a good design, but does not create stunning new values. Stunning new values, however, often face difficulties in gaining wide understanding in the early stages of development. Still, designers persist with new visions and approaches.
Ideas that are widely understood from the beginning of product design tend to be obsolete by the time they enter the market.
“I wish the world would change this way.”
“Life would be so much fun with a product like this.”
“Why not mix these incompatible ideas?” are some pure visions that are then expressed
When the ideas do not flow, designers defy their thoughts and tastes to enjoy what happens. Expression is not limited to using their hands. Words, even physical action, also count. The strength of Honda’s designers, is that they can “experiment visions and expressions freely.”
Honda has created completely new products and era-leading designs by doing what “seems like fun.” Honda Design cares for its “free corporate culture and flexibility in visions” to create new values.
What you ever asked “why?” with things or matters?
Realizations and identifying the essence lead designers to create new design themes.
As people’s lives and feelings are enriched on a global scale, and values are said to be diversifying and social polarization progressing, we search for familiar connections. That would suggest in terms of “people’s feelings,” there are some things that change, and others that stay the same.
As times change, so does product design.
In a world filled with products and designs, and novel things and new designs are sought after, the purpose and gravity of design is changing.
Yet, design is in essence a raison d’être, the identifying of its significance to the world and people, and the expression in an attractive, easy to understand form.
What is the theme for the next era?
What will the essence of its design be?
Honda Design always “thinks essence” in its creations.
In everyday life, communication tools such as email and social media are convenient, yet can also be cumbersome, and at times, hard to reply to. Sometimes, it is just easier to meet face-to-face.
In modern society, meeting in person to understand each other has become more and more vital.
Honda believes face-to-face communication is vital in making products.
Meetings are held everywhere, without heed to hierarchy or age. At some point, these meetings came to be known as “Waigaya” (Japanese for “boisterous meeting”), a tradition continued, and is widespread, to this day. Some waigayas even start off by associates sitting down on the ground.
Ideas are expanded and focused in waigayas, and designers and factory associates fix incompatibilities, or understand each other better through disagreements, ultimately leading to their goals or solutions. Each associate’s passion is incorporated, and as a team the idea is gradually realized, culminating in a product that is valuable.
On occasion, as a team’s discussion heats up, the unexpected, a complete restart, happens.
Returning to the beginning is also a part of Honda’s culture.
Designers, who express their visions in drawings, are in some ways like novelists and composers: As soon as they have an idea, they write it down on their palm, or in a notebook. And add to their cache of knowledge.
Honda’s design development begins with imagining the scenario of a world like a tale or picture book. The concept is created by imagining a happy ending to the story.
At various times during the development process, cartoons, illustrations, and sketches are drawn. This has great significance and purpose as a guide for a multitude of development associates to share a common concept.
At Honda Design, “outstanding sketches” do not just express shapes. They incorporate expressions of the product’s aura, who will use it, how they would feel, how it would work, and how comfortable it is.
Honda Design draws designs that create the product’s “soul and worldview” and “resonate with the heart.”
Each day, we use our hands to make things. Meals, gardening, home improvements. We imagine what it looks like when completed, use our ingenuity, and update our expectations towards completion. This is a very intellectual process.
Exterior designers draw sketches and make palm-sized clay models. Packaging and interior designers make simple models, and through repeated “scrap and build,” explore the form they want and its possibilities.
Clay modelers ascertain the three-dimensional form from sketches, and add or scrape clay to bring to life the product’s charm, while clarifying the sketches’ vaguenesses. Through building three-dimensional models, two-dimensional sketches gain a strong presence and persuasiveness.
Full-scale clay models have the vital role of incorporating and expressing aspects such as regulations in the various markets and manufacturing productivity. Structural designers, factory associates, designers and clay modelers are all involved in the process. Each aspect is considered and reflected in the clay model and 3D data, and the design is gradually matured.
The step following involves building a resin mockup that is indistinguishable from the real product.
The clay modeler at work, creating beauty out of clay while encapsulating the various ideas and requirements from each development team associate, epitomizes Honda’s strong determination in making its products.
With the advance of simulation technologies, VR, AR, and MR have become popular, allowing virtual experiences.
Better products are borne from repeated trial and error. Ideas to try out, knowledge to learn from mistakes, and courage to not fear failure support the wisdom and evolution of making products.
Modern product development has rapidly become more accurate through technologies such as simulation. Yet, the unexpected occurs when testing prototypes developed this way. To create valuable products that the customer can have faith in, repeated real-life testing is mandatory, and will probably stay so in the age of AI.
Honda developed a “three realities principle” of place, product and reality.
Design development is no different, requiring multitudes of aspects to be inspected in real life.
Resulting mockup models are sent to the countries in which the product will be sold, to be inspected by many eyes. The product’s potential in the local market, its design in the local context, and user reaction are gauged and fed back for the next mockup model.
At Honda Design, designers build “products they can really believe in” through the various real-life inspection processes.
We feel a special joy when our dreams or hopes come true. These experiences make us more enriched, and drive us to improve ourselves.
By the time the detailed mockup is made, designers conduct waigayas with sales and PR associates on topics such as how to promote the product’s attractions and values to the customers, and what to name the product. The product is refined through repeated waigayas, combining the wisdom of associates in many areas with the designers.
Once in the manufacturing stage, designers and factory associates strive to perfect the product’s quality through examining mass production prototypes and factory production trial precision tests.
After its long journey, the final product is born as a part of each associate involved in its development. Each product reaches the customer with the passion of each associate involved. And, each associate feels the ultimate joy when they see smiling faces on the customers.
Honda’s company principle is “The Three Joys.”
Honda believes that by sharing customers’ “Joy of Buying,” the sales and service associates’ “Joy of Selling” and the R&D and manufacturing associates’ “Joy of Creating,” it can be trusted by society, and live up to society’s expectations. And, Honda gains its reason to exist, and true joy, with every customer’s smile.
Honda Design will always create valuable products, deeply rooted in people’s desire.