DEARBORN - Prior to the One Ford plan, design teams in different regions of the world operated as individual organizations. Consequently, a Ford Focus in the U.S. bore little resemblance to its counterparts in Europe and Asia Pacific and Africa.
Today, Ford has a cohesive global design team that speaks in a single voice. And the result is products like the new 2012 Ford Focus – one global vehicle designed to appeal to a broad range of customers throughout the world.
“People want the best, and through the power of the Internet and more international travel, they have a more global view of what that looks like,” said J Mays, group vice president, Design, and chief creative officer. “As a global design team, we spend a lot more time now talking about what the DNA of a Ford vehicle is and what makes a Ford a Ford.”
Under the One Ford plan, Mays works in tandem with Moray Callum, executive design director, The Americas, and Martin Smith, executive design director, Europe and Asia Pacific and Africa.
“Nothing happens in Design anywhere in the world unless the three of us have looked at it, agreed on it, and also agreed not only that we like it but that it is the best decision for Ford as an enterprise, rather than Ford regionally,” said Mays. “That is a huge difference in the way we do business.”
Ford designers from around the globe work together to come up with ideas for future vehicles.
“Acting as One Ford, we are able to use the synergies of our global design studios to support Ford’s design DNA,” said Callum. “We meet multiple times a year through video conferences to conduct global design reviews. Each studio then presents their collective work, allowing the rest of the global design teams to see what is being developed on a global scale. Often this process leads to good critical
discussions as well as inspiration for further design development.”
Operating as a global team brings important benefits to the company.
“Speaking in one voice is very important when you’re talking to a customer,” said Mays. “If you’re putting a design out there that looks very different from the same vehicle you’re producing somewhere else in the world, it simply doesn’t send a very clear message.”
In addition to improving the clarity of communication with the customer, working as a global team enables Ford to pool its collective assets.
“We used to design a Focus three times for America, Europe and Asia Pacific and Africa. Now we’re only doing it once,” explained Mays. “Those resources that went into designing three cars just went into designing a much, much better one car than we were able to do before because we were able to dig down into the details and really spend time thoroughly analyzing what was right and what wasn’t on the design.”
Though Ford’s goal is to design more global vehicles, Mays emphasizes that certain iconic vehicles – such as the F-150 and Mustang – will maintain their regional appeal.
“Neither of those vehicles is sold overseas, and it’s important that they retain their regional feeling because one of the things that people love about the Mustang, for example, is that it looks so American and we don’t want to change that,” he explained.
Ford DNA: Fun-to-drive vehicles that evoke emotion
Ford DNA is rooted in the history of Ford Motor Company, says Mays.
“It all goes back to what Henry Ford really had in his head when he started the company. His genius was to give people what they normally couldn’t afford, and he democratized transportation,” he said. “Today we do that as well at almost every point of contact with our customer, but we do it in an emotional way.”
Mays says Ford DNA is based on providing customers with the best and most advanced ways to interface with the technology in their vehicles, class-leading design and best-in-class fuel economy.
“All of those things are democratizing what as a cumulative whole creates a vehicle that is fun to drive,” he said. When it comes to the actual sheet metal, Mays says the design team conveys “fun to drive” through kinetic design.
“The kinetic design language makes the car look like it’s moving when it’s standing still,” he explained. “There are very dynamic lines on the car, and the vehicle looks very expressive because of that.”
According to Smith, kinetic design has evolved from a winning formula for Europe into a global strategic design direction that is constantly evolving.
“Future global products such as the next-generation Mondeo and Fusion will reflect this and the second generation of many products using this strategy is going to be not only global but also truly exciting,” he said.
Ultimately, Mays says it’s important to design vehicles that people will fall in love with.
“It’s a bit like falling in love with a spouse. You don’t fall in love with them for practical reasons. You fall in love with them for emotional reasons,” he explained. “The practical things have to be there. That’s sort of the price of entry. But you really want the emotional side to come through just as it does in a relationship.”