MAZDA × Shiseido Embody the Uncompromising Spirit of Professional Craftsmen in Perfume
Bold design that “started from the impossible”
--Mazda Motor Corporation (hereafter, Mazda) produces artworks that express its design philosophy, Soul of Motion, through objects other than the vehicles it manufactures. This time, Shiseido was approached by Mazda for a new collaboration, and the result was a perfume named SOUL of MOTION, which expresses this philosophy through fragrance. Can you tell us about the process that lead up to its completion?
Kawai：Firstly, Mazda wanted us to create a perfume that embodied the Soul of Motion philosophy. They also said, “We want you to start from the impossible through an idea that you have never had before.” This was how the project started in January 2015. Typically, we would consider molding and production conditions while carrying out a design work. However, these words triggered our decision to tackle the design by employing bold ideas, free from any constraints.
--I heard that the development team, including you yourself as the Art Director, actually made a visit to the Mazda plant in Hiroshima.
Kawai：We were allowed to take the vehicles for test drives, toured and observed the production sites, and spoke to the people working there about their commitment and attention to detail. As we are also involved in crafting and producing things, I think that witnessing the passion of the employees at the plant became a driving force for our design work.
--The simple and sharp design of the exterior that draws attention away from the fact that this is a perfume, as well as the comforting fragrance that expresses strength, passion, and views of life, leave a powerful impression.
Kawai：By connecting the edgy suspense and tension in the details with the curved surfaces, we have expressed the sense of modernity and speed in Mazda’s designs. We proceeded with the project through countless discussions with the perfumers in order to integrate the fragrance with the design. It is not often that the contents and the exterior are created concurrently, so it was a very exciting process for us.
SOUL of MOTION perfume
The smooth form representing the unique aesthetic of Japanese artisans
--The creative concept for the SOUL of MOTION perfume is “emotional simplicity (the condensed excitement that remains after everything else has been stripped away).” What were the ideas and thoughts that went into this concept?
Kawai：From the big picture to the smallest details, we were consistent in expressing the image of stripping away everything to achieve a well-honed and conditioned beauty. This was inspired by the unique aesthetics of Japan, but I believe it is an underlying creative idea that both Mazda and Shiseido share. We arrived at this concept after producing many ideas and engaging in countless discussions.
--Despite being a perfume, it has beautiful curved lines and an innovative form where the glass bottle is covered up. How was this form produced?
Kawai：Both the cover and the bottle were finished manually. The top cover is made of stainless steel that has undergone press working, welding, and polishing, resulting in a smooth and seamless surface. The metal polishing techniques used to polish it down to the micro-unit are also carried out by hand by the artisans. The quality of the completed product exceeded our expectations, and those of us who were actually watching the process cheered out loud involuntarily.
--The glass bottle that is encapsulated inside the top cover stands out with its smooth curves and sense of clarity and transparency, just like the cover.
Kawai：We asked the certified Masters of Traditional Crafts from Edogawa Ward to take on the job of polishing this glass. The traditional polishing method that makes use of rocks, wood, and sand is a very difficult one. I was surprised, and completely awed by their artisanal skills. I think that the sense of clarity and transparency created through this process, which seems to exude brilliance from the inside, is truly unique.
The stainless steel details are joined after press working
The seamless design is created manually by the artisans
The beautiful texture of glass is achieved through careful polishing using wood and other materials
Uncompromising craftsmanship that created a worldview of simplicity
--What was the most difficult part of the production process?
Kawai：That would be the pursuit of simplicity. An example would be the system for extracting the container from the top cover. When we came up with the design of a glass bottle inside a top cover, we had not yet found a solution for retrieving it.
--By lifting the top cover, the bottom part of the glass bottle resting perfectly inside slips out so that the bottle can be extracted. I think this is a smooth method that is possible but unprecedented.
Kawai：Even for the single action of extracting the bottle, we sought to achieve simplicity and minimum of movements. With that in mind, we carried out many discussions and internal reviews. Of these, we used the idea proposed by designer Muraoka as the base idea. This idea was to have the fitting mechanism in the bottle move up and down, and we eventually arrived at the system that you see now. After racking our brains for a solution to extract the bottle without changing the design of the bottle and the top cover, we succeeded in producing a simple system that is also smart and easy to use.
--The Shiseido typeface is used for the perfume box and the message card enclosed with the perfume, creating an image that is cool and sophisticated but elegant at the same time. What were the thoughts behind the idea of using this typeface?
Kawai：We also took up the challenge of expressing the Soul of Motion through the Shiseido typeface, which has been passed down for close to a century. The competing ideas of Mazda’s sense of speed and Shiseido’s elegance serve as the theme.
--Looking back on the project that lasted about one year and eight months, how do you feel now?
Kawai：It has been very stimulating and exciting collaborating with another company, and I think that we were able to fully demonstrate our creativity after being asked to start from something thought impossible through an idea that we have never had before. While it was reckless in a sense, these are the most inspiring words for a creator. I believe that the experience gained from this project will contribute positively to various other creative works in the future.
The fitting mechanism (leftmost) was adopted for removing the top cover
A unisex design that fits well even in the hands of a man
SOUL of MOTION written in the Shiseido typeface
Published in October 2016
- Kanako Kawai Art Director
- Kanako Kawai is an Art Director at Shiseido’s Advertising and Design Department. She is a graduate of the Art Department of the Kyoto University of Education. After working at design companies and other places, she joined Shiseido in 2005. She is in charge of the packaging design and art direction of brands such as INTEGRATE and ELIXIR.
- Youji Shintou
- Kanako Kawai
- Akira Muraoka
- Ryouhei Nagaiwa
- Shoko Takamine
- Typeface production
- Yutaka Kobayashi