A Female Take on Designing for Toyota’s Interiors.
Learn from Kyoko Yuan what it is like to be a female interior designer for Toyota.
Millions of people drive Toyota’s automobiles around the world. Have you ever wondered what it takes to create the popular auto brand’s interiors and who is behind the work? I was able to get a special interview with Kyoko Yuan, who used to help design the interiors for Toyota. She was hired by Viscotecs to work with the Toyota Design Team as an Automotive Interior Designer in 2008. Read on to learn from this experienced designer what it took to work with Toyota and create the beautiful interiors we all love and the challenges she faced while designing them.
Kyoko grew up in China and moved to Japan as a teenager. She studied design in Tokyo, Japan at Tokyo Gakugei University, where she got her masters in Graphic Design. Her first design related job out of college was for Toyota’s advanced development of the new future car.
How did you get interested in designing interiors for cars?
I was interested in cars because during those years people in China had just started buying cars. Before that there were not that many personal cars. Cars were only used by companies. That is why I was very interested in cars, the car business, and also marketing.
Second, she told me about her experience designing interiors for Toyota.
Were there very many other female designers working at Toyota in 2008?
Yes. Most of them were female. The exterior and modeling departments have a lot of male designers though.
What were some of the challenges you faced as a designer in the car industry in Japan as a female?
I think car seat fabric and color design are very suitable for female designers, because for fabric design you need to pay attention to detail for every single string. The same applies to color in regards to material design, investment, and light. Females tend to be better at doing those things. The challenges for me were regarding the interior parts, like wood, hairline, piano-black parts. I needed to learn about those materials and visit the manufacturers to discuss the details in order to get the real parts produced accurately.
How do you design with your personality and style in mind? Do they influence your design decisions?
To be honest there’s no space for letting you put your personal style in Toyota’s car. If you worked at Nissan you might be able to incorporate some style and play, but Toyota’s direction does not rely on personality or popular style, but instead it is designed for everyone. They do not seek uniqueness as a brand. Usually the final design always ended up looking much different from the original designer’s idea because the business department wanted to minimize manufacturing and part costs. So what I focused on was how I could make it high quality and not cheap looking. I needed to bring my feet to the manufacture to make sure the final versions did not come out too far from what I wanted, and I had to negotiate with them to get better results.
Are there any particular textiles or materials you prefer to design with for automobiles?
I did challenge myself while working to mix their wood with metal. I’m still interested in it. And I know in recent years that there have been cars with mixed material interiors at car expos and shows.
Last, just for fun I asked her opinions related to driving and traffic around the world.
As a designer, what do you think of CarWink’s design? Would you modify it in anyway?
The idea is petty fun! It’s nice it allows you to communicate with other drivers. I think it must be very popular for some people.
Do you have any ideas or opinions related to the driving infrastructure in Japan, compared to the U.S.A, and China?
In Japan the highway only has two lanes. In the U.S some highways have six lanes, while in China, the number of lanes is in the middle.
Which country do you think CarWink will sell best in?
Maybe… Japanese will like it most, because people in Japan like to make each other feel comfortable, so I think they will really like this kind of accessory.
I learned from Kyoko, that if you want to have more freedom in designing interiors for cars in the Japanese automobile industry you should probably work for Nissan, but if you like working on designs with more constraints and more direction, then you may want to work for Toyota. I also learned that Toyota has a lot of female designers, whereas there is a higher ratio of males who design for the Exterior and Modeling departments at Toyota. Last but not least, Kyoko believes that CarWink will most likely do well in Japan due to the culture.
To learn more about Kyoko Yuan’s work, you can visit her personal website at http://kyoko-yuan.weebly.com/.