Lexus by Stone Designs


A two weeks ago in Tokyo Lexus has presented three models designed by Stone Designs. This is a “Stone Designs” limited edition and it was the first time that the brand gets a limited edition with western designers.

The experience

Last autumn, Lexus decided to launch a project within its recently created programme called Artworks, which consisted in the creation of a limited edition of some of their models in collaboration with a non-Japanese design studio.

Once finished the apparently easy screening process of the studio that would carry out the project, Eva and Cutu landed in Tokyo, where they thought they would only collect a briefing, get back to Madrid to start working on it, and then, after a while, go back again to Tokyo to present it and to make changes. But none of this happened in the end. The following morning after their arrival, they went to Toyota head office in Nagoya. Once they managed to overcome the many security controls where they were taken off their mobile phones, cameras and laptops, they entered a room in which, after a presentation about Lexus’ L-Finesse concept, they were explained that they would not take home a briefing to work on it. Instead, they would have to develop the project there during that week, and the first meeting with Lexus directors to see the progress of the work was in three hours time.

Like in Sofia Coppola’s film ‘Lost in Translation’, they thought that it was a joke and they explained them that they did not usually work that way. They tried to make them understand that a project cannot be just explained and then start working on it immediately after, but instead, it is necessary to internalize it and, little by little, assimilate its special features so, after a while, ideas can flow. But, far from understanding that, they were told not to worry, because they would have a team of ten assistants to help them, all of them, of course, speaking perfect Japanese.

This is how Eva and Cutu had to start a project week in which every three hours they had a meeting with the directors and the staff from the Lexus Design Department. The evenings, they went to have dinner in some restaurant to discuss the day advances and to make changes that had to be completed afterwards at the hotel bedroom. Japanese are never surprised by your capacity for work. Even if it is endless, they think you do not have a limit and that you can keep working without a break to the point of exhaustion. But … what happened with the ten assistants? As you have probably thought, they were told to leave the project because, if it was already difficult to agree only the two of them, you can imagine the difficulty to reach an agreement or to explain the ideas to ten Japanese to help you.

This not-at-all-brief introduction is important to understand the project’s nature because it is widely known how difficult is working with this kind of companies in Japan, and this is one of the many reasons why Stone Designs is so enthusiastic about the project’s result.

The creation

This project was specifically conceived for the ‘Colour and Trim’ Department, which is in charge of designing the different finishes, upholsteries, colours, etc. In this case, they were looking for a new typology for the vehicles’ interiors in which the finishes, colours and textures could create a new line that covered a target audience that at that time was not covered by Lexus. Discovering the L-finesse concept was certainly a great satisfaction for Eva and Cutu because the values and concepts included in it, together with its conception of luxury, were completely similar to the Stone Designs’ philosophy.

The first step was to choose the models for the project, which in the end were a GS (a more conservative sedan), an IS (a coupe more like a sports car) and finally, at Stone’s request, an RX (a suburban with a much more adventurous character). Once the models had been chosen, the next decision was the target audience, and after that, Stone Designs tried to create the interiors and the colour combinations to make the models more interesting and appealing.

What surprised most to the Lexus team from Eva and Cutu’s work was their ability to conceptualise the project and to create a storyline that showed perfectly their philosophy without mentioning or paying attention to purely aesthetic values. One of the biggest differences when working in this sector is that, for instance, Lexus used to design the interiors like separate elements, that is, creating first a combination of colours and upholstery for the passenger’s front seat that afterwards would be cloned in the driver’s and in the passenger’s back seat.

Eva and Cutu do not understand that way of designing, and they bet for treating the car’s interior like a global space in which we can have many different experiences and receive a lot of stimulus. This is why they could not work on isolated elements of a common space. They managed to make the experience start the moment the user gets in his car and enters the ignition key. This way, the interior is not an isolated space in the environment but, instead, the landscape pours it out merging the space so that the user can perceive what happens around him much more intensely, turning the travelling experience not necessarily into something spectacular or exciting, but into something always authentic.

The light

In the end the project represents something as simple as the light, which, on the other hand, is one of the variables that most influences our perception of landscape, and it is the responsible of filling our environment with life, colours and contrast. The same space seen at different day times or even in different seasons of the year, it changes completely. This is how, depending on the model, they decided to create one inspired by the pale morning light. This is the IS model, designed in blue and gray shades, as a sky extension, with the dashboard in white. This was something really bold for Lexus because they had never dared to make white interiors as they were afraid that would provoke awkward reflections. However, this was exactly what Cutu and Eva were looking for, that the light fills up the interior making the user wake up slowly so he can feel the light, mixed up with dewdrops from a slow dawn, caressing his face.

The RX model is inspired by midday, when the light falls more vertical and it lets us enjoy a lush colour burst in the landscape, where the shadows are scarcely perceptible and the flowers shine in the countryside like the stars in a night sky. For this reasons, and also for its more adventurous character, the interior was designed adding the red colour, like an evocative element in a field full of flowers. Red was not used in a massive way; it was rather mixed up with beige shades to confer it a brighter aspect and to transmit the user a joyful feeling that may help him face the new day with a more positive attitude.

The GS model. This is the one in which it can be seen more clearly the concept of working globally in the vehicle’s interior. If we have a look at the seats, they are upholstered asymmetrically, but this effect disappears when they are looked at as a whole, because you can quickly realise that they keep a symmetry all together, as a whole, but not looking at each element separately. This model is inspired by the sunset light, specifically by the moment when you are driving and you take your sunglasses off to enjoy the kind orangey face of the sun that seems to reconcile with the user after a long journey. To remark this effect, this colour has been interpreted like an orange light that covers the car at the back, as if the last sun shines painted the brown leathered front seatbacks from the back windscreen, and the sun embraced their sides, remembering us that the next day it will come back again to fill with light and energy our simple lives.

In short, this project has meant for Stone Designs the search for interpreting ‘luxury’ more like a sensory than an aesthetic aspect, in which simplicity takes priority over any other value, and the love for detail turns the driving experience into something closer and more committed to our true nature.

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