Lexus College sat down with Momoko Okamoto, the extraordinary female designer responsible for the interior and exterior color and materials design for the all-new 2015 NX. Ms. Okamoto is part of the Lexus Design Development Division and Color Design Department whose work has also graced the ES, LFA and CT. While on a tour in the U.S. for the upcoming launch of the NX, we had a chance to ask her about the unique design details she brought to the project.
What was your role on the NX?
I was in charge of three main areas of color design: exterior color, interior color and materials.
When did you start conceiving your designs for the NX?
Concept color discussions started happening about three years ago, however, it took about one year to create the basic color concept design for the NX.
Where did you draw your inspiration from for this assignment?
The Chief Engineer asked me to think about the concept of the NX as Urban Sport Gear, but not in a typical way. The colors needed to be edgy, refined and sophisticated. I also needed to consider that the NX will be introducing the first Lexus turbo engine. That’s a big deal for Lexus and needed to be part of the concept. A new white color was created called Eminent White Pearl, which requires an additional coating, and the NX interior also has perhaps the highest contrasting pallet that Lexus has ever produced.
The NX interior color is especially fresh while still feeling very premium. How was that achieved?
The strong contrasting NX color scheme is designed for a Sports Gear feeling. High brightness and premium feeling colors were used to create a vivid impression. The bright colors I wanted were vivid and beautiful but, as dirt tends to stand out against them, they are colors that have been difficult to adopt in the past. Conventionally, white’s pure image is very appealing, but we puzzled over how to give it an edgy expression. If we could preserve the purity of white while combining it with a strong expression of shadow in order to further emphasize the NX’s accented shape, we could create something that was both new and had an edgy and cool texture expression. I proposed Crème along with a new contrasting color scheme with more surface area given to the dark color. I wanted Guests to experience a special feeling of extraordinary luxury when they open the door and get in—that’s something that they expect from a Lexus.
What was your formal training and how does it help you in this design position?
I come from a unique background because my training was in graphic design. Most designers in my role come from product design. Most graphic designers help market the product once it is designed, but I wanted to influence the design of the product before it goes to market—especially through color and texture.
What are your favorite NX color combinations?
For the base model, I like the Eminent White Pearl exterior with the Crème interior. For the NX F Sport, I would recommend the Atomic Silver exterior with the Dark Rose interior.
Can you tell us about the beautiful stitching found in the new NX?
Stitching is very important for a premium brand. The NX offers different materials, combining genuine leather and NuLuxe. In order to give each a unique character, the quilting pattern for each material is different, creating a design that suits the customer’s tastes for each material and grade. Diagonal lines and complicated patterns create a varied texture using technology that was not possible up until now. A larger stitch pattern was used on Lexus genuine leather with a rougher texture to achieve the feeling of Urban Sport Gear while on NuLuxe, a shorter stitching pattern was used.
How do you keep up on trends, especially when it concerns color?
I look for fresh information every day. I see a lot of supplier presentations and I try to get out see what’s happening inside retail shops. I’m always looking at what materials and colors are used in unique architecture, but that’s usually a catchup trend. For Lexus I want to think differently about how to approach design challenges—trend making.
What design detail on the NX are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the ornamentation details of the NX interior. For instance, we polished steel details using new technology to create a matte finish rather than applying a matte paint. I also wanted to reduce the amount of refletion on the wood surfaces of the NX interior so I looked to the polished finish of grand pianos and applied the same technology and craftsmanship to preserve the true nature of the material. This avoids the subtle white cast that usually appears with typical matte finishes. In this way, the NX interior has evolved the Shimamoku trim that was started on the Lexus LS.
What can we look forward to seeing from you next?
I’ll soon be starting on the next generation Crown, sold domestically in Japan, and also the next generation Prius.
Thanks Ms. Okamoto, we can’t wait to see your new work.