— Thank you for your taking your time for the interview today. To begin with, could you tell us how you started using Copic?
I had never used Copic before I joined Nissan Design, but during the course of learning car design, Copic has naturally become a staple of my designing tools.
— What is the advantage of Copic?
I think what makes Copic unique are, the lines and blended colors created by chance, as well as the unique tone and the way ink blurs which only alcohol markers can bring. When we draw by hand, we can let ourselves go with the flow of thoughts and improvise or experiment on the spur of the moment. We can do whatever we want, like leaving blank space. Digital drawing is more artificial. It's more fixed, intentional and less contingent. Analog drawing allows unexpected, fortunate discovery and I really like that. It can give an accent as "happy accident" on a project.
— You often use Copic Classic's Broad nib.
I like the Broad nib because I like to draw a little rough, kind of fuzzy line. With the Fine nib, I feel like I have to be more precise to create detailed designs. I don't like it. With the Broad nib, I can be free and bold. Of course, I make fine adjustments with colored pencils afterwards, though.
His award-winning masterpiece “Fairlady Z32”
— You been engaged in so many projects until now. How do you find new ideas and sources of inspiration?
It depends on the circumstances, but I think design trends are important. Not only cars, but also home appliances, architecture, fashion, etc. Next, I always keep in mind to get back to the wisdom of our ancestors such as simplicity, originality, and innovation. Sometimes I get ideas from comics and movies, too.
— Are there any important points in car design sketching and rendering?
For me, each and every drawing line is very important for car design. I always try to draw energetic, strong lines. Sometimes it's good to sketch while standing! That way you can go bold, looking at the whole picture and check the proportion or balance well. I always start making an outline of a shape instead of its detail. I believe it is novelty, originality, and creativity of the form/silhouette that creates a new style.
What Mr. Yamashita teaches his students first is how to interpret shapes of things and express textures so that the students can learn how to draw/render car designs which provide "a sense of speed" through practice.
— Could you please tell us how to express the luster of the glass, and give a three-dimensional feeling and profundity of car body?
The glossy feeling of the glass must be expressed in high contrast because transparency is also important. Dull colors shouldn’t be used here - It should be expressed in crisp and clear color.
I would say tone of color is important for expressing massive feeling. I think a darker color is appropriate for this. Of course, it's not just about the color. You need to calculate the distance from the ground level while properly maintaining the entire balance. In other words, it is essential to consider whether the color tones in well with the surrounding environment.
— Please tell us about the contents of your class and what is your highest priority in teaching your students?
I'm telling my students what it means to design is to be conscious of both the act of "styling" and "thinking". The ability to finish what you are ordered within the deadline is important, but only that alone is not enough for designers, in an essential sense - Designers must have the ability to grasp "Design" in much broader sense. For example, I always ask my students to think about what kind of potential social impact the product they are designing could have, and to estimate how it could contribute to our society. Design can be a major force and have a powerful effect on human behavior. Therefore, designers must have a strong sense of responsibility and professional ethics. I focus on improving their skills at the same time because having proper skills is a mandatory requirement for effectively presenting or expressing the ideas.
As CEO of the company, I want to our employees to have the mindset to be able to look at the products from a broad perspective and have the ability to influence the whole development process. It would be amazing if they become first-class designers who can contribute to the society through design.
Giving lectures to the young generation at various institutes such as Car Design Academy, Tokyo Metropolitan University, and Joshibi University of Art and Design.
— Could we have your message or advice for students and young people who want to become a car designer?
As I mentioned earlier, the roles of designer are expanding. I really want young people to understand that just being good at drawing is not enough to become a skilled designer. I strongly recommend them to acquire a wide range of knowledge and experience.
In addition, the automobile industry is in the midst of “a once-in-a-century reform". I hope young people will be aware that they are living in the blessed environment, and that they will make a great contribution to our society in the future. Please don't forget to improve not only your design skills as well as your English and communication skills. Good luck! I'm jealous of you guys!