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Future of cars

By Kate West

On February 17, J Mays (below right), global vice president of design, and chief creative officer, Ford Motor Company, speaks on brand loyalty, iconic design, and the future of transportation as a part of the Penny Stamps Lecture Series presented by the U-M School of Art & Design at the historic Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. Mays will also introduce, and have on display in the theater’s lobby, Ford’s newest concept car, the Start (photo below).

Inspired by the design needs of the world’s megacities, The Start Concept is small, green, smart and fun, featuring a minimalistic interior and exterior design as well as Ford’s fuel-efficient 1.0-liter, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine.

“The Ford Start delivers a dynamic, personality driven design that stays true to the global Ford brand,” says Mays. “Our vision was to look at a small car holistically, like slicing through an onion where every layer gave meaning, function, and substance to the next.”

In addition to shaping the global design direction of the Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury brands, Mays has led the development of concepts vehicles including the Ford Interceptor, Fairlane, Shelby GR-1 and ‘427,’ and the Lincoln C Concept.  He has also been instrumental in creating key new production models including the all-new global 2012 Ford Focus and 2011 Fiesta and North America’s 2010 Ford Taurus and Taurus SHO. Other notable production vehicles include the 2004 and 2009 Ford F-150, the 2005 and 2010 Ford Mustang, 2005 Ford GT, and the 2008 Jaguar XF.

Mays joined Ford Motor Company in 1997 as vice president, Design, and was named group vice president in 2003. In 2005, he took on the expanded role of group vice president and chief creative officer.  Mays has also taken on unique advisory roles, consulting, for example, with Disney/Pixar on vehicle design for the 2006 animated feature-film Cars. In addition, he has collaborated with American artist Richard Prince on published works. Mays’ design philosophy and a cross-section of his vehicles featured in the exhibition,  Retrofuturism: The Car Design of J Mays, at the Geffen Contemporary of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

Mays has been profiled in Esquire magazine and in the BBC landmark design series, The Genius of Design; and named among Fast Company magazine’s inaugural “Masters of Design” standouts. In addition, he received the Harvard Design School annual Excellence in Design Award and the Don Kubly Professional Attainment Award from the Art Center.


The University of Michigan School of Art & Design’s Penny Stamps Series presents public lectures by innovators from a broad spectrum of creative fields. The series takes place on Thursday evenings at the historic Michigan Theater in downtown Ann Arbor, an original 1927 vaudeville palace, and is offered to the general public free of charge. It has become a much-anticipated weekly event, drawing people from across the U-M campus, the local Ann Arbor community and the greater creative community of Detroit for talks that engage the innovative spirit of the region.

PHOTO CREDIT: Start concept car —

Kate West is communications director for the University of Michigan School of Art & Design.