Title: group vice president, Design, and chief creative officer, Ford Motor Company
J Mays is group vice president, Design, and chief creative officer, Ford Motor Company. He is responsible for shaping the global design direction of Ford Motor Company’s Ford and Lincoln brands.
During his career at Ford, Mays has managed and developed the design language of multiple vehicle brands, successfully leading the effort to develop the single, global Ford design language that now applies to most vehicles the company produces around the world.
He has led the development of significant concept vehicles including the Ford Interceptor, Fairlane, Shelby GR-1 and 427, Jaguar F-Type as well as the recent Lincoln MKZ Concept. In addition, he has been instrumental in creating key new production models, including the all-new 2013 global Ford Fusion, the 2012 Ford Focus, the 2011 Fiesta and the 2010 Ford Taurus and Taurus SHO for North America. Other notable production vehicles include the 2004 and present Ford F-150, the 2005 and 2010 Ford Mustang, 2005 Ford GT and the 2008 Jaguar XF.
Mays, a native of Oklahoma, launched his automotive design career at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. Following graduation in 1980, he joined Audi AG in Ingolstadt, Germany, as an exterior designer.
He moved to Munich in 1983 to work for BMW and returned to Audi the following year as a senior designer, where he developed production model proposals for both Volkswagen and Audi. The Audi AVUS concept car, an iconic, polished aluminum celebration of Germany’s legacy of automotive performance and technology, marked the highlight of his return.
In 1989, Mays returned to the U.S. as Volkswagen of America’s chief designer in its Simi Valley, Calif., Design Center, where he was responsible for the design and branding of the Volkswagen Concept 1, known today as the New Beetle.
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.
At Ford, he continues to make his mark. The all-new Fusion is a culmination of the design edict that Mays brought with him when he started at the company. Mays believes that customers develop an emotional bond with their vehicle; the design needs to inspire that.
“To me, the most important reason people buy a car is the way it looks. You don’t want customers to justify a car based on logic; you want them to justify the purchase based on emotion. It’s a bit like falling in love with a spouse. You don’t fall in love for practical reasons. You fall in love for emotional reasons. The practical things have to be there – but that’s just establishing trust, the price of entry. Ultimately, you need the emotional side to come through, just as it does in a relationship.”
Over the years, Mays has received numerous professional awards and recognition for his designs. Mays’ design philosophy and a cross-section of his vehicles were the subject of an exhibition called Retrofuturism: The Car Design of J Mays at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2002.
Mays received the Harvard Design School annual Excellence in Design Award in February 2002. In September 2002, he received the Don Kubly Professional Attainment Award from the Art Center.
Mays has taken on unique advisory roles, consulting 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.
In 2010, Mays was profiled in the January issue of Esquire magazine, and in 2011, he was featured in The Atlantic along with other design visionaries like filmmaker Tim Burton. His prowess was also featured in the BBC landmark design series The Genius of Design, and he has been named among Fast Company magazine’s inaugural “Masters of Design” standouts.