AW: We all suffer occasional mental blocks. How do you get past yours?
Mays:
I suffer them on a daily basis. There's a rhythm you get into in the development of a product, and you will find that it's a bit like playing music. You'll find times when everything is zipping along, and then all of a sudden you come to a point in the design process where you feel like you're stalling or bogging down and nothing seems to be happening. Then there might be a revelation and that completely increases the velocity of the program again, and you're off and running again. The odd thing about this work is that you can be going along thinking something isn't working, and then all of a sudden it takes off. To use the Thunderbird project as an example, we were working along on the models, and we were having a lot of trouble getting the younger designers not to use pure, modern, high-tech design cues. Then came the point that we realized the Thunderbird was about being relaxed, and we started to look at what values looked relaxed in other products. Using a series of different products, I tried to point out to the designers what "relaxed" looks like. For instance, there are motorcycles that look as though they are ready for the racetrack. There is intensity about those vehicles - like Japanese racing motorcycles, they usually have a high-hip point, so that your rear end is higher than the handlebars. Then there are motorcycles that look like you want to take them on long, lazy Sunday afternoon drives - like the Harley Fat Boy that has the handlebars far above the seat and is a bit like riding a rolling La-Z-Boy. On the Harley, there's a whole different attitude in how you drive. Another example compared the racing bikes Greg LeMond rode in the Tour De France, and a classic Schwinn beach cruiser right out of the '50s. I know which one I'd rather ride on. At the start there was far too much of the functional, racing feel in the T-bird, but as we started to get the idea that we wanted a relaxed sportiness like the Harley or the beach cruiser, the rear of the vehicle began to come down and the overall design cues became far less serious in terms of the materials and colors we were using. Quite frankly, the vehicle became a lot more fun.