Japanese philosophies give all-new Nissan Ariya its ‘soul’

Electric crossover’s striking style represents the future of Nissan design

The all-new Nissan Ariya is the first mass-produced all-electric crossover developed and built in Japan. Based on the Ariya Concept shown at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show, it’s the first production model to represent Nissan’s new electrified brand identity – blazing a path to an era of advanced electrification, interior layout, and seamless vehicle intelligence.

Led by Senior Vice President of Global Design Alfonso Albaisa, Executive Design Director Satoru Tai and Senior Design Director Giovanny Arroba, Nissan’s designers worked from the beginning to give the Ariya a Japanese identity that transcends its striking style and performance. To do so, they tapped into Japanese philosophies and applied them to the all-new EV in a uniquely Nissan way.

“We wanted to ensure that the soul of the vehicle reflect our distinctive Japanese DNA, conveyed in a simple, yet powerfully modern manner,” Albaisa said. “We dubbed this ‘Timeless Japanese Futurism’ and tapped into key Japanese words to inspire our global design team to produce the Ariya’s ultra-sleek, seamless, sharp and powerful form.”

Nissan Ariya: taking shape through a fundamentally Japanese approach

Omotenashi (Japanese script: “おもてなし”)

Traditional definition: Offering more than what's expected at this time, in this place, and only for you (an unexpected level of hospitality and service)

Omotenashi refers to offering guests and customers an unmatched level of hospitality, at times anticipating their needs and providing for them accordingly. It’s a way of conveying that this moment is just for you.

Albaisa: “An important term defining our Japanese DNA. Our next wave of products not only focuses solely on impressive power, convenience features and premium materials, but also redefines the full driving experience – from walking up to the Ariya to operating it, living with it and enhancing everyone's daily life in a fresh, exciting way. With Ariya, we considered the meaning of omotenashi in the modern digital context. To be considerate is a key aspect of this tradition. For example, when a driver enters the Ariya, all icons are blacked out, only the start button is pulsating waiting for the driver to engage. When the button is pushed, all icons and switches gently come to life, including the startup sequence on the graphic user interface. As for the interface itself, the dual curved screens and large head-up display provides important information in an easily understandable format and controls are right where they need to be. And, in addition to functional ingenuity, we use andon lighting that gives the interior an architectural lounge-like atmosphere.”

Iki (Japanese script: “粋”)

Traditional definition: Cutting-edge, with a simplistic, fresh feeling

The most straightforward translation of iki is “chic.” But for Nissan’s designers, it represents creating something new and cutting-edge that departs from an existing impression.

Tai: “Iki may very well be one of the best ways to describe the Ariya, as it refers to the vehicle’s advanced design language and technology. Iki describes a reinvention of how we interface with a vehicle with breakthroughs in connectivity technology. It also describes the changing way we see an existing car segment. Iki is the opposite of being flashy or showy, which can typically occur with new technology. With the Ariya, iki can be felt in the vehicle’s strong exterior presence and impressive beauty. For example, the sharp section of the front fascia and the accents that run along the shoulder in a single line unify the design in a concise manner. Inside the car, the climate controls have a ‘disappearing’ design that makes them nearly invisible on the smooth instrument panel surface when not in use. Even though the climate control switches are integrated, their haptic feedback provides a feeling of pushing a mechanical switch when activated. That’s iki in its purest form.”

Kabuku (Japanese script: “傾く”)

Traditional definition: A bold, diverse expression that goes against common approach

Kabuku is a reaction to societal conventions and order. It embraces the strange and unorthodox as an expression of rebellion, but does it in a positive way. By thinking differently from others, it represents behavior that can only come from being a leader and risk-taker.

Tai: “At Nissan, we channel this spirit by taking different approaches to the norm – not just in seeking new design inspirations, but also new ways to reinvent how we develop and construct, so as to elevate the driver and passenger's experience. We look at what is, and what could be. You can see hints of kabuku in the approach to the Ariya itself. As an EV, it takes advantage of opportunities to repurpose and redesign. For example, the front grille has been reimagined as a ‘shield,’ taking on a new purpose of protecting technology while enabling higher levels of driver assistance. The front bumper has air ducts that improve aerodynamics without disrupting the surface beauty. These are a few examples of how we’re pursuing a future that’s more intuitive and seamlessly connected, and how we’ve taken on a pure and simple approach with a uniquely Japanese EV design language.”

Ma (Japanese script: “間”)

Traditional definition: A mastery of empty space by respecting its construction (spatiotemporal openings)

At its core, ma is a mastery of space employing skills and techniques without complicated means.

Albaisa: In architecture, ma is a form of Japanese minimalism that at its root is not subtractive but a focus on harmony of elements from the beginning. Both Exterior and interior reflect this concept. The exterior at a glance has a single dynamic line from front to rear, in actuality the forms that create this line are very sculptural and give the line a more artistic essence. The interior is tech minimal reflecting the daily life of our customers. With our engineers, we were able to reduce complexity by allowing functions to live within the decorative elements and delivering an unexpected open yet thrilling space.

Sei (Japanese script: “整”) 

Traditional definition: Clever treatment of structures and details

If ma is the mastery of space, then sei is how it’s achieved. This can come in the form of a clever treatment of a design, element or function. 

Albaisa: “Designers always look for ways to cleverly pursue a purer representation of a design sketch into the physical form. With the Ariya, examples of sei include the exterior character lines that run along the vehicle. When viewed together, they create a silent tension that expresses the movement of ma. The rear taillamp embodies a functional beauty in a single horizontal light blade motif. In the cabin, sei is represented by the haptic controls that integrate into the instrument panel with minimal icons or control gaps, while still providing a tactile response when touched. They look simple but contain technology that comes to life like magic when the driver needs it.”

Utsuroi (Japanese script: “移ろい”) 

Traditional definition: Fluidity and asymmetry, created by nature

Nissan’s design team considers this term to be the essence of their inspiration, implementing the flowing expressions of nature to create new forms with a feeling of purpose and balance.

Tai: “Examples of utsuroi are present throughout the Ariya. The tension and flowing forms of the exterior, specifically the rear quarter panels and the single crease line that runs around the body, express the design as unrestrained and encompass the entire vehicle. Inside, the long, unbroken instrument panel echoes the free-flowing exterior. Interior elements such as the intelligent lighting and copper accents flow from the front to rear of the cabin for a cohesive experience. The andon lighting exudes natural warmth that’s experienced by all occupants.”

Engawa (Japanese script: “縁側”) 

Traditional definition: The undefined space between inside and outside; the space between here and there

Traditional Japanese buildings have a narrow corridor that runs around the exterior. This space is called engawa and can be closed or open to the outside, like a porch. It represents a place or undefined space between inside and out, between where you are and where you’re going. Nissan sees this going beyond the physical, encompassing digital information and how we interact with it inside and outside the vehicle.

Tai: “In the Nissan Ariya, engawa is represented by the information space connecting the outside and inside of the car. An example of this is the display movement that makes us feel the flow of information from multiple sources at our fingertips and the passage of time through its digital 3D space.”

Andon (Japanese script: “行燈”)

Traditional definition: A Japanese paper lantern that produces a soft glow

Andon is a paper lantern used to illuminate homes, dating back to the days of the samurai. The lantern consists of a wooden frame with a thin piece of paper stretched around it. A candle placed inside produces a warm light that accentuates the surroundings.

Arroba: “The andon lighting inside the Ariya adds to the relaxing, premium atmosphere and highlights the openness of the footwell and the doors. Found on the insides of the front doors and under the instrument panel, the glow from the andon lighting provides a calming, welcoming ambience.”

Kumiko (Japanese script: “組子”) 

Traditional definition: A traditional Japanese technique found in lattice woodworking

Practiced by only the most highly trained craftsmen, kumiko is a complex, beautiful geometric pattern that has been used for centuries.

Arroba: “A reimagined kumiko pattern can be seen on the ‘shield,’ which replaces the grille that would be on a gasoline-powered vehicle. Highlighting an electrified V-motion signature, the intricate kumiko pattern lies just under the shield's smooth surface. Kumiko has been used inside the Nissan Ariya as well, to wrap around the glow of the andon lighting.”

Japanese philosophies give all-new Nissan Ariya its ‘soul’
Japanese philosophies give all-new Nissan Ariya its ‘soul’
Japanese philosophies give all-new Nissan Ariya its ‘soul’