An Era of Savoring Original Delights in Cars as Well

Test Drive Pilots

ROAD KITCHEN – a service for customization of i-ROAD parts using 3D printers, has been upgraded to a higher dimension of excellence.

Essentially, this has involved engineering a transition from the previous approach, in which selections were made from predetermined colors,
patterns and other components, to a service of working hand in hand with the designer to come up with innovative new concepts.

Moving from early on to take advantage of this newly evolving service was Mr. Arai – a Phase 5 i-ROAD Test Drive Pilot. Professionally,
Mr. Arai is a cabinetmaker running his own order-made furniture shop in the Ebisu district of Tokyo.

We caught up with Mr. Arai just after receiving his original new i-ROAD front panel. In a word, he appeared tickled to death with the results.
ROAD KITCHEN – a service for customization of i-ROAD parts using 3D printers, has been upgraded to a higher dimension of excellence.

Essentially, this has involved engineering a transition from the previous approach, in which selections were made from predetermined colors, patterns and other components, to a service of working hand in hand with the designer to come up with innovative new concepts.

Moving from early on to take advantage of this newly evolving service was Mr. Arai – a Phase 5 i-ROAD Test Drive Pilot. Professionally, Mr. Arai is a cabinetmaker running his own order-made furniture shop in the Ebisu district of Tokyo.

We caught up with Mr. Arai just after receiving his original new i-ROAD front panel. In a word, he appeared tickled to death with the results.

Desire for a Front Panel
with a Wood Grain Design

Desire for a Front Panel with a Wood Grain Design

Arriving at Mr. Arai’s studio, a venue with the rich bouquet of wood in the air, a white i-ROAD was parked right outside. We immediately saw that this particular unit was equipped with a front panel different from the normal pattern. The designer of this panel was none other than Mr. Arai himself, the owner of “kaki8” – a shop specializing in order-made furniture. We wondered how Mr. Arai, a highly accomplished cabinetmaker, found the experience of customizing such a creation via use of a 3D printer.

“When I was first informed that it would be all right to design my own front panel, I felt inspired to come up with something stylish. The process got off the ground by meeting with the designer, at which time I presented a few design concepts and specific patterns that I personally had in mind. The discussions that followed were used to expand those ideas into a more concrete image, leading to the decision to incorporate a “wood grain” design. At the same time, I told the designer that I wanted to steer clear of an overly realistic wood grain appearance, instead requesting a more “pop” looking wood grain made primarily from resin materials. I really wanted to stick to my personal tastes on that front (laugh). Being told that the work would involve the creation of 3D data sounded a bit tricky to me at first. But it turned out to be far easier than I imagined, with the image given concrete shape and form once I clearly communicated the concept.”

After that, Mr. Arai stayed in touch with the designer through e-mail messages, as they collaborated to work up and finalize the design. Mr. Arai reports that he coordinated with the opinions of the designer, a professional in that area, on the overall pattern, while firmly conveying the points that he particularly wanted to see reflected in the finished version.

“The work of bringing tangible form to the original image, while compromising on what could and what could not be achieved technically, was a surprisingly
fresh and enjoyable experience. Since the lion’s share of my own work consists of reflecting the meticulous opinions and desires of customers in the creative process, I was a bit worried about coming on too strong with my own preferences in this project (laugh). Toward the end of the undertaking, however, there was the sense of working together as a team to come up with the final product. As a result, entering the final painting stage I felt perfectly at ease in asking for the designer’s ideas in what colors might be best to use. I can honestly say that, thanks in great part to working together in that way, I was totally satisfied when I set eyes on the completed work (laugh). While the colors are bright they look just fine on the i-ROAD, and above all else it felt good to have produced something so original. A creation different from anything else out on the road, that is.”

The Idea of Changing Front Panels much like a Smartphone Case

The Idea of Changing Front Panels much like a Smartphone Case

According to Mr. Arai, when the original front panel was installed on his i-ROAD: “It reminded me of changing the case on a smartphone.”

“To tell the truth, I’m the type of person who prefers cars in their original and genuine form. That’s based on the thinking that since the design has already been scrupulously worked out and completed, I feel no burning desire to add anything else to the mix. However, observing the installation of the newly designed front panel on this occasion, rather than playing around with the design of a car, I came away with an impression akin to changing the case on a smartphone. While attaching such a panel still requires its fair share of time and work, I look forward to the day when designers will render it a snap for anyone to switch from one front panel to another with no effort to speak of. In terms of my own work, it could be likened to changing the cover on a chair, for example. Even if the legs are the same, the character and expression of the chair can be completely altered by what fabric is used as the upholstery. It would be wonderful if the i-ROAD could also become a car capable of manifesting our own personal tastes and ideas in that way.”

 Mr. Arai’s original front panel – the playful mismatch between a vivid yellow color scheme resembling colors used in toys and the portrayal of a sophisticated wood grain pattern. The i-ROAD outfitted with this cover exudes its own special casual and chic ambience, with Mr. Arai’s own tastes clearly shining through. The genuine joy, in short, of being a total original. With greater numbers of such original i-ROAD creations out on the streets, we could look forward to our cities becoming more lively and showy.

TEXT BY Ryoko Sugimoto (contributor)
PHOTOGRAPHS BY Yuta Nishida

ISSUED : 28 February 2016