In an automotive world where companies’ board members and executives are typically engineers and sales gurus, an auto designer being elevated to the top seems atypical, non-conventional and does not follow the norm. But that is just what Toyota wanted – a non-conventional leader that could inspire some risk-taking and creativity while prompting engineers as well as marketers to think of design as a vital path to success.
Here comes Tokuo Fukuichi, Toyota’s global design chief who in June was promoted as a member of its board and as president of Lexus. He is described a creative yet free person who considers brainstorming in the sauna as an important part of his daily work regimen – opportunities to do such should have become limited as he takes on the new and more challenging role. But the opposite came true.
With more responsibility on his shoulders, Fukuichi now wants to work more while on a bathtub. In fact, he says that he has a rule that if there's no new work after 5:30 pm, he would leave the office and does the same things he does while still Toyota’s global design chief.
He noted that his personal life hasn't changed just because he has been appointed to Toyota’s board. Fukuichi now is the first designer sitting on Toyota’s board and the first designer to lead Lexus – position usually not reserved designers.
John Manoogian, a professor of automotive design at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, remarked that the fact that Toyota is including design at the 'big table' is quite significant.