J Mays is set to join Gerry McGovern as visiting professor at the Royal College of Art’s vehicle design program this September. Though he’ll only spend one day a week teaching, his valuable experience in the industry will certainly help to aid student body concerns over the program direction, which have mounted since Peter Stevens left the premier design program last year.
Mays retired from his position as Ford’s group vice president of design and chief creative officer in 2013 after having worked at an international level throughout his monumental three-decade career. His influence throughout the automobile design industry can be noted through his work for some of the world’s major car manufactures including Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, as well as Ford. He has been instrumental in the creation of some of the world’s most’s lauded designs, such as the first generation Audi TT designed by Freeman Thomas.
Born in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, J Mays studied automotive design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. After he graduated in 1980 he joined Audi in Germany where he worked on the Audi 80 before joining BMW in 1983 where he worked on the 5 and 8 series. He returned to Audi in 1984 where he remained for 13 years and made his name working on the Audi 100, Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Polo, the Audi AVUS and the Volkswagen Concept One, which went into production as the VW New Beetle.
During his 16 years leading design at Ford, Mays was responsible for the company’s seven brands: Aston Martin, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercury and Volvo. He oversaw the development of the highly acclaimed Ford Fusion, Focus, Fiesta, Taurus, Mustang and F-150. He was also responsible for several significant concept vehicles, including the Ford Atlas, Evos, 427, Forty-Nine and Shelby GR-1; and the Lincoln MKZ and MKC.
“The Royal College of Art is one of the most prestigious design schools in the world, in one of the world’s most dynamic cities. I’m delighted to be joining the RCA as a visiting professor,” said Mays. “I vividly remember my early days as a design student and how much I valued input from industry professionals. I hope that in some small way I can have a similar impact on the next generation of young automotive designers, helping them transform themselves into design leaders.”
Alongside Mays’ many professional accolades and awards, he can be heralded as the man who raised the profile of automobile design by attracting widespread critical attention historically reserved for architects, product designers and furniture designers. In 2002 his designs were the subject of a major museum show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles called Retrofuturism: The Car Designs of J Mays. He transcended the barrier between vehicle design and animation when he was called upon by Pixar’s John Lasseter to consult on Disney’s Cars and today acts in various advisory roles to the motion picture industry.
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