J Mays is group vice president, Design, and chief creative officer, Ford Motor Company.
He is responsible for shaping the global design direction of Ford Motor Company’s Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury brands; and working to create long-range strategic design visions that support the worldwide ‘One Ford’ business model to develop products customers want and value.
Mays has led the development of significant concept vehicles including the Ford Interceptor, Fairlane, Shelby GR-1 and ‘427,’ as well as the Lincoln C Concept. He has also played an instrumental role in redesigning Ford Motor Company’s auto show display stand.
In addition, he has been instrumental in creating key new production models including the all-new global 2012 Ford Focus and 2011 Fiesta and North America’s 2010 Ford Taurus and Taurus SHO. Other notable production vehicles include the 2004 and 2009 Ford F-150, the 2005 and 2010 Ford Mustang, 2005 Ford GT, and the 2008 Jaguar XF.
Mays, who was born in Pauls Valley, Okla., launched his automotive design career at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif.
Following graduation in 1980, he joined Audi AG in Ingolstadt, Germany, as an exterior designer.
He moved to Munich in 1983 to work for BMW and returned to Audi the following year as a senior designer, where he worked to develop production model proposals for both Volkswagen and Audi. The Audi AVUS concept car, an iconic, polished aluminum celebration of Germany’s legacy of automotive performance and technology, marked the highlight of his return.
In 1989, Mays returned to the U.S. as Volkswagen of America’s chief designer in its Simi Valley, Calif., Design Center, where he was responsible for the design and branding of the Volkswagen Concept 1, known today as the New Beetle.
He returned to Germany in 1993 as Audi’s design director responsible for worldwide design strategy, development and execution, where he led the development of the original Audi TT.
Mays shifted gears in 1995, as vice president of Design Development for SHR Perceptual Management, an ideation, branding and design consultancy that worked for numerous automotive companies, including Ford.
Mays joined Ford Motor Company in 1997 as vice president, Design, and was named group vice president in 2003. In 2005, he took on the expanded role of group vice president and chief creative officer.
During his career at Ford, Mays has simultaneously managed and developed the design language of multiple vehicle brands. He has also successfully led the effort to develop a single, global Ford Design language that now applies to most vehicles Ford produces around the world.
Over the years, Mays has received numerous professional awards and recognition for his designs. Mays’ design philosophy and a cross-section of his vehicles were the subject of an exhibition called Retrofuturism: The Car Design of J Mays at the Geffen Contemporary of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in November 2002. In addition, he received the Harvard Design School annual Excellence in Design Award in February 2002. In September 2002, he received the Don Kubly Professional Attainment Award from the Art Center.
Mays has also taken on unique advisory roles, consulting, for example, with Disney/Pixar on vehicle design for the 2006 animated feature-film Cars. In addition, he has collaborated with American artist Richard Prince on published works.
In 2010, Mays was profiled in the January issue of Esquire magazine. His design prowess was also featured in the BBC landmark design series, The Genius of Design. Mays has also been named among Fast Company magazine’s inaugural “Masters of Design” standouts.