Unless he’s travelling somewhere abroad, as is the case for our Sunday meeting in Geneva to discuss the inspiration that has turned him into one of the industry’s international stars. Our aim is to explore a well-kept trade secret: how to create automobiles of irresistible class and provocative beauty that are not overshadowed on the road by the sportiness of a classic racing car? Such power. Such elegance. Not that design can be compared so easily to music, or vice versa. “No, not that,” says Shiro with a mischievous smile and a twinkle in his eye. But I think the comparison with conducting is fair. Shiro Nakamura, a maestro presiding over an orchestra of over a 100 gifted designers.

As an instrumentalist he once played in an orchestra himself. “So I know what a good conductor has to do to bring a large-scale work to fruition.”

The evidence stands scrutiny: over 15 Infiniti models, from the G, the FX, the QX and JX to the evolution of the concept cars, the Essence, the Etherea and the EMERG-E. The Q50 is the newest addition to Nakamura’s Infiniti design family. It represents the start of the next Infiniti generation – and as an evolution inspired by Nakamura’s well-known concept cars, it would be fair to say it carries a fair amount of their DNA.

  • Mr. Nakamura, what gives you the underlying inspiration to design such iconic cars?
    Shiro Nakamura: Inspiration doesn’t strike on demand. It simply happens. You are inspired by happenstance. This is why visiting new places can be so inspiring. Being somewhere where everything feels different sharpens the imagination. That’s why I love looking at the sea – it’s one of the most captivating aspects of nature, never the same from one moment to the next. It’s dynamic. You can’t see the wind, but the waves and ripples on the ocean’s surface show the wind’s dynamics.

    The new Infiniti Q50 seems to embody the elegance and the sportiness of the Essence and the EMERG-E. What other influences inspired the car’s main new design features?
    Shiro Nakamura: The headlamps, for instance, are the car’s eyes. Infiniti is all about performance and dynamism – very intense and emotional. With their intense “eye” look, the headlamps are inspired by a traditional statue of the guardian gods – the god of thunder and the god of wind. The eye has very intense “eyebrows”, making for an iconic overall look. They lend confidence and are strong and elegant at the same time – a key characteristic of all Infiniti cars.

    The grille underscores this impression even further …
    Shiro Nakamura: The double-arched grille features two arches that come together to hold something very precious – a shape that represents an evolution. The arches are forceful and elegant, like the arches of bridges in Japan. The headlights and the grille are the face of a car. We chose to use a lot of curved and wavy elements because the wave is a shape that combines power and elegance.

  • You designed a crescent-cut C-pillar for the Infiniti Q50. What led you to choose this extraordinary style element?
    Shiro Nakamura: It’s about the car’s character, which manifests itself in the shape of the C-pillar. In its primary function of connecting the roof with the trunk, it could be compared to a spine. It’s a crucial element in car architecture. The half-moon shape is based on the arms of a warrior. We took the Essence as a starting point, then softened its shape, as the Q50 is a sedan. Together, the arch of the roof and the crescent-shaped C-pillar convey strength and elegance.

    The body accent line of the car is very dynamic and distinctive. What inspired it?
    Shiro Nakamura: It’s all about flow – to reflect the car’s performance. Floating lines inspired from the power of nature. Again, the design is based on waves found in the natural world – but this time in sand dunes rather than the ocean. You cannot see the wind, but its force buffets and caresses the sand dunes, creating elegant and beautiful shapes and ripples in the sand.

    The positioning of the LED lamps in the body of the Q50 lends the whole rear of the car an extremely sporty look. What led you to this idea?
    Shiro Nakamura: The rear features a lot of crescents, plus the two arches. It’s a natural consequence – the sum of the other design features.

    What does the new Infiniti Q50’s design tell us about the future of the brand?
    Shiro Nakamura: Looking at the Infiniti line-up, there’s been a major evolution over the past ten to twelve years. The Essence, EMERG-E and Etherea show how Infiniti can truly be: visceral and sensual in design, delivering an exuberant driving experience, and the seductive alternative in the exclusive club of premium automobile manufacturers. The other models in the new Infiniti generation will be just as fresh and sporty as the Q50. I’m extremely pleased with the design of the Infiniti Q50. It’s the beginning of a new generation, and that’s very exciting.

  • Design is about technology too. The Q50’s cockpit has a unique and extremely eye-catching feature: two touchscreens, one above the other. What was the idea behind this?
    Shiro Nakamura: Novel IT design and hospitality – these are the key factors in the Q50’s interior design. Why two screens? Because the technology has become more complex, and having two screens makes it easier to use the many state-of-the-art innovations that the Q50 comes with. This perfectly meets and exceeds the needs of our tech-savvy customers delivering all they could wish for in car-IT – like the double touch screen, which lets them manage all their favorite communication tools with the utmost of ease.

    You once said “Design is not just about beauty – it’s about communicating with people”. What message does the Infiniti Q50 have for its driver?
    Shiro Nakamura: This is a performance car – but one that offers greater comfort for the passenger, more space for the driver, and is bursting with confidence.

    When Hollywood directors finish shooting blockbusters, they often already have the sequel in mind. Are there any design ideas inspired by the Q50 that you’re keen to apply to a new car in the near future?
    Shiro Nakamura: One of our next steps is to develop a unique type of car, like the Q50, but smaller in size. This is a huge opportunity for the next Infiniti generation, and represents an exciting new development.

    Once again it is tempting to draw a comparison with music. For every new space has a different acoustic. It is well known that Shiro Nakamura adapts with virtuosity to any space. Power and elegance, yin and yang, perfect partners. And so with baited breath we await the next premiere of the maestro and his orchestra.