J Mays (born October 15, 1954 in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, USA) is currently the Group Vice President of Design and Chief Creative Officer at Ford Motor Company. His name is simply "J", named after his grandfather S J Mays.
Mays is known for his "retrofuturistic" cars designs that put a futuristic spin on classics like the Volkswagen Beetle and Ford Thunderbird. Though lauded for his nostalgic touch, his focus on the past has also been criticized.
While attending Maysville High School in Maysville, Oklahoma, Mays enrolled in an occupational drafting program at Mid-America Technology Center in Wayne, with aspirations of architecture. After high school, he studied art at the University of Oklahoma before changing to journalism. After later refocusing on art, Mays graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California in 1980.
He began his career at Audi AG, a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, in Ingolstadt, Germany, where he was an exterior designer and part of the team working on the Audi 100, Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Polo, and the Audi Cabrio. After a brief stint at BMW in Munich where he worked on designs for the 5 Series and 8 Series cars, he returned to Audi the following year as head designer. While there he became known for the Audi Avus Quattro concept car which set that company's design direction.
He returned to the United States in 1989 and took a position as chief designer in Volkswagen of America's Design Center in Simi Valley, California. At Volkswagen he was responsible for the design and branding of the Volkswagen Concept One concept car, the precursor to the New Beetle). He returned to Germany in 1993 as Audi’s design director responsible for worldwide design strategy, development and execution.
SHR Perceptual Management
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.
Ford Motor Company
Since joining Ford in October 1997, Mays has worked on the Ford GT, the 2002 Thunderbird, and the latest Explorer/Mercury Mountaineer. He is responsible for shaping the design direction of Ford Motor Company’s eight global brands—Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Mazda, Volvo, Land Rover, Jaguar, and Aston Martin. In addition, since assuming an expanded role in January, 2005, Mays invests even more time working with individual brands to create and support more long-range strategic design visions.
His design vision for Ford has been demonstrated in his concept cars, the Ford Fairlane, the Shelby GR-1, the 427, the Ford Forty-Nine, Jaguar F-Type, and the Volvo Safety Car Concept. In addition, he has been instrumental in creating several key new production models including the Aston Martin DB9, Land Rover LR3/Discovery, and the all-new Ford Shelby Cobra GT500.
During his tenure with Ford, he 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.