The timing for the 2015 launch of Toyota’s hydrogen-powered car was tricky. The Mirai fuel-cell car was arriving just as battery-electric vehicles, a competing technology, were rapidly gaining in notoriety. The Japanese automaker wanted new Mirai owners to understand the context.
More importantly, Toyota wanted to convey how the company makes decisions based on very long planning cycles — 50 or more years into the future.
Toyota hired me to travel to Japan to conduct interviews with the technologists, engineers, designers, and production managers overseeing the Mirai (which means “future” in Japanese).
To create the large-format 94-page book, I organized the chapters as profiles of the people behind the vehicle. With this story structure, and by using carefully edited excerpted interviews, the book gives users a feeling of meeting the people behind the technology. The goal was to explain the vision for a hydrogen future with relatable human voices.
As a coffee-table book, it also had to be fun to flip through and highly visual — like an illustrated history. I found and hired Jerome Curchod, a gifted book designer, and employed Leanne Kroll, my long-time go-to illustrator. The project also required an exhaustive archival search for photographs and other visual material to tell the story.
When Toyota said it would bring its Japan-based digital studio into the project, I decided to give the book a timeless and otherworldly feel by placing the Mirai in the far reaches of the globe. So the narrative is interspersed with images of the fuel-cell car, for example, on top of the snowy Himalayas, on the sunbaked floor of Death Valley, and cruising past baobab trees on the island nation of Madagascar.