Skip to main content

The Nissan Titan has been with us for two decades now. Although it never posted the high sales number seen by Detroit’s Big Three, it has maintained relevancy. But a little-known fact places the Titan in the automotive history book. You’ll be surprised to hear—or not֫—that a woman designed Nissan’s full-size pickup truck.

Who designed the Nissan Titan?

Diane Allen got her start at San Diego-based Nissan Design America (NDA) in 1984. MotorTrend reports that her first leadership role was the 1999 facelift of the Nissan Frontier, then quickly, the Titan. While Allen focused solely on exterior design, she ensured that full-size pickup truck customers weren’t welcomed with “anything flowery,” she said.

“We were inspired by the concept of Titan as a warrior, so it kind of represents the mask of a gladiator,” Allen explained. “The abdomen is barrel-shaped, with the fenders diving down…every one tough and tool-like.” It takes boldness not only to hop in the driver’s seat for truck design at NDA but to put up an alternative to General Motors, Dodge, Toyota, and Ford. But not only did the Titan succeed following its release—becoming a finalist for the North American Truck of the Year award—but Allen also achieved a significant milestone.

In a 2005 interview with Automotive News, Allen spoke to an early surprise she experienced working for Nissan. “Most people thought it would be hard for a woman to work at a Japanese company,” she said, “but Nissan was refreshingly open and inclusive. Even when I would go to Japan and give presentations, they would really listen to me.”

Nissan was at a turning point at the turn of the 21st century when the company planned to debut a lineup of full-size SUVs and trucks in the North American market. Development for the Titan began in 1999 with Allen at the helm. She attested to the challenge as senior design manager at NDA. In the same interview, she explained her “proudest achievement” was “juggling four truck products at one time.”

What other vehicles did Diane Allen design?

Diane designed Nissan's first full-size pickup truck
Diane Allen | Nissan

Allen penned the exterior of both configurations of Nissan’s full-size pickup truck—crew cab and extended cab. At the same time, she designed the Nissan Armada three-row SUV and its luxurious Infiniti QX56 corporate cousin. Yet, she was also the design manager overseeing the 350Z, which allowed Nissan to make headways in the American sports car market.

According to the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), Allen also managed the 370Z, the Rogue, and the Infiniti M. A winner of multiple Design Excellence awards, she even holds a number of patents. For instance, she designed the innovative “Utili-track” bed channel system feature on the Nissan Titan and other manufacturer offerings.

What about the second-generation full-size pickup truck?

Nissan's second-generation Tian full-size pickup truck was also designed by Diane Allen
2016 Nissan Titan XD | Nissan

For the 2016 model year, Nissan released an updated Titan, and it was Allen who managed the design development. She also made the beefier Titan XD, the company’s attempt at an offering beyond a light-duty full-size pickup truck. The IDSA asserts that Allen oversaw the entire “Titan family,” including “design concept and sketch development to the production sheet metal, as well as designing and prototyping of all parts, wheels, and accessories.”

Although Allen has since retired, she leaves a legacy of bold full-size pickup truck designs. Currently, the Titan’s future is up in the air. Still, even if it fails to survive manufacturer electrification, Nissan will undoubtedly take a page out of Allen’s book designing the trucks of the future.


Experts Agree: The Slow Death of the Nissan Titan has Begun