After near-record earnings in 2013, this automaker's revenue and income tumbled in 2014. The company is now launching redesigns of some of its most popular vehicles and has narrowed down the number of vehicles being launched recently.
With the recent struggles to keep up with their competitors, they decided to hire Native to create a 2025 moonshot that would help the company get back on its feet and have a plan on how to be disruptive in the next decade. The client also hired the design team in SF to start designing the instrumental cluster and center console for their near-term vehicles.
Lead Product Designer
Led a team of 2
Worked remotely for the team at Ford
Delivered 2018 and 2020 Instrumental Cluster and Center Console designs
A NEW VISUAL LANGUAGE
The Native offices in San Francisco and London collaborated to provide the client with a holistic vision of their future technological opportunities. While the SF team focused on near-term models, the London team delved into designing the possibilities in an ambitious 2025 Moonshot concept.
This allowed us to guide the client step by step towards innovation, leveraging our expertise in Human Machine Interaction (HMI) and in-house design capabilities. By working closely with the HMI team along with industrial designers, we were able to propose innovative solutions that would drive the company's growth and embrace cutting-edge technologies.
As a collaborative team, we embarked on a project to envision the driving experience of 2025. While working on near-term deliverables, our London counterparts explored futuristic concepts that would shape the driving landscape. The concepts included personalization, autonomous driving, communication enhancements, and educational projected images on windshields. They mapped 10 transformative concepts and milestones, outlining how technology and design could lead the company to meet these future driving experiences.
In the meantime, I was part of the team that designed the instrumental cluster of a 2018 vehicle with a focus on communicating luxury while aligning with the client's brand pillars: luxury, sanctuary, quiet flight, and openness. The initial design utilized gold elements to convey luxury, but the client felt it lacked coherence with the brand pillars. The challenge was to integrate the design elements seamlessly within the existing Human Machine Interface (HMI) framework while meeting strict safety standards and regulations.
How can we align the company's vision into the 2018 instrumental cluster?
Given a set of wireframes by our client, our team began transforming the stripped-down wireframes into a visually appealing and cohesive designs. The main challenge was determining the user flow and interactions among multiple buttons on both sides of the steering wheel and a central round button. We had to adhere to federal motor vehicle safety standards,
which posed constraints on type sizes and color contrast. As we worked on the design, there were constant iterations and video conferencing sessions with the teams to resolve challenges and ensure a harmonious outcome.
The project presented several hurdles, including color contrast and type size regulations that were initially seen as constraints. The client sent over a machine that acted as a viewport so that we can accurately measure the brightness and constrast, as if we were in the vehicle themselves.
Adhering to regulations while staying true to the client's vision was the balance we need to design. After multiple iterations on the visual language, we were able to align on a direction that communicated luxury, realism, and elegance.
The client's difficulty in settling on 8 drive mode names prompted us to take the initiative and contribute to the solution. We recognized the importance of finding names that resonated with the target audience and reflected the driving experience.
Conducting separate brainstorming sessions, our team collaborated to generate a range of drive mode name options that encapsulated the essence of each mode. We aimed to provide the client with a diverse set of suggestions that matched their brand values and conveyed the unique attributes of each mode.
CENTER CONSOLE LAYOUTS
Center Console Sketches of Client's Wireframe and different options for layout and type hierarchy.
Center Console sketches of client's wireframe for seat features and my different options for layout and type hierarchy.
In this instrumental cluster design project, safety and compliance with automobile regulations were of utmost importance. Upholding principles of clarity, guidance, and focus, our team diligently worked to reduce risks for drivers and passengers. Adhering to strict constraints, we ensured that essential information was readily accessible, enhancing the driving experience while safeguarding all vehicle occupants.
The type hierarchy played a vital role in creating a clear and focused display, allowing drivers to quickly comprehend essential information at a glance.
Guidance: Do not go smaller in height of X pixels and abbreviate wherever possible.
By fading out unnecessary information and increasing brightness, we ensured drivers' attention was drawn to crucial data, promoting a safe driving environment.
Guidance: Leverage color contrast predictor to ensure it would pass accessibility standards even in direct sunlight.
Allow drivers to know which mode they are driving in clearly by indicating the color and leveraging motion to help communicate that story.
Guidance: Only use motion wherever appropriate and in moments where it'll bring delight.
The client sought a balanced approach of form and function for the 2018 instrumental cluster. While incorporating an open, organic design language inspired by the brand's navigation theme, we drew inspiration from traditional navigation tools, timekeeping, and wayfinding, as well as the night sky and moonlighting, to create a series of concepts and directions.
The internal design team presented to their senior leaders and they loved the direction
The design team and I focused on seamlessly blending luxury and elegance with a layered aesthetic. By incorporating elements from traditional navigation tools and celestial inspiration, we aimed to create a unique and captivating design language for the instrumental cluster. After selecting a direction, we meticulously refined each element, ensuring compliance with color contrast regulations. By utilizing a color contrast predictor, we ensured that the graphics met the required level of contrast, ensuring optimal readability for drivers even in challenging conditions like direct sunlight.
Following the successful outcome of the 2018 instrumental cluster redesign, our goal at Native is to foster a strong relationship with the client. The client's satisfaction led to an exciting task of redesigning two more models with the same design language but different screen sizes. However, this presented challenges, particularly with squeezing all the texts into smaller screens, adhering to the client's all caps text request, and elevating the design to new heights.
As the SF team focuses on near-term vehicle designs, the London team collaborates closely with the client, providing valuable user insights and research to drive continuous innovation. Despite the scale of the project, our team is dedicated to tackling each challenge step by step, guided by our growing understanding of the client's needs and aspirations.
The success of the 2018 redesign paved the way for further collaboration and trust with the client. By consistently delivering exceptional designs and embracing challenges, we reinforce our position as a reliable and innovative partner.