Most of us might have been taught or are led to believe that automotive design is mostly about styling. But that was more or less true until a few years back. Now the times have changed, and today it’s much more than just form and surfaces. Sure, those curves and the silhouettes are intended to blow you away or elevate your pulse levels, when you look at the car for the first time.
But at its core ...... every form serves a purpose. And the biggest purpose is to carry people from one point to another. It can be in the fastest manner, the most comfortable manner, in a seamless manner, in the most secure manner etc. And what is on the outside is forgotten the moment you step inside the vehicle. Since an average user spends most of her/his time inside the vehicle, what truly matters is how you feel when you’re inside it. That’s where the “Experience Design” aspect comes into the picture.
What is Automotive Experience Design?
Traditionally, automotive designers who were dealing with interior design have been taking care of the overall interior design, color and trim, controls design, ambiance design, seat design, fit and finish, etc. Together, they can be clubbed under the umbrella of Physical Experience design.
But going forward, vehicles are evolving into ultimate technological showcases, where they incorporate interfaces with which any user (be it the driver, co-passenger, rear seat passenger) can interact during the different phases of the journey. This has led to the birth of a new domain of design, which is called the “Digital Experience Design”.
This includes designing the entire eco-system of the possible interactions between the Humans and the Machines. There are two major areas where we as designers contribute in every possible way.
1. V2X (Vehicle to X Communication)
With the help of artificial intelligence, vehicles are communicating with each other, the infrastructure like traffic signals, parking spots, fuel /charging stations, grocery stores, restaurants and other Point of Interests. The designers take care of the needs of the user at any given point of these multiple interactions, and their vehicle should respond in an expected way all the time.
Another use-case is the much-hyped self-driving / autonomous car. It’s a particularly challenging domain for the designers, considering the risks involved.But with the necessary driver distraction principles and guidelines for autonomy considered during every aspect of the design process, we ensure that we foresee the future as much as we can, and make the vehicles fool-proof and offer the simplest and most intuitive interaction with the occupants and the car.
Design for Emotions
Physical and Digital Experience design, when put together…results in Emotional Design. Emotional Design caters to the five senses of any user. It caters to the state of the mind, the mood, and the people whom you’re with, the things that you want at that moment. When you touch something, see something, hear something, smell something, taste something, how should you as a user feel? Connected-Yes. Comfortable – Yes. Assured – Yes. Secure- Yes. Confident-Yes. Anxious-No. Confused-No. Nervous-No.
These are the factors which become our guidelines while designing all components, and together they offer the right emotions at the right time.
The biggest challenge that any designer faces, is to juggle between two things. On one hand, there’s the all-important task to identify the forever changing requirements of the user and respond to them in the simplest way, which is, of course, easier said than done. On the other hand, it’s the business perspective, to stay ahead of the competition. But we use some secret tools which help us achieve both of that efficiently.
Put simply, every morning we step in our design studio, we resume a game of chess, where we try and stay ahead of the competition by predicting what will be their next move, and plan our moves well in advance. We try and set the benchmark for the rest of the industry to follow.
A Game of Emotions is what an Automotive Design Experience is all about.
Sameer M - Studio Lead - Advanced Design (Mercedes-Benz R&D)