Throughtout my career I have strived to work around the entire vehicle- from exterior sheetmetal to lamps to wheels, to underhood and powertrain, to interior appearance, to controls and switchgear to grahphics, HMI and U/X and overall strategy.
I believe this 360° approach has provided a more cohesive view of the vehicle as a holistic product, albeit an emotive one, that allows an approach considerate of all vehicle attributes even if the particular area your design focus is only one.
My vision and process is a circular, not stairstep- below are 4 of my degrees around my 360° design process and a short explanation of each.
The most iconic, memorable products are ones that transcend a narrowly defined demographic and rather seek out a unique compelling contrast to the competitive marketplace as well as describe and reinforce the ethos and story of the brand.
In 2011, the word “experience” had just crept into the automotive design realm. At the time, interiors were becoming a testbed, a “what if?” of technological application and intrusion. I spoke about my vision at an interior design conference and highlighted Starbucks and Apple as companies which sold experiences, not product specification sheets.
Fast forward five years and you cannot speak about automotive design without seeing the words “U/X” attached. I was lucky to be on the leading edge of development of this effort at Ford, first in the Driver Interface of the 2015 Mustang, and then in strategic development for Lincoln interiors, starting with Quiet Luxury in the 2017 Continental and then further development for future vehicles. However, I am a firm believer that experience isnt exclusive to interiors. Approaching the vehicle, the imagined projection mentioned above, the welcome, the cross of the interlock from outside to in, and then the departure all factor into the experience as well.
My colleagues regularly hear me repeat- if you want a ranch, we need ensure we don’t frame a colonial- no matter your design talent, you cannot style your way back to a ranch. Every part of the architecture, from the exterior dimensions, powertrain to interior hardpoints, HMI input, display type and location all are ingredients that must be measured and added in proper amounts to deliver the desired “flavor” of the vehicles. You must create the architecture to support the desired experience.
Finally, this is where intrinsic, intimate knowledge of the market and the brand- past present and future, is critical to gauging the experience, constructing the architecture and executing a compelling design. The experience and architecture may be measured perfectly, but without an emotive, compelling composition underscoring and reinforcing the brand, the message may be unclear or at worse, dormant.
Creating a compelling design over a strong foundation, tugging the right emotive chord brings you back full circle 360°- the market is the customer and your product resonates loudly and successfully within it.