Role: Lead Researcher and Visual Designer

Picked to participate in a team of 5, the goal of this project was to design the User Experience for the Infinity QX70 SUV concept vehicle. This was a contest between seven teams, and our team was made up of Fede Ponce (Creative Director & UI/UX Designer), three interns out of Pasadena Art Center (Research), and myself (Lead Researcher & Visual Designer).

We needed to establish an emotional connection between the user and the User Interface. The need was to generate a universal human experience through holistic UI design, rooted in Japanese values, while identifying a unique definition of Modern Luxury. At the time, there was an automotive trend in which the user experience was separate from the design. Our job was to align the internal and external experience in order to redefine the notion of luxury by defining what luxury meant for the Japanese culture and how it aligned with its values.

The whole experience was content dependent and was determined by destinations, times of day, number of passengers, the weather, and things alike. By using predictive technology, the welcome screen could use a specific greeting, and the key could determine how the user was feeling by comparing past behaviors and calendar notes. And just like that, the content of the past dictated the experience of the future.

The QX-70 Concept SUV 

Infinity Style Reference

This was our style reference provided by Infinity. As we were coming up with solutions for our designs, we needed to think about traditional design principles that we were going to modernize and be able to make global. Technically, we needed to think about a unified experience of color, shapes, and animations, and about the emotions that we wanted to trigger in the experience. To get to these solutions, we needed to research everything we could about the Japanese culture, like its art, food, and cinema. We needed to figure out what it meant to be Japanese. What were their traditional and modern design trends, and what where the values from the past and present? This research would inform us a lot about the visual style but also about the car’s UI behavior.

 

The Solution

The solution was to focus on the overall user experience, information design, brand strategy, interaction, service design and storytelling that would connect people with the new technologies of this future vehicle. What we found was that there were many challenges facing humanity as a whole, and they were that we can no longer afford to continue living on an individualistic model of consumption. That the old concept of opulent luxury is excessive and no longer sustainable, and we found rather that modern luxury is not wasteful. It is instead guided by the need for awareness and connection, and instead connects us back to nature.

Having recognized all the challenges and integrating the insights from the research, a new design thesis was constructed and we called it: Enlightened Luxury. 

And this is how we got to the solution:

 

Identified Future and Present Opportunities

Households

47 million households constitute the middle market ($50,000+ annual income)

Education

Those of which were broadly educated and well traveled 

Income

They had $3.5 trillion in disposable income

Enlightened Luxury

And were willing to pay 20% more for experiences and crafted goods

Researched Class Competition & Autonomous Vehicles

Obsolete Luxury

We found that there was no integration between the screens that we researched and the environment around it. Most designs offered a familiar “tablet” to the user instead of extending the design language. 

There was also no integration between hardware and the experience.

UI Trends

We found clean, engaging, easy to use, more powerful and user friendly interfaces.

Wearables

The full user centered journey is a luxurious emotional experience that originated with the mobile device, wearable, key fob, or Infinity’s mobile dock. It grew in anticipation as the user moved closer to the automobile and culminated at the end of the day when the user left the automobile.

Future Tech Materials

The interior materials was probably some of the most exciting findings we had. We found that future car seats will grip and bend and will be much safer than they are today. They can even detect symptoms like your blood pressure dropping, making the vehicle reprogram destinations if needed.

Ai and Facial Recognition

Progress in facial recognition technology means machines can not only identify who is in the car, but also will be able to detect moods and patterns in those driving the vehicle.

We then immersed ourselves in the Japanese Culture

Food

We read a lot of blogs and ate a lot of Japanese food.

Cars

We interviewed expert auto bloggers and spent time at many dealerships

Art

We studied Japanese architecture, cinema, fashion and fine art

We Studied Infinity’s Japanese Craftsmanship

Cuban-American Alfonso Albaisa is the Senior Vice President for Global Design for Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.  Under Albaisa’s leadership, Global Nissan Design members have been evolving new design language giving shape of Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies to customers around the world. We followed his lead on what makes beautiful design luxurious.

We interviewed those directly connected to the culture

We got in contact with Japanese designers, artists, painters, and musicians and and researched their aesthetic and their process. We also contacted auto bloggers and asked their opinions on Japanese automakers, including Infinity’s.

Jaime Gabaldoni

Senior Editor Autos Univision

Sakura Sigihara

Actress & Director in Japan and Los Angeles

Tomo Saito

Japanese Creative Director, Photographer, Filmmaker

Ben Hsu

Editor in Chief of an auto and lifestyle media company

We Researched High Tech Fabrics

We looked at some of the most durable materials being used at the time.

We researched Japanese Cinema

This project was about generating an emotional connection and Japanese films got to the core of that.

now that we had all of this information how did we break it down?

We explained our theory of Enlightened Luxury

Infinity’s Enlightened Luxury proposition is defined by nature inspired events. It is the spirit and emotion that empowers the artificial intelligence of the Enlightened Luxury Experience. It manifested itself as a digital representation of nature and we found that balance inside and outside of the Japanese home.

A UI language was formed

The UI had to be representative of Japanese customs and values so we designed our own language that showed that.

Studied and Build Flows

Designed Infographics

Through infographics we designed challenges and key points.

THE FINISH LINE

Final Presentation

This information included the process and research, and we also expanded the project to include a VR experience.

Take Aways

This was probably the most in depth project I had worked on when it came to doing UX research. As we immersed ourselves in the Infinity brand, our design process, creative direction and visual journey all had to be incredibly thorough. As our small team worked to figure out the best User Experience we could have given the User based on their likes, their customs, and their predictive journey, what we learned about the car industry, the future of the car industry, and the Japanese culture was pretty incredible. To say that we will be in driverless cars that are safer, are smarter, and are tailored 100% to your liking is definitely a wave of the future. 

I’m happy to say, that our team won the project in the end!