Client: Chrysler Group
Role: Digital Art Director
2013 was the year the Chrysler Group relaunched the Dodge Dart to the world. The reviews praised it as a game changer for the Dodge brand.
2012, I led the design of the multi-touch wall for the Canadian Auto show in Toronto, Canada and the International AutoShow in Detroit, USA. I collaborated with my associate creative director and two outside vendors on the look and feel of the content and the user experience of the touch wall panels.
I continued updates to the wall for subsequent auto show appearances until December 2013.
I partnered with an account director, producer, and an associate creative director to translate pages and pages of technical and market data into an engaging user experience that could translate into car sales.
Working directly with the client KPIs and sales goals, I worked with my team to define the product.
Moving forward, I created wires and prototypes to share the vision, design principles and content strategy, which helped evangelize the idea internally before being sold externally. These sketches also helped align my team and assist in decision making.
Moving forward I collaborated with outside vendors that handled 3D model designs, motion graphics as well as the software development to make the experience come alive. Staying in constant contact with each vendor, designing to each of their design and technical needs.
I designed up and presented works to gain buy-in from senior stakeholders internally, as well as, stakeholders and executives on the client-side throughout the project lifecycle. I directed and coordinated efforts with our vendors and led internal discussions. Which allowed me to maintain the project vision with vendors and internal team.
The Dodge Dart was still a year away from being on the market, and it was up against several established vehicles in its class. For Dodge, this touch wall had to be the automotive equivalent of a blockbuster teaser trailer, generating excitement around the brand and the vehicle, which would turn into verified sales when the time came.
Since the Dodge Dart was in the grey area between concept car and production-ready, our challenge was to create a polished interactive experience. One with unpolished technical and marketing data that would often change spontaneously or arrive very late.
With three months till delivery, it was proposed that create a simple scroll through the brochure. The client would provide copy and photos for my team to translate into the experience. The images lacked the sexiness of our “blockbuster hit” vision Dodge was aiming for. Escalating the challenge ahead.
I proposed the experience should be modeled after showroom experience, where you physically explore the vehicle inside and out by creating a larger than life explorative 360° where users can swipe through and explore.
The entire car was designed to deliver vehicle data through exploration in a convenient amount. Each angle of the vehicle would reveal relevant data, encouraging further exploration as opposed to flipping through pages.
The experience would be delivered on a 10x6’ glass through-wall, divided into three modules allowing for three simultaneous user experiences.
The user experience delivered feature information of the interior and exterior, as well as trim packages, but the combination of the 3x3 screens served as a presentation display for Dodge ambassadors. Hi-res renders could be seen past the crowds over 100’ away.
The assumption was simple –thousands of attendees would be attending each day and many exhibits and brands would be vying for their attention. So how do you stand out? We decided that we would use nostalgia to connect with owners of the first DodgeDart and surprise younger car enthusiasts with the bold visual content in an engaging touch experience.
A fixed deadline and mismanagement of deliverables and priorities made working backward from the deadline impossible, creating a mad dash to the finishing line to get the project off the ground.
We started with a Waterfall approach defining each of our milestones over for the company. However, as we started seeing problems that threatened the rigidity of the waterfall, we turned to the flexibility of an Agile methodology approach.
We employed a third-party market research group to provide Chrysler Group its market data. No new research was conducted specifically for the Dodge Dart touch wall. We designed around the provided marketing and technical data that targeted men 25-45 and women 20-35.
Since the launch of the Dodge Dart in 2013, we discovered that it was more popular with the female demographic as initial sales data skewed towards women.
Our vision for the Dodge Dart was to present it in such away that attendees at both auto shows would gladly wait a year for it to come to market. We needed to sell anticipation and a longing for a car that everyone would desire.
Our team was made up of car owners of varying ages and backgrounds. We knew what we liked, and through an internal survey, we presented several answers to the question: what’s your ideal car? What we agreed on was the Dodge Dart had a little of everything we each wanted in our perfect car. No doubt, the consumers would feel the same. From luxury trims to turbo engines, and from fuel efficiency to superb safety, Dodge was producing a vehicle for the masse. We needed to equally deliver an experience that our clients and the consumers expected for the auto show. We did so with intent to disrupt, explore and excite.
Although the overall look and feel of the touch wall experience were locked in, the challenges plaguing the project were internal.The client wanted strong oversight over the project which at times constricted how my team and its vendors performed.
I often found myself negotiating feedback and expectations between the client, my team, and the third party vendors.
My biggest challenge on this project was balancing my vision, providing the most impactful user experience while working under an ever decreasing budget and inconsistent commitment from the client.
I tried to anticipate these disruptions and design accordingly to ensure the integrity of the experience was intact. Implementing a set of design principles to keep the project from devolving back to a scroll through the brochure.
Exploration was the fundamental tenant of this experience. With the iPhone and iPad changing the way users consume information, I didn’t want to hand over everything on a glossy glass platter, instead, I wanted them to work for it. Would the users grow bored of having to explore flipping through a brochure?
My hypothesis was the act of exploring and finding the delight in discovery after each swipe was more rewarding than the paper brochure. Just like jumping inside a brand-new car on the showroom floor –which none was available for attendees – the touch wall experience was the next best thing, and I discovered in my observations on the floor that the end user did find delight in swiping through and exploring the Dart.
Right after buy-in of the concept, I thought of limiting the feature navigation to just vector icons. With no copy, the user curiosity would drive them to explore. This was initially met with raised eyebrows, but the team and client saw the value of clever UI design driving the navigation. This design decision would later help reduce onscreen clutter and ensure a clean and polished look.
Since we were presenting navigation without words, we needed icons that would be universally understood by the end user. Many of the feature icons were based on conventional icon designs you would see in any car.However, some features allowed us to take creative liberties to make an icon as unique as the car itself.
Our development vendor built our experience on a system that wasn’t very flexible, which forced our team to compromise on a lot of the functional details. One particular functionality was adjusting the UI to varying heights. I had to redesign almost the entire experience for a fixed position.
The challenge here was working within an already narrow panel with content that varied in density that would force buttons like ‘close’ to move around based on whether this was a full-screen experience or small window of content. There was no one-size-fits-all solution, and with a delivery date approached there was no time to explore better options.
Design challenge: How to design the happy middle where both our tallest and shortest user could freely interact with without strain or embarrassment.
We created paper prototypes and conducted user tests with a focus group between 4’-6’ in height to see where the optimal and suboptimal areas for button placement were. From this research, we were able to design a solution that had around an 85% success rate. We could not avoid instances with heavy content that forced navigational buttons into the suboptimal areas.
The 10x6’ touch wall was divided into three panels that were no more than 3’ wide. This made pulling off an elaborate 360° experience challenging.
Much of the vehicle feature copy was heavy with technical speak and legalese, which couldn’t be reduced in density. I didn’t want tall users having to bend down or crouch to continue ready about the engine specs. A solution provided was breaking up blocks of copy into a horizontal scrolling frame with pagination indicating scrolling content.
The crown jewel of this experience was the big, bright and bold red Dodge Dart exterior 360°. Presenting this experience within a narrow panel proved to be extremely challenging getting the ideal crop, angle, rotation speed and scale that both the design team and the client were satisfied with.
The final result showcased the best design aspects of theDart. The speed and lighting made for a stunning presentation that certainly attracted curiosity from afar.
Trim package and color customization were included for attendees to envision their ideal Dodge Dart, again, selling anticipation. These interactive features were proposed from the beginning, but nearly got pulled last minute as the client was adding and subtracting colors and trim packages daily, right up to a few days before delivery. The indecisiveness nearly cost the consumer a key deciding factor for a future purchase. Luckily, I had planned for this and designed several permutations with placeholders, insisting the feature stay regardless. We would include what was made available past a point of no return and include disclaimer copy that additional colors and trims packages would be arriving soon.
Attendees’ time was limited at the auto show, so I designed movement to and from features, inside and outside the vehicle and the customization so the entire experience could be explored quickly. Should the attendees stay longer and explore further, that was excitement and curiosity taking over.
The navigation was intentionally simple so that the feature content was the focus, not how to navigate around.
We observed families exploring for the first time, which prompted other nearby individuals to examine as well. Attendees of all ages had no trouble navigating the experience. Opening our eyes to how user-friendly the experience we created truly was.
Setup day at the Canadian AutoShow went off without a hitch with testing and tweaking happening all-day. The touch bezel was acting up within put commands and button mapping, not 100%.
Additionally, the developers were concerned about the system crashing under the weight of all the hi-res content over three panels and the increased number of interactions per panel. Their team located in an office close by worked tirelessly on optimizing the code to ensure a stable and reliable experience.
The lineups to use the touch wall were consistently long for the first few days. We never included a method to capture user analytics, as it was never a KPI for the client. However, it seemed that many users interacting with the screens weren’t in any rush to move on. Avidly investigating the touch interface we had put in front of them.
The president of Chrysler Group NA also observed the crowds eagerly coming up to use the touch wall that he added it as an exhibit featured at the International AutoShow the following January, as well as, a permanent display in the atrium of the Chrysler building in Detroit.
The touch wall was cycled back into use at the following Canadian Auto Show soon after being featured in the International Auto Show in Detroit. I worked on cosmetic revisions, but it was the same experience as initially launched. Budgetary issues hit Chrysler soon before being acquired by Fiat Automotive, thus reducing auto show budgets to a bare minimum in theCanadian market. The Dodge Dart touch wall project ended in 2015.