The Porsche Design Centre in Weissach, Germany, home to the brand’s test track and research, design and development teams, recently shared insights on the brand’s approach to user experience as it designs for the future. Some takeaways:
• Put the customer in charge: “Whether they want to enjoy a computer-assisted ride or drive themselves, there will always be a choice,” says Chief Designer Michael Mauer. “That’s why Porsche will always have a steering wheel.”
• Speed beyond the tachometer: “Porsche is fast” is true not only in terms of speed but how quickly the driver can navigate what he or she wants to do behind the wheel, so “the challenge is: How quickly do I find something? How quickly do I grasp it?” What once required a lot of buttons is simplified with digital assistance.
• Look back, then look ahead: The 911 is a point of reference, and the primary objective is “always a fascinating driving experience. The user experience is the focus of all the work that goes into the car. All research begins with a look back at the past.”
• Drive the future forward: “Our task,” says Mauer, “isn’t to linger reverently in the past but to further develop the company’s distinctive identity for the future, retaining the essence and translating it into a design language that’ll be understood in the future.”
• Observe what users do—or not: “We pay very close attention to what people do in our cars” says Ivo Van Hulten, head of Interior Design—and what they don’t do.
• Augmenting reality: Only order can create the space for new things such as augmented reality. In real terms, what that means is “projecting virtual elements into the driver’s field of vision.”
• One user, many experiences: “One typical user experience for Porsche drivers is improving their driving capabilities on a track. Hours later, the same driver in the same car might be searching for a parking spot downtown.”
• Begin at the beginning: Porsche designers first consider the driver’s daily routine before developing logic and optics for the operating system. The starting point in UX research is always the question: “What does the everyday life of a Porsche driver look like?” To ascertain the answer, members of the team spend several days with customers—or with noncustomers.
• Walking—and driving—in users’ shoes: The research team immerses themselves in others’ lives, photographing and describing them. “Then we deliberate on how regularly recurring situations can be resolved ideally for the customer,” says Meissner. “The focus at this point isn’t to design a particular form but to find a customer-friendly solution.”
• Digital concepting, Data Glasses: “Quickly drawing ideas and then discussing them openly in the team is our culture,” says Mauer. Much is thrown out, and what remains is transferred into a digital model so a virtual interior emerges for the developer, equipped with a pair of data glasses, who can take a seat before even a single prototype has been built. “This allows us to experience many more variants in a real way.”
• Pair specialists with generalists: “For creatives, acceleration in the pace of change is an inspiring state to be in,” says Ivo Van Hulten. The design team is trained in the art of anticipating what’s to come and imagining the world of tomorrow. “We have more generalists on board, to think further ahead,” Mauer adds. What they all share is a passion for the work.
• Back to basics: Even in 2048, when the Porsche automobile brand will turn 100, the beginning of every project will most likely be a hand sketching “and seeing if it feels right.” Natural materials are becoming increasingly important in the digital age, too.
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