How best to approach UX design, Pininfarina explains
‘The more you tell stories, the more you connect with the marketing guys. It is all about branding – the brand within the car,’ says David Carvalho, director at Pininfarina Experience Design. He is discussing the Italian studio’s approach to the ever-expanding field of UX – in this case user experience in the context of transport design – with Spinach consultant Nargess Banks. UX is increasingly one of the most fundamental elements of design in the physical and digital spheres. From websites to retail, restaurants, and transport, every customer touchpoint needs to be imagined and orchestrated, which isn’t quite as simple as it sounds.
Pininfarina has an interesting approach. From sketching history’s most exciting and exotic motor cars for Ferrari, Fiat, and Peugeot, to the upcoming highly advanced in-house Battista electric supercar, the multidisciplinary studio has long been at the vanguard of design. So, it is of little surprise that it is also considering UX design from a slightly different perspective to include a more complex web than pure ergonomics.
For Carvalho the essence of UX is storytelling. ‘It is about scenography, but within certain parameters and contexts,’ he explains. Artificial intelligence doesn’t naturally think like humans; the technology needs to be taught. ‘We need to script every detail of the experience upfront. Then, AI connects with the situation, recognizes a pattern and plans according to the situation. It’s a bit like Netflix where you create a customized experience.’ His UX team script each and every possible scene, the usual, and the random and unexpected.
Pininfarina works with novelists and storytellers to sketch these customer journeys. Carvalho says UX is pushing the boundaries of design and he is keen to note that these projects should not be directed from a product perspective, but rather be innovation programmes so the makers can think in experience-centric terms. ‘You change the way you approach the process by examining the entire lifecycle of a product,’ he says.
To demonstrate these ideas to its clients (these being predominantly carmakers), Pininfarina has created a prototype in partnership with the Italian technology firm ART. AutonoMIA is a highly responsive, multi-sensorial on-board UX system – a testbed of ideas exploring how augmented reality, AI, 5G, and all other present and future cutting-edge tech can be utilised for a more natural, responsive, and experiential driving experience. Carvalho believes 5G will bring about a real paradigm shift for UX. ‘There will be a return to the connected objects. This is something we are very excited about which is why we envisage a very different future where, step-by-step, we turn the digital into the physical.’
Pininfarina will rationalise the digital elements to emotionally and sensitively connect with the user. Ultimately, UX is about human science – how to enhance the relationship between man and machine, make it more fluid and much more natural. Pininfarina has been working with the electronics industry on smart speakers and Carvalho is optimistic: ‘They are only a voice at this stage, but through lighting, fabrics, and sound we will design a customer journey with emotion.’
Developing emotion in the machine environment is the heart of crafting the future customer journey. He explains: ‘You essentially need to create the dynamic in order to reach this emotion. The journey is akin to a novelist or screenwriter. We are not developers; we are designers and we create everything related to the storytelling. The future needs to be imagined and developed now for it to happen two to three years from now when 5G has reached its maturity. We are looking for the Ferraris of tomorrow and the engine of tomorrow is AI. This is our next challenge.’
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