When Did We Stop Designing For the End User?

Design for end user

One of Steve Job’s legacies was his ability to never lose focus of his intent for the end user’s experience. With the Apple Macintosh, he turned an industry that was only DOS and Windows 3.1 to a single mouse button and a cursor. Skip forward a few years and we have the Apple iMac laptop, milled from aluminium and companies copy this chassis believing that they now have the Apple effect, but of course the major end user experience is not the same without the whole Apple experience. It is the same for the smartphone industry, if you don’t have big swipe screen, apps to download and a kickass camera, don’t bother coming to the party. What about the ability to listen to any album anywhere in the world? You have to give Steve Jobs and the Apple corporation some credit, the ability to actually design for the end user experience is impressive.

When did this stop for the Auto world? Before you all start shouting at me, let me finish my little rant in the disguise of a blog. I don’t blame designers or members of the design studio for this, you all work tirelessly to be as creative as possible within the constraints you have. As an example the software that is given for you all to use, CAD, Rendering, CAM, etc. is all amazing software at helping to create and develop an existing idea but really all it’s doing is documentation. Probably why the freedom of sketching and clay is still so dominant.

I am not going to stop at the software companies either, but the processes put in place at design studios also prevent good design. The stage gates, processes and cyclic procedures put in place to make sure designs are made to a profit also help to prevent real design from happening. The idea of a controlled process and real design almost seems an oxymoron to me.

As the automotive world rockets towards mobility the need for change is coming. No longer will the involved driving experience, the number of gears, drivetrain etc. be important, how can automotive companies increase the monetary value of a mobility experience? Back to Steve Jobs and Apple, I have my iPhone primarily to make calls and send texts. However, I seem to spend a lot of money on games, music and videos as a secondary revenue stream to Apple. I do this because the user experience was designed for me to help and make my world. If you take this analogy to the mobility world, what does it look like? More importantly, what does the design studio look like to enable this and the software companies like ours to support it?

Well the good news is that we are working on the software side, think assisted design, closed loop data gathering, real time digital experiences, A.I, etc. I would love to talk to people ready to change design studios as well….

Profile photo of Michael Russell
Michael Russell is the Automotive Industry Business Line Manager working within Autodesk’s Major Account Team.

After finishing his degree in Automotive Design Michael has spent the last 18 years in the creation, visualisation and management software industry. With a big passion for automotive design and an unhealthy knowledge of it’s history I am also driven by new technology, the innovation it can offer and how it will effect our industry. At the weekends you can also find me racing classic motorcycles reminding me the beauty of mechanical devices.


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