DETROIT – Five years ago Cadillac designers and engineers started with a blank slate in designing a new user experience for its vehicles. Fast forward to today, where Cadillac CUE allows new levels of user customization and function while embodying the art and science look of the brand.
“People often overlook how many factors go into the design and development of a system like Cadillac CUE,” said Jason Diehl, design manager, Cadillac CUE. “A ton of consideration goes into seemingly minor elements like icon shape and size, fonts, color scheme and layout.”
While the physical buttons of CUE are set in place, the screens allow for varying levels of customization. An eight-inch capacitive touch screen in the center console allows for reconfiguration of home screen icons, a personalized app tray, and the ability to save multiple rows of favorites.
Owners can drag prominent home screen apps to the top row of the screen, making them easily accessible from a different page or application. The screen’s bottom row features a favorites’ bar that stores presets like navigation destinations, phone contacts and radio stations. Drivers can use their finger to drag this bar up, revealing three more rows of favorites, or slide the bar down to hide them.
Behind the steering wheel, a cluster of three configurable zones is broken into left-hand, center and right-hand views of the screen. These expandable zones allow drivers to cycle through different pages of information, such as speed limit, average fuel consumption, trip timers and the current media playing. The zones can be customized and scrolled through using a five-way controller button on the right-hand side of the steering wheel.
CUE’s design also features a chrome bar below the center console’s eight-inch screen that when held deploys a hidden storage area behind the screen.
CUE was engineered and designed, in part, by observing people’s everyday driving habits. Five years ago, the Cadillac team embarked on a massive research study that included road trips with real customers.
“Our teams rode along in the back seat with customers, sometimes for two hours at a time,” said Diehl. “The purpose was to observe their behavior inside the car: how they used everything from the radio to their electronic devices to where they stored things in the car to how they interact with other people in the car. It was important for us to go beyond just asking people how they used their system, because their answers don’t always match up with what they actually do.”
In addition to extensive brand, market and competitive research, this contextual research helped Cadillac compile extensive data on what works and what needs to be improved inside of vehicles. This data was crucial in the next stage of development: Post-it note workshops.
The Cadillac design and human-machine interface, or HMI, teams compiled more than 2,500 Post-it notes of data gathered from their research and covered walls of a conference room.
“We took the data and feedback that fell under related categories and grouped them together to make it easier to digest,” said Diehl. “From there, the HMI engineers worked on functionality, wire frames and process flow, and the graphic design team collaborated on how this could best be displayed visually for customers.”
To embody Cadillac’s art and science theme, CUE uses sharp, metallic icons with an illuminated blue glow. The system also incorporates the gold, red and blue colors taken directly from the Cadillac badge. An iteration of the gold is used in places like the time and temperature displays in the upper corners of the radio screen. Red is used to display a highlighted selection. In addition to providing the glow of the logos, Cadillac blue saturates the background of the center stack and cluster displays.
“With CUE, we maximized our use of pixels, giving customers a full color scale that is representative of the luxury Cadillac brand,” said Diehl. “We also spent a lot of time crafting the system’s icons so that they pop for the customers while also meeting brand and federal guidelines.”
Text and icons within a vehicle are required to be a certain size so the driver can easily comprehend them while driving. Since CUE displays icons on the home screen and in an ‘app tray’, the designers had to create both 3D and 2D renderings of each icon.
In some high-end Cadillac models, CUE features a 12.3 inch reconfigurable cluster with four different layouts. These layouts match the different personas identified during the contextual research process:
- Balanced: A traditional setting with a three-gauge layout, which is the factory default setting
- Simple: A digital appearance, limiting the amount of information displayed
- Enhanced: A modern look with a large digital speedometer in the center. This view displays the maximum amount of information
- Performance: A performance-oriented, sporty display, with a 3D rotating view of the vehicle