Lextant Interview Series

The focus on connected solutions accelerates as organizations worldwide awaken to an increasing customer demand for enhanced product and service experiences delivered through digital brand touchpoints.  

How do we humanize these experiences?  How do we build trust, confidence, and lifelong customer relationships through digital moments?  And, most importantly, how do we build organizations capable of sustained experience-centered practice and delivery?

Lextant’s Experience Design Leaders series engages with groundbreaking individuals to understand what it takes to build customer-led organizations.  In these hour-long dialogues, we’ll discuss the new challenges in delivering digital customer experiences and how these innovative leaders overcome them:   How to gain management trust and buy-in to user-centered approaches.   How to align and shift company culture and impact decision-making.  How to mature the people, processes, and technologies for a scalable design capability.

Chris Rockwell, Lextant’s founder, will be your host for this series.

Join us Wednesday, May 12 at 11:00 a.m. EST for a conversation with Heidi Munc, Vice President of User Experience & Human-Centered Practices at Nationwide Insurance.

Register Here

The Role of Wellness in Post COVID Consumer Experiences

Many of our clients are grappling with questions about what kind of behaviors we can expect consumers to exhibit as the pandemic abates, what kinds of new experiences will they desire, and how will these be different from before the virus?   The challenge for all brands regardless of industry will be how to understand and take advantage of consumers’ transformed desires in order to react and provide enhanced or improved innovations in customer experience.   One inarguable change will be the importance of delivering on the idea of wellness as part future experiences.

The concept of wellness will be  one of the major pillars in the delivery of future of  smart, connected, and autonomous types of experiences. As we automate more, as we connect more, these experiences have to enable wellness, help consumers boost efficiency, and they have to deliver safety. As people go out into the world and have more public and group experiences how can they be safe? How can they be increasingly personalized and help us create new knowledge and understanding of the world around us and ultimately enable wellness?

We have synthesized years of consumer research we have conducted to understand the drivers of trust and how consumers perceive dimensions of cleanliness to create a formative framework for evaluating and creating post COVID experiences.

A Framework for Clean Experiences

This framework first connects to the emotional elements that people seek. How do people want to feel now in a post COVID world?  Then how do we connect that emotion to the sensory cues that will deliver an interactive experience that looks, feels, speaks, and acts in meaningful ways that connect features and benefits to the way people ultimately want to feel.

At the center of this model is SAFE:  how do we help people feel safe, in control, and healthy?   We can do that by helping consumers detect problems, prevent problems, and ultimately protect them as they go out into the world creating Clean, Contactless and Crowdless experiences.

Clean Experiences

There are three foundation pillars involved in helping consumers return to away from home experiences in a full capacity:

  • regaining control
  • establishing trust
  • signaling and delivering cleanliness

How do families regain trust with schools and childcare environments?   How do we get consumers to ride public transit again to attend  sporting events or entertainment venues?  How do we help people feel safe coming back to work?  The experiences will have to  deliver on the emotional outcomes of clean and trusted. The foundational element required is the idea of clean enablement.

Looking at all the research we’ve done in the last 10 to 15 years on what clean means to people and how to deliver the core elements of a clean experience, we’ve established three simple, consistent and repeatable themes to apply to post-COVID product and service innovation.   Products need to be easy to clean, show or tell me they are clean, stay clean or clean for me.   In the context of services, there must be clear signals and sensory cues that the environment is clean and communicate that protocols are in place to keep it that way.

People are now increasingly aware that when they transition items from one place to another, they may not be staying clean and this is changing how people perceive their vehicles.  The vehicle has become as safe, protected zone, shielding you against the world.   As a result, automakers are changing the materials used in vehicles moving from complex surfaces that are difficult to clean to smoother textures and new antiviral materials that clean themselves to provide this sense of control and protection.  Future sensors will detect when cabin air needs to be refreshed and clean it for the driver.

We see this concept in play in the housing industry as well.   There’s a lot of opportunity now being created not only within existing homes, but also within smart homes and smart homes of the future. Smart technology is going to help us measure how clean our environments are self-cleaning textiles, surfaces, and devices that are going to help you maintain that control making us feel that much more safe, relaxed and healthy.

The Digital Side of Clean Experiences

Across industries, we are seeing an increased hybridization of experiences, increasingly digital, increasingly fluid and connected between the digital and physical.  UX designers have a great opportunity to leverage digital opportunities to create consumer trust by signaling how a product or service is working to detect, prevent and protect them from un-safe situations.

This hybridization of traditional physical models being experienced in more digital ways also offers the ability to become even more personal in building that trusted relationship. When you think about things like the claims experience with your insurance, or you think about how people shop for vehicles there will be an increasing fluidity of connectedness between the elements

Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve helped clients in automotive, transportation, education and consumer goods leverage this model to develop and design sensory cues into the consumer’s journey  that will signal clean and engender trust away from home experiences.

This is just an example of, for example, of a high level journey model for childcare, where we can begin to understand how our parents, children and staff are moving through the experience and identify how  the experience needs to look, feel, speak, and act to deliver on a safe, trusted well experience through the lens of what we understand about clean, contactless and crowdedness experiences.

We see wellness continuing to take center stage in these increasingly fluid environment and hybridization experiences , and the importance of delivering clean experiences that engender consumer trust will stay relevant long after we’re all able to emerge again from the pandemic.   Download our Clean Model here as reference in your planning for future clean, safe and trusted experiences.

Simplicity trumps sophistication with automotive HMI

It appears larger car displays are inevitable. Mercedes-Benz attracted significant attention at the 2021 CES with its new MBUX Hyperscreen, a full width dashboard display, and almost all future concept vehicles have their own versions of super-wide high-definition displays, combined with extensive head up displays (HUDs).

Although many consumers are excited by how these bigger displays look in the car, there are real concerns that they will increase driver distraction. Larger and more distributed displays have the potential to create a better and safer driving experience, but it will require the right design principles to accomplish this.

Mercedes MBUX Hyperscreen
In-vehicle displays are getting bigger, showing more information than ever before (Pictured: MBUX Hyperscreen)

A technology-centered approach to design typically starts by proving a technology—such as a full width display—is possible before necessarily thinking about how it’s really going to impact the user. In contrast, a user-centered design process starts with experiences and then leverages technology to provide for user needs. A foundational understanding of how people think, act, and feel is crucial for creating the right solutions.

Just as brilliant engineers and designers can create cutting-edge technologies, brilliant social scientists have made groundbreaking discoveries about how humans experience the world. Studies in sensation and perception have led to important theories like selective attention, situational awareness, signal detection theory and inattentional blindness, providing insights about how people see and interact with the world around them.

Most people are surprised to find out that we don’t view the world like a video or photograph, but instead “sample” parts of the scene and let our minds fill in the blanks based on what we are focused on—or distracted by. The famous “Invisible Gorilla” test illustrates just how incomplete our perceptions can be. The test shows how, when focused deeply on one activity, it can be easy to disregard other things going on in the surrounding environment.

The collaboration of forward-thinking engineers, designers and social scientists holds the key to designing displays that will lead to safer, more satisfying driving experiences

Applying this thinking to in-vehicle displays, the potential opportunities and pitfalls for their design become clear. What is shown on displays becomes part of the world the driver sees (or fails to see). When information is projected on the windscreen, does that get “sampled” while a nearby pedestrian goes unnoticed? When a text alert pops up in the cluster, does the driver notice the dog in the road? Do redundant visual cues on displays take attention away from other important things?

Lextant recently conducted a review of an augmented reality display in which five different arrows in the visual field all point where to turn. It revealed that as visual fields become more complex, it is harder to notice important information. The collaboration of forward-thinking engineers, designers and social scientists holds the key to designing displays that will lead to safer, more satisfying driving experiences.

Lextant has focused and simplified user-centered design insights into the following “Right Design” principles that should be applied to display design. 

The right information

All information in front of a driver is competing for attention. Some information is more important than others and care should be taken to prioritize the most critical. Primary information is used to drive the car safely and effectively. Secondary information describes practically everything else like climate settings or media. Primary information should take priority during driving, and the information needs to be easily understood. Secondary information should not interfere with primary.

The right time

Not all information is necessary at all times, but some information is critical at certain times. To avoid information overload, displays should only present information that is important to the driver exactly when it is needed. Smart systems using artificial intelligence can predict when the driver needs specific information and present it to them at the right moment.

The right location

To date, cars have included a display behind the steering wheel, a display in the centre of the dash, and some limited heads-up display (HUD) on the windscreen. More and bigger displays allow information to be distributed around the car interior. The placement of information can either increase or decrease mental workload.

To decrease workload, displays can create consistent zones where presented information makes intuitive sense. Adding redundant auditory and haptic information can further reduce workload. Careful placement of relevant information can greatly increase usefulness and usability. If the driver needs to search for information, mental workload—and distraction—will increase.

"As part of this innovative project, we have been engaging with the insurance sector to help them understand the evidence they require to adapt their business and insurance pricing models when underwriting connected and automated vehicle (CAV) trials, in readiness for commercial deployment of CAVs at
Designers might prefer functions to be embedded in sleek touchscreens; engineers would opt for physical buttons in many cases

The right format

The most useful information allows the driver to take immediate action. The less a driver has to interpret, translate, manipulate, and transform information, the faster that information becomes useful, and the quicker they can react. An HUD can distract the driver with text or inform them if it visually connects to the environment, for example by “painting” a lane during navigation. Displays can reduce the amount of mental workload required of the driver by providing information in a format that requires little to no thinking.

The right amount

The design principle of ‘less is more’ is critical for a safe driving experience, and the larger the display area, the harder it is to follow. When automakers show large, full width HD displays in cars, they tend to fill them up with as much content as they can. While this shows well, it does pose driver risks. The more information presented at any one time will increase the amount of time the driver has to search for it. Visual searching equals distraction.

The right circumstance

Driver monitoring systems (DMS) are designed to track driver behaviours during certain circumstances. This “protective” innovation is important because drivers can fail to understand their collaborative role when engaging with various autonomous drive modes.

For instance, the Mercedes-Benz Hyperscreen includes a passenger display, which understandably has numerous entertainment choices. To prevent the driver from being distracted, the system monitors the driver to see if they are looking at the passenger display. If they are, it shuts off. Larger, distributed displays will need to be smart enough to present information based on context and circumstance.

Interacting with displays

There are many ways to interact with in-vehicle displays. Touchscreens, physical controls, steering wheel controls, voice recognition, and hand gesture input all have advantages and disadvantages. Compelling concept cars typically rely on touchscreens, voice, and mid-air gestural input to keep a clean looking, hi-tech and minimal design. However, human factors engineers will focus on large shape-coded physical controls to ease mental workload. It is important that experts collaborate to create designs that have the appeal of hi-tech with an understanding of users’ strengths and weaknesses.

Revered architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe crafted the dictum “less is more,” as an appeal to modernist design and architecture, and this holds up well today. Years later, designer Deiter Rams elaborated on that principle by declaring that good design is like a good English butler: they’re there for you when you need them, but in the background at all other times. Automakers can unleash the potential of displays to create safe driving experiences by showing restraint in how they add detail and information to what is already a rich and complex environment.

About the authors: Chris Rockwell is Founder and Chief Executive and Mark Palmer is Chief Operating Officer at Lextant.  This article first appeared in Automotive World on March 15, 2021.

Reimagining Ford’s Control & Infotainment Experiences

The emotional attachment between owners and their trucks is profound. Essential for getting work done and keeping play fun, truck owners expect their vehicle to handle anything they throw at it. They become an extension of the owner’s personality and an expression of their lifestyle.

Truck and SUV brands generally rely on raw expressions of performance, power, and reliability, to bolster their “hard working” resume. Then they celebrate comfort, style, and safety features to burnish their creature comforts. More recently, the experience that these vehicles provide through their infotainment and control systems has emerged as a way for brands to create preference and build loyalty.

Display systems offer distinct opportunities to empower truck owners. Ford saw this potential and set out to define a new design approach for instrument clusters in its truck and SUV models. The transformation marked a formal shift by Ford to all digital vehicle displays, prompting fundamental questions about the evolving role of displays among their truck and SUV owner base.

Setting the course for an ideal truck and SUV information & control experience.

Ford engaged Lextant to help it uncover the key emotional drivers behind the ideal display and control and display experience for truck and SUV owners. Using the Lextant “desired consumer experience” methodology, consumers were given the tools and the context they needed to describe and visualize their expectations for a more satisfying offer.

Lextant captured these desires in an experiential model where the voice of the Ford customer was expressed through a finite set of sensory cues aligned with their conception of an ideal instrument cluster solution. It put Ford designers in the driver seat.

The Ford team applied the model to the design of prototypes for new infotainment and control cluster concepts. They had two goals: explore new ease-of use-solutions and move away from the skeuomorphic design choices found in automotive designs today.

This design approach, where icons and buttons visually resemble their real-world counterparts, can be reassuring in categories where interactions are new to consumers. But in the fast-moving world of consumer media, show and tell icons no longer felt appropriate for experience intended for these Ford flagship vehicles.

An ‘ideal experience’ model gives designers the latitude to go further faster.

The move away from skeuomorphic UI choices marked a dramatic shift for Ford. Consequently, they needed to ensure that new owners would not just accept this new display convention but also prefer it and love it.

To keep concepts aligned with the “ideal” learning, Ford’s design team leveraged Lextant’s Experience Metrics to craft prototypes for testing. The process includes tools for capturing consumer reactions in ways that deepened learning about the rationale for preferences and allowed related concepts to be more easily compared.

The team tested a suite of design studies against these metrics over research iterations where Experience Metric insights guided refinements. The process helped the team more closely align design choices with truck owner needs, while identifying novel display configurations that could differentiate Ford in this market.

The 2021 models for two Ford flagship brands debut a new, modern UI.

New Ford F-150 and Bronco models featuring control and display clusters based on the Lextant research arrived in the market in early 2021. A completely re-imagined vehicle display experience awaits truck and SUV enthusiasts.

New display conventions make essential information easier to access, read, and navigate. As the user moves between interaction modes, core information about an activity stays in the same position. Requests to refine a choice don’t introduce additional screens, new content comes to you.

The re-imagined user experience offers a new, modern interaction style for familiar driver content. By streamlining the way the data is displayed and choices are guided it offers a safer and more satisfying experience for Ford truck and SUV owners.


Defining & Developing Award-Winning Home Printer Solutions

Personal computing and personal printers had a nice run.  It started in the Eighties with dot-matrix platforms, then inkjet and laser.  Solutions evolved in pursuit of value propositions that balanced hardware and consumables.  At one point, ink for consumer printers characterized as one of the most expensive items purchased by home business owners.

Then came mobile devices. And PDFs.  Printing has become more deliberate.

HP was closely monitoring these changes in the printing marketplace.  While home printing was in decline overall, it was trending upwards for home-based businesses relying on printing solutions that match the size and needs of their businesses.

As a perennial innovator in the printing space, HP knew that a deeper understanding of how and why small businesses used printing as a value add could inform how they approached the performance and economics of a next-generation HP printer portfolio.

The Response:  Identify the deal home business printing experience

HP partnered with Lextant to unlock the unmet needs in the category by first creating a model for the ideal home business printing experience visualizing the emotional return that home-based business owners said the experience should provide, including product benefits that would make that experience possible.

We then translated those insights into sensory cues that could be activated in the design and development process for home printers and digital printing solutions moving through the NPD pipeline.

Measuring what matters

We deployed our Experience Metrics™ process to quantify and prioritize prospective design themes.  HP was able to evaluate product concepts and prototypes against the ideal experience metrics to clarify which design choices were most effective in providing the desired benefits consumers would find compelling.

The Result

With the focus driven by  Lextant’s Insight Translation and Experience Metrics analysis, HP’s team has created and delivered a complete portfolio of transformational, innovative home business printer solutions to market including:

Moving The Needle

By identifying insights about the ideal experience, and then structuring them for experience metrics analysis, Lextant helped the HP team conceive, develop and commercialize a portfolio of transformative home business printer solutions.

“The Lextant research was one of the most transformational pieces of work I saw in my career at HP.”  Rob Moser – former Director of Design, HP; currently Global Head of Product & Experience-Autonomous Vehicles, Ford Motor Company

HP Tango™ Series

Tango series printers are designed to naturally blend and integrate with home décor and seamlessly facilitate printing from anywhere, anytime integrating with mobile devices via the HP Smart App.

HP SmartTank and Neverstop Series:

These printer series are both outfitted  with an innovative high-capacity toner tank and replacement system.  It operates for months on a single, expansive toner cartridge, significantly reducing the total cost of ownership for a home-based business platform.

Home-based business owners embraced these new solutions leading to an increase in market share for HP in addition to top-line sales growth.  The research insights gained through the process also helped HP to develop and build innovative services and experiences focused on ease of use for the home-based market including its Instant Ink program, the intuitive HP Smart App, voice integration with digital assistants Alexa, Siri and Cortana, and its Print, Play & Learn website.

The new HP home-based business printer portfolio received the 2020 “IF Design Award” and has been recognized across home computing, small business, and technology media.










SCAD Partners with Lextant to Change the Face of Design Education

The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and Lextant have partnered to create a new certification program that will prepare SCAD students to be design industry leaders. The program entitled “Design Research and Insight Translation” is based on a new curriculum created by Lextant expressly for this purpose.

“We’re honored that Lextant is sharing their knowledge with us in order to make design a better profession,” says Victor Ermoli, Dean, SCAD School of Design. “When you apply wisdom and experience that has been not only accumulated but refined by practicing processes over a period of years, that makes your company stronger, your employees stronger, and it makes the next generation of designers stronger. With Lextant’s guidance and collaboration, we’re addressing a huge gap that has been present in design education and in the design community.”

In the Lextant certificate program at SCAD, students will learn principles and techniques to conduct future-focused research that is actionable across all functions of an organization. The certification will apply the undergraduate level industrial design class “Contextual Research Methods” and the graduate-level class “Methods of Contextual Research” in on-ground, virtual, and eLearning iterations.

SCAD Savannah – Spring 2019 – Facilities – Gulfstream – Exterior – Photography Courtesy of SCAD

SCAD professor Kwela Hermanns, associate chair, design for sustainability, and associate chair industrial design, has worked closely with Lextant to understand their trademarked principles of Insight Translation and Sensory Cue Research. “This relationship between SCAD and Lextant provides opportunities for our students to learn best design practices applied to business goals,” says Hermanns. “We both want better design research to create a better world.”

Marty Gage, Lextant VP, Design Research, has been guest lecturing at SCAD in 2002 starting a partnership that has culminated in the Lextant curriculum and certification. “The idea to develop this partnership came about because Dean Ermoli understands the importance of generative design research and he felt that Lextant’s unique approach would benefit SCAD’s students,” says Gage. “This certificate program will give the students a strong foundation in research and design to set them for success and to become leaders as they move into the workforce.  SCAD students are the future design leaders of our world.”

Going Electric:  Unlocking Adoption of Battery Electric Vehicles

Lextant hosted a panel discussion on this topic on January 19, 2021.   This is an adaption of that conversation moderated by Mark Palmer, Lextant’s Chief Operating Officer and featuring:

  • Freddie Holmes, Special Correspondent, Automotive World
  • Kristin Kolodge, Executive Director of Human Machine Interface and Driver Interaction, J.D. Power
  • McKay Featherstone, VP of Product Development and Engineering, Airstream
  • Chris Rockwell, Founder & CEO, Lextant

You can watch or listen to the panel discussion in its entirety here.

Mark Palmer:  I’d like to welcome everyone to today’s panel discussion.  We’ll be talking about unlocking the adoption of battery electric vehicles and explore the experience barriers and opportunities impacting consumer adoption of EVs and the design implications for future development and innovation.  To get us started, we’ll have each of our panelists share his or her perspectives on the current state of the battery electric market.  We’ll start with Freddie.

Freddie Holmes, Automotive World:   Thanks, Mark.  One of the questions we’re asking today is about the barriers to adoption of BEVs.  And, I think while there are still some technical challenges at play here, there are also consumer misconceptions about these vehicles that need to be addressed.  Some of these are that EVs are slow, boring and inconvenient to use.  While this may have been the case with earlier models, but is certainly not the case anymore – take GM’s CES presentation for example – we’re seeing more innovative models being introduced with better range, better performance and faster charging times.

Another key part of the conversation is infrastructure which generally relates to public charging points.  A shift that is important here is home charging.  Being able to have home charging is a really core part of EV ownership.  Put it this way, if you could fill up with gas at home today, you would.  You can in essence do that with an EV and it would cost you a lot less at the end of the month.  However, we can’t ignore that the majority of consumers don’t yet see the BEV as a viable alternative to the familiarity of gas engines.

Lastly, there’s a clear gap that needs to be closed between what consumers want and what they can afford to buy – and the bottom line is that EVs need to become more affordable to the average buyer.  What can we do to solve for price?  We can make smaller, cheaper batteries but that reduces range and automatically loses potential buyers.  So the industry in the collective sense really has a challenge on its hands.  This goes beyond the automaker to the entire supply chain encompassing tier ones, charging developers and energy companies as well.

Kristin Kolodge, J.D. Power:  Hello, everyone.  At J.D. Power, I’m responsible for the voice of the customer respective to the human machine interface and how their interactions with this technology is translating into the next phases of mobility.  Electrification is a big part of our research that we have been studying for decades.  It’s fascinating to see that while we’re seeing huge technological strides being made in range, cost and reliability of EVs, the mindset of the consumer in regards to adoption really hasn’t changed since our first study in 1997.  There’s a real lack of awareness on the consumer’s part about how far the industry has progressed in addressing the barriers of range and charging.

We have multiple different research studies we perform at J.D. Power and I’ll be referencing some of those related to electrification with you here today.  One area we are focused on is how consumer sentiment is changing over time.  Or how is consumer interest in EVs tracking with the with the many new products being introduced to market.  The short answer is that it’s not.  We are seeing very stagnant consumer interest in EVs so the industry still has work to do to change that.

We are also conducting multiple studies focused on EV ownership specifically looking at home charging, public charging, and other elements of EV consideration.  We’re studying the ownership experience to really look at the quality, reliability and other consumer expectations that make EVs unique.

McKay Featherstone, Airstream:  Hi, I’m McKay Featherstone with Airstream.  We’ve seen a lot of changes over the years, and we believe electrification will truly be a transformational technology not just for our trailers but also for the motor home side of our business.  The Airstream experience is different than that of a consumer EV – we’re part transportation product, part mobility solution and part lifestyle – and the one big idea for us is the freedom we can give our customers in the way they want to live and travel.  Electrification has the opportunity to change how they travel and give them even more freedom.  It means you can cut the cord from the campground and go almost anywhere you want to go because you have a battery system on board.

More broadly though, when you think of the US market, we’re watching the electrification to the consumer truck market.  Trucks are the number one selling vehicles and a big reason why is that people want to be able to tow things – like an Airstream trailer.  The challenge for electric trucks is when you tow something heavy behind it, you’re going to reduce rage.  So we’re very focused on how to positively impact that and be part of a solution.  How can our product continue to enable that freedom of mobility and how do we help the consumer understand what the experience will actually be like with towing, with charging – so there’s a big technical component and a strong consumer education component involved.

Chris Rockwell, Lextant:  Over the last 20 years, Lextant has been engaged with understanding consumers and users involved with co-creating and evaluation new mobility solutions, and we’ve found that while there are the technical barriers range, charging and the like that we need to overcome to fuel EV adoption, we have to go beyond those to really understand what people want from the experience on an emotional level.

We’ve seen from our research that there is an experience gap when it comes to EVs and we see a real opportunity for us to better express through design and communication the experience opportunities EVs can provide that aren’t possible with other vehicles.   Ambiguity and unpredictability universally detract from experiences, and in the case of electric vehicles, we’re dealing with a lot of ambiguity.  Consumers don’t understand what the technology affords and there’s uncertainty about what it’s actually like to own and use a vehicle like this.  So we have to help consumers project into the future possibilities for them to have trust and believe in the empowerment and freedom EVs can give them.

From a functionality standpoint, the EV experience has to be feel familiar and accessible to some degree to foster trust, but at the same time look new and transformational.  While this is a challenge, we can co-create the experience with consumers to build those breakthrough vehicles.  It won’t just be that it’s a different type of propulsion system, it will really be the mobility experience that matters.


MP:  As I’ve listened to all of you, it seems that there are two different parts to the adoption challenge – technical and experiential.  Regarding the technical barriers, Kristin, where are you seeing movement in cost, range and charging?

KK: Let me take a step back and qualify that some of these technical barriers are more perceived than actual as consumers are just not to the level of education they need to be to appreciate the advances being made on the electrification front.  To put it in perspective, over two thirds of Americans have never been in an electrified vehicle before and we also see that over one third of Americans say they have no knowledge of battery electric vehicles.

We have to recognize that from a consumer point of view, we haven’t brought them up to the level of understanding of what this new technology really means.  Consumers who haven’t experienced and EV don’t really know what they’re asking for or what’s realistic when it comes to range, time to charge, battery life, etc.  So there are nuances we need to do a better job explaining to set ourselves up for success in converting someone to be a BEV owner.   We need to be as transparent as possible about what the experience is now and how it is going to change over time.

MP:  Freddie, Kristin points out that the American market is still quite behind in its understanding of the EV experience.  From your point of you what can we learn from the European and Scandinavian markets in addressing these technical challenges where you have a higher adoption of EVs?

FH:  I’m not sure that I can give you a definitive answer but I’ll start with agreeing with Kristin on the importance of addressing the nuances when it comes to battery range and charge time.  A lot of the technical issues and challenges relate to the battery itself.

So, I’d like to touch on some of the very basic discussions taking place around battery chemistry as automakers are working hard to find ways to improve this in tandem with the largest battery suppliers around the world.  The incumbent battery technology is lithium ion but work is being done to try and find solid state batteries.  This is pretty much seen as the holy grail as it essentially means the battery is no longer that flammable, can be charge more quickly and will be lighter as well.  The solid state cells in development are enabling charges of 80% in 15 minutes compared to the current average of 50-60% in 15 minutes.  They will also be more durable which is a key consideration looking towards a future used EV market.  Our biggest hurdles appear to be cultural instead of technical at this stage.


MP:  Chris, you spoke earlier of an experience gap.  I imagine there are some elements of car culture – especially for trucks and sports cars – where there is a hard wired attachment to the visceral feelings you get from the cars sounds, the smell of gasoline and the like.  What are your thoughts on this experience challenge?

CR:  The truck segment is the fastest growing in the U.S. auto market as you know and there is a certain affinity for combustion there.  The challenge for EV conversion is to really unpack that emotional connection to the vehicle – what does the vehicle say about me and my personality?  Then how do we communicate through design cues the possibilities of a new type of vehicle.  How do you deliver on freedom?  How do you deliver on ease, comfort, or power in ways you couldn’t deliver before?

That’s where we have real potential to unlock the mass market by creating new vehicle experiences that deliver these emotional outcomes and pull people to EVs rather than a push strategy.  Our research shows that it’s totally possible to connect those desired emotional experiences to the functional benefits you get from electrification – not just the fact that it happens to be a different powertrain but the new added value associated with it.


MP:  McKay, will you pick up on this and talk a little bit more about how Airstream is approaching added value through electrification?

MF:  Chris, I think you’re exactly right with the potential that’s there to connect emotional benefits and outcomes to the functional, tangible benefits.  For Airstream, one of the things I’m really excited about with electrification is the opportunity to relieve one of the big pain points of trailering – backing up into a tight space.  Nobody likes to do that.  Now we have the opportunity to introduce a battery and powertrain into the trailer itself.  We’re already introducing these products in Europe where there just isn’t room for a big truck or SUV at most campgrounds, and we see this becoming widely available here in the U.S. so our owners may never have to back up a trailer again!

This technology is actually opening up potential new segments for us as well.  Removing the intimidation of backing up is one benefit being part of that freedom to go where you want to go idea.  Another is removing the need for gas-powered generators that can be noisy and smelly.

We are really talking to our consumers to understand how we can leverage electrification to uncover and design more and more ways to differentiate and create even better experiences that will make even more desirable products.

KK:  That’s a really interesting point, McKay.  The idea that we can create new experiences that might only be achievable through electrification.  Then helping consumers connect those dots and celebrate the potential.

CR:  To add to what you’re both saying, all of a sudden vehicles can be reconfigured in new ways using space more efficiently and differently.  The idea that EVs can provide experiences you can’t get in other kinds of vehicles today will get the more rapid adoption we’re all looking for.

MF:  That’s one of the most exciting things for us – especially on the motor home side of the business – fundamentally changing how we design the layout.  The new skateboard-type platform is giving our designers a foundation with a lot of freedom to build whatever they want on top of it.  To create new layouts and experiences we could never touch with a traditional platform.


MP:  And, to an earlier point, we can find ways for people to bond with these vehicles especially if we communicate their new capabilities through design.

MF:  Yes, Kristin made a great point about consumers not having the knowledge or understanding they need yet.  I think Porsche, Tesla and Hummer are all great cases of vehicle design giving a clear sense of what they are all about.  I’m also really enjoying seeing the new Cadillac line from GM and that luxury experience.  I think they are using design to help people understand the possibilities or to at least get excited about what the possibilities can be.


MP:  So you’re all seeing great possibility about the experiences electric vehicles will be able to create that combustions engines can’t provide but these do come with a price tag.  How do you all see performance and affordability starting to come together?

FH:  We are definitely moving to that point.  You mentioned benefits with costs, but there are also benefits that are coming for free.  Automakers are coming up with apps that tether to your car to give you key information like state of charge in real time.

There is also vehicle to grid technology being discussed with the opportunity to use your vehicle as a storage system.  The idea being that you use solar power to charger your car, take your car out and back, and then use that energy to feedback into your home.

We’re also seeing some manufacturers  offering as many as 30,000 free electric miles which is a pretty strong incentive, especially if you don’t have the ability to charge your vehicle at home.


MP:  Freddie, that raises a question about the success of EVs in Europe, what have the impact of incentives and government policies been?

FH:  They have certainly played a role in making it easier for automakers to get cars off the lot and reclaim some of the investments they’ve made in this new technology.  And, then, of course these are powerful carrots for the consumer.  Kristin, you may be well positioned to comment about North America.

KK:  One of the things we’ve seen consistently in our research is that incentives play a major factor in consideration for electric vehicles for consumers who have never owned an EV but also for consumers that have a battery electric vehicle today.  Tying incentives to experiencing an EV is critical to consideration and purchase.

What we are seeing is that for those that actually have owned an electric vehicle, their loyalty to that type of powertrain fit configuration is huge and for the most part never going back to an internal combustion engine.  And, this holds true at a variety of different satisfaction levels.

So the more we can get people to consider these vehicles and have an experience that leads to purchase, then we’re going to really see the trajectory of adoption accelerate and grow.

CR:  Kristin, do you think the data point around people who buy electric vehicles never going back  is highly correlated with either a brand affinity or to being an early adopter by nature?

KK:  What we’re seeing is that it’s not staying with a specific brand itself but a staying with that powertrain type itself where the loyalty is lying.  We appear to be transitioning from the early adopter type of consumer to a more mass market consumer with mass market expectations for quality and reliability.

CR:  Thanks again to all of you for sharing your view points on this important topic today.  I think we’ve all agreed that the success of EVs will really be tied to creating experiences that pull consumers to them in addition to incentives that help push consideration.  It’s really encouraging to see the sheer amount of investment going into the entire supply chain and to see the OEMs launching a wide range of EVS models and price points.   Signs that we are definitely at an inflection point and if we deliver on the experience at these first moments of truth we can see that final swing in market adoption.

You can watch or listen to the panel discussion in its entirety here.

















Trusting The Fence

When I was a child in India riding pillion on a scooter or motorcycle behind my dad or older brother, I would constantly be peeking over their shoulders braving the winds to get a view of what was coming up ahead.  These peeks let me understand what was happening giving me trust in how my  dad or brother was reacting to the conditions and making me feel safe.

This memory makes me think about what autonomous systems we trust today in comparison to the distrust that surrounds autonomous vehicles.  We trust automated systems which do not have an operator on a day to day basis including trains, streetcars, shuttles, escalators, elevators, and so on.

We also get into taxis, Ubers or carpools with friends without any trust issues.  In these cases we not only get to see how the driver is driving and generally responding to the vehicle’s environment, we also get to “see” the operational domain – where the car is, where it’s going, and the general path it is driving on.

How does the geo-fence – the operational design domain of the vehicle – apply in these scenarios and engender our trust?

For the train , it is the tracks and the location of the stations.  For a motorcycle, it is the road ahead. The tighter the geo-fence – and the rider’s knowledge of it, the easier it is to create trust.  In the case of the train, the bi-directionality of the train tracks makes it easy to trust.  There are only two directions it can go.  Plus, this geofence environment is naturally constrained and largely protected from outside variables.  For instance, there is no overtaking and passing involved as you would see in highway driving.

When we think about AVs, the clearer the rider’s knowledge of the geofence is, the more they will trust the system.

Automated vehicle designers are applying a two-pronged approach to create trust in these systems:

  • Start with a well-defined geo-fences. At a systemic level, creating geofences that are easily understood and definable, creates an entry point for users to build trust in AVs.   Creating smart corridors in the interstate freeway system for AVs to operate within.  Clear geo-fence boundaries will make people more inclined to trust them.

A great example is Waymo One, the driverless ride hailing platform available to the public in Phoenix, AZ. Riders who sign up to the platform are pre-screened before they can start requesting and using rides based on the zip-code they live in. Essentially only riders living within the geo-fence can use the service at the moment.  (Source: https://techcrunch.com/2019/11/01/hailing-a-driverless-ride-in-a-waymo/).

Another example of a geo-fence is how DJI designates “no-fly” zones for its drones near airports. This is more important now with DJI drones having more automated features which let the drone pilot draw a path which the drone can then follow on its own.

  • At the vehicular level, incorporating design that can help riders understand and perceive the vehicle’s interaction with the geofence to learn and accept he automation’s performance. This can include:
    • Displays that clearly show what the car is not only seeing and perceiving but also, importantly, what it will do. This image of Waymo’s information screen shows passengers exactly what path (or fence) the vehicle will follow – even though passengers do not need navigation in a car they are not driving.

  • Designing operations to replicate human behaviors and actions – for instance, creating a turning experience that feels “right” to driver/passenger
  • Voice technology to keep riders informed and engaged with what is coming next.

Creating trust in AVs will be accelerated by designing automated systems from a collaborative POV thinking of the rider and the system as “co-pilots” in the experience with clear geofence definition, design and technology that inform and empower riders and onboarding/education  initiatives to will build understanding and knowledge in automated systems.

Contributed by Shasank Nagavarapu, Senior Associate, Human Centered Design

Reflections On Conducting Research During a Pandemic

Research is interesting, difficult, and important, but I would never want to do it myself.  I enjoy my role in the process though as Lextant’s Technical Specialist.  My  job is to support the research staff in many ways, technology being the biggest of them. I love a good technical challenge. Some of our clients relish telling me their list of borderline insane demands thinking “THIS time I’ve got him!” to which I usually reply something like “oh man…this might be the one.” We always figure it out though. There’s almost no setup that can’t be accomplished through the proper mix and application of ingenuity and funding.

I am a millennial. I have been through some adversity in my life. 9/11, Recession one, Recession two, Global Pandemic to name a few. Covid-19 is just another world thing that we all must deal with. Eventually, it will be a blip on my radar of life.  But for the foreseeable future the virus is challenging us to find innovative ways to continue doing the work we do.

Research & The Mask

Whether or not you value the evidence of the effectiveness of masks, it’s pretty widely accepted that they are uncomfortable and under normal circumstances, people would prefer to not wear one.  We’ve worked hard to adapt our processes to accommodate our participants’ needs for comfort and safety.  Here’s an experience I had during a recent study with the participant in one room, the moderator in the observation room with control of the participants computer and camera views.

The participant enters the study room. They approach the table they were prepared to see. There is a computer, a tablet and some laminated sheets. “hello!, thank you for taking the time to join us for our study today!” The warm voice of the moderator over the tablet welcomes the participant. Surprised at the novelty of this strange setup, the participant says thank you and sits down, making herself comfortable while listening to instructions and an overview of all the precautions and cleaning that have been done before her arrival. Once the spiel is over, the participant looks conspiratorially around and asks.. “hey, since there’s…no one around…do you think I could….” “YES! Since you are alone, feel free to remove your mask. Likewise, if you prefer to still wear it, that’s fine too.” With a weight seemingly lifted off her shoulders, or ears, the participant gleefully removes the mask, ready to complete whatever task the moderator can throw her way.

You dislike wearing a mask and so do I. – build rapport?   Check!

A Lockdown Pivot

When the lockdown hit, we were supposed to be bringing in participants with their cars to talk about details within them and then talking for hours about stuff outside the car…lights out, right? How are we supposed to interview a person who can’t come here about their car that they can’t bring because they shouldn’t be leaving the house, all while capturing all of this information in a way that we can go back for review while also allowing our clients to be “there” viewing the entire process while also not freaking the participant out with the peanut gallery?

Oh yeah, and we have to do all of this here in Columbus and also concurrently with another team doing the same thing across the country when they can’t get on a plane to go there. Turns out the answer was in a lesson my high-school jazz teacher gave when teaching us how to improv — KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid. There are always multiple ways to solve a problem. Most times, the simplest way is the best.

Here’s what we did: Since we had already recruited for the study, we asked who had a smart phone. Spoiler alert, everyone did. You might think, “well, they just had a Facetime conversation.” And you would essentially be right, but also wrong. Facetime has a few limitations that prevented us from going that route. First being, it’s only on iOS and while iPhone users are 45% of smartphone owners in the U.S., that’s not nearly enough.

We needed something that didn’t matter what phone you had. We also needed to be able to allow clients to observe without participants seeing their faces. We also wanted the ability for cloud recording. At Lextant we have plenty of tech for recording whatever we want but remember…We couldn’t even leave our houses yet.

Enter GoToMeeting. GoToMeeting will not always be the research savior that it is now; and it is not the only solution out there, but I can honestly say that without it, we would not be doing the quality research that we are during this pandemic.  The app has been solid, vetted, secure and while not quirkily beautiful, it works.

Technology In Action

We had participants join our session via a link sent to their email by the recruiter. Once in, the study felt like an in-person session some two-way chat for a bit. There was conversation, there was screen sharing some scales, a little rating here, a little “what do you think of that?” there.

Then the fun part. We wanted to see their cars! “Look person, you have this feature we are interested in, and we want you to show us how you use or don’t use it and why or why not.” So, since they’re already on their phone, they just took us into their cars. When needed, they flipped the camera around and showed us the thing they wanted. When it was time to talk to their kid, they handed the phone to them to let them get a few words in. It was great!

It was great because our participants (everyone, really) could participate without risking  their health. It was great because even though they were 2000 miles away, we had meaningful and productive conversations with people in their own cars. It was great for the researchers and clients because with the participant holding and directing the camera, they were showing us what THEY wanted us to see. It was great for me because I didn’t have to travel across country to set up gear in 30 different people’s cars when I was supposed to just be at home in my boxers and work shirt.

The New Normal

That study was a success and acted as a model for much of the testing we did after it. Even some of the testing we’re now able to do in our labs is still using GoToMeeting in one way or another. I’ve also gotten over my fear of lost data with cloud recording. That will always be a risk we have to deal with for remote studies. At our lab, I’ll just make a backup-recording on physical drives here in our space, no big deal.

Contributed by Steve Mauger, Lextant’s Senior Technical Specialist



Effective Behavior Change Design Strategies

Have you ever had difficulty using a product? Maybe using an airline kiosk you can’t understand, trouble pairing your phone to a Bluetooth speaker, or accidentally (and messily) opening your friend’s dishwasher when it’s already running. You may have found workarounds for some of these products, such as making checklists or putting tape over the buttons you don’t want to press. Some products are just difficult to use by design.

When kiosks and dishwashers difficult to use, they tend to introduce moments of frustration or inconvenience into our everyday lives. Well, what happens when a product being difficult to use puts lives on the line? What if you can’t figure out how to use your fire extinguisher when you need to? What if an EMT can’t figure out how to use the defibrillator? In these situations the difficulty creates problems beyond mere frustration and inconvenience.

Products which, if misused, can have safety consequences are often designed with a focus on safety, quality, rigorous testing, and in-depth training for the user. These efforts are important, but they sometimes make products even more complex and can be tedious and limiting for the people who use them. How can such products be designed in a way that promotes correct use and also creates an engaging, desirable experience?

Effective behavior change design strategies can keep the user engaged and motivated while promoting (and sometimes enforcing) the correct use of a product. In some cases, to keep users engaged and motivated while properly using a product, it is necessary to position the product within a connected supporting ecosystem.

Going Beyond a Traditional Approach to Behavior Change

The prescription pill bottle is a relatively simple product that lives in a difficult use environment where it is often used incorrectly. People forget to take their medications, take the wrong medications, take the wrong amount of medication, and purposefully or unintentionally take other peoples’ medications.

The color, visual design, labeling, function, and shape of pill bottles are all heavily designed with traditional behavior change techniques. These design elements are all intended to result in the correct use of the pill bottle and yet incorrect use is still persistent.

Let’s take a look less engaging behavior change strategies as well as a few that engage the user by leveraging their motivations within a supporting ecosystem, using our pill bottle as an example.

Using Constraint, Instruction, and Precaution to Drive Behavior Change

While common and effective, design strategies that focus on preventing the user from doing the wrong thing or that tell them what to do can limit how engaged the user gets with a product among other drawbacks. Let’s look at a few of these strategies applied to a pill bottle.

 Constraint: Add defensive or constraining elements to the design, making it more difficult to be used incorrectly.  Constraint strategies can be effective, but some users dislike being “prevented” from doing things by their products. There is also potential for users to intentionally use the product improperly by using “workarounds”.

Example: the child-proof cap on a pill bottle might make it difficult for the adult to open the bottle, so they may transfer it to a different container that is child accessible.

Instructional/Precautionary: Provide information to the user to instruct correct behaviors and warn against incorrect ones.

Example: A pill bottle may have instructions to take 1 pill twice a day and a precautionary warning to avoid taking the pill on an empty stomach.

Instructions and warnings are important design features. However, users are often overburdened with instructions and warnings and there is a possibility they won’t be noticed or will be intentionally ignored.

Example: If a patient’s been taking the same medication for years, and the instructions and warnings change on the bottle, it’s likely they won’t change their use of the pill. 

Tapping into Internal Motivations to Drive Behavioral Change

 In many cases, behavior change design strategies are more effective when they engage the user and leverage their motivations. For example, gamification and meeting the need for affiliation and belonging can promote engagement and give the user a more active role the appropriate use of a product.

To accomplish these methods, it is often necessary to look at the underlying goals and create an ecosystem that supports the correct actions to accomplish that goal. This could require additional products or integration with other existing products. While potentially requiring more effort to design than a simple pill bottle, this strategy has the potential open the doors to new opportunity in the form of new products and innovation.

How can a pill bottle motivate patients to adhere to their medications within an engaging supportive ecosystem?

Gamification: Provide rewards, points, and encouraging sounds and visuals. These can make the user an actively engaged “player” in the correct use of a system.

Example: A pill bottle that communicates with the patient’s phone. When they take their medication correctly, their phone plays a pleasing tone and congratulates a patient that they are 95% of the way to being back to normal health. This bottle could better motivate them to take that remaining 5% of the medication and feel proud of their accomplishment.

Gamification can be very successful or very unsuccessful depending how it’s designed into a product. In-depth research to create an engaging game-like feature is essential for success.

Affiliation & Belonging: Design elements that support feelings of social connection, competition, or cooperation.

Example: A pill bottle intended for youth patients could have a feature that notifies the parents when the medication has been taken and allows the child to see that their parents have “liked” that they took their medication.

Affiliation and belonging are universal human needs which is why they make for effective motivators. Other human needs can also be leveraged to change user behaviors using a product.

With the addition of an engaging ecosystem and motivational design elements, we start to look beyond the pill bottle into a larger patient healing system. What if the ecosystem communicated with the EHR? If doctors had a more accurate understanding of their patients’ compliance with medications, they could more accurately track how medication relates to healing and tailor treatments to each patient. This is just one example of how going beyond traditional behavior change techniques could lead users to a better experience with their products.

Testing Behavior Change Design Strategies

So how do we make sure our design elements are working? Traditionally, scientists will perform in-depth, long-term studies to measure how behavior changes over time, often over months or years. For product design programs, these studies would typically take too long and cost too much money. Most importantly, the results won’t tell the designer which improvements to make or what isn’t working about the design.

At Lextant we deploy tools like our System Learnability Assessment Method (SLAM) to quantitatively and qualitatively understand learning and behavior change at important moments in during user’s experience with a product. By focusing on these key moments in learning and use, we can understand how successful design elements are at changing behavior. We can also look for parts of the experience that could be preventing success.

Most importantly, we can give the designers the information they need to improve and innovate their products.

Author: Eric del Rio, Lextant Senior Associate, Human-Centered Design