Lextant Supports Project Resound’s Sustainable Tourism Initiative

The Greek towns of Poros and Troizinia-Methana are idyllic communities located near Athens  that have set out to become a sustainable tourism destination that will provide travelers with unique experiences while supporting and respecting the needs of the local population, culture, landmarks and the environment.

Research shows that although tourism can be a great form of wealth generation and distribution, often as little as 5-10% of tourist spending remains in the destination they are visiting.  The benefits of tourism can only be fully realized through an inclusive approach and collaboration between public and private sectors and the host communities.

Project Resound, a social design consultancy, has brought together a team of collaborators to explore and define the ideal tourism experience for both tourists and local stakeholders and to create viable design solutions to encourage sustainable and culturally-appropriate tourism for the region.  Lextant is proud to provide support to this team including:

  • Project Resound: a social design organization founded on the belief that creative individuals are uniquely equipped to make the world a better place.  It partners with like-minded organizations to create people-centered and purpose-driven design solutions.
  • Its Greece-based partner is Ec(h)o, a consortium of three local entities, Katheti, Live-Bio and Odyssey, aiming at promoting sustainable tourism in the region of Poros and Troizinia-Methana.
  • Ecologists Without Borders a group of exceptional individuals volunteer their time and expertise to restore, protect, and conserve national ecosystems worldwide.

Lextant’s Design Research Associate Lindsay Courtney is one of the lead members of the Project Resound team spearheading this four phase effort.

Phase 1 – Discovery

During the Spring of 2020, the Project Resound Team conducted extensive research into the elements of sustainable tourism as well as interviews with tourists and local stakeholders to create understanding of their expectations, concerns, attitudes and ideas surrounding the subject of tourism.

Phase 2 – Ideal Experience Definition

Throughout the Fall of 2020, the Project Resound team conducted a thorough analysis of all the discovery data and identified the most important drivers of the tourism experience for both tourists and local stakeholders.  Lextant leveraged its Insight Translation and Experience Modeling processes at this stage in support of the project to create an Ideal Experience Model to bring these learnings to life.

The team uncovered that the ideal experience is underpinned by respect – respect for each other, the land, locals, visitors, wildlife, cultures, history and more.  It’s an experience that cultivates a “We are in this together” mindset supporting a desire to preserve the region for future generations to come.

The project’s Greek partners have embraced this symbiotic approach and renamed the ideal framework model “The Circle of Respect”

Summer 2021 – Development & Delivery

In June and July, the Project Resound Greece collaborators will bring together stakeholders for design sprint workshops aimed at creating viable design solutions that will become the foundation of the area’s sustainable tourism initiative.

The team will create an implementation plan from these sessions and continue to support its partners in Poros and Troizinia-Methana.

For more information about Project Resound, visit https://projectresound.com/insights or follow the project on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ProjectResoundUSA









Pivot: Award-Winning Multi-Modal Trip Planning App

Smart Columbus’ mobility and navigation app Pivot has been recognized as one of the most innovative and influential smart projects of 2021 from the Smart 50 Awards in partnership with the Smart Cities Connect Foundation and US Ignite.

The Pivot app is one of the main innovations Smart Columbus has developed and introduced as part of its Multimodal Trip planning project funded by the $40 million Smart City Challenge Grant awarded to the city of Columbus by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Access Through Mobility

With this initiative, Smart Columbus was seeking to improve mobility and increase access to jobs, education and services for residents and employees in Columbus’ Linden and Easton neighborhoods to help them find, schedule and pay for transportation options including COTA bus service, ride-hailing, carpooling, bike and scooter sharing,  taxi services and personal vehicles.

The two neighborhoods were selected to reflect the diverse needs of the Columbus community.  The Linden neighborhood brought forward the socio-economic challenges impacting mobility including low household incomes, an absence of major employers, and lack of access to transportation.  Easton is a high-traffic retail and office destination just a few miles from Linden, and although it is a major employment center, the jobs in this area have high turnover rates.  A major contributor to this type of job instability is the lack of reliable transportation.

A Columbus Collaboration

Lextant worked to enhance user experience for the app in collaboration with Columbus-based Etch, LLC, that specializes in customized geospatial solutions that streamline mobility, . Our team conducted research with residents in both the Linden and Easton neighborhoods to understand the key drivers that would fuel adoption of the app and to define the ideal user experience for development.  We leveraged our deep experience in automotive, public transportation and mobility experiences as well as our model for creating consumer trust to develop a desired experience model and translate these insights into the sensory cues that would create it for users.

The Pivot App was initially introduced in August 2019 with trip planning features only.  In March 2021, the app was updated with new features including an app-to-app payment portal linking Pivot to partner mobility providers’ apps delivering a seamless user experience bringing together public and private transportation options together all in one place.

“Mobility is the great equalizer of the 21st century.  Smart Columbus continues to work hard to deliver long-range innovative projects that are critical to moving our city forward, today and in the future,”  Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, March 2021.

Smart Columbus is a joint initiative of the city and Columbus Partnership investing in mobility projects that make the region’s transportation system more efficient, safer, greener and better at connecting people with jobs – and to create solution playbooks other metro areas can follow.

Smart 50 Awards, in partnership with Smart Cities Connect, Smart Cities Connect Foundation, and US Ignite, annually recognize global smart cities projects, honoring the most innovative and influential work.

To learn more about Smart Columbus and the Pivot App visit smart.columbus.gov.

Keys to creating an experience-driven Fortune 500 enterprise

Lextant kicked off its Experience Design Leaders Series with a conversation between our founder Chris Rockwell and Heidi Munc, Vice President of User Experience & Human Centered Design at Nationwide Insurance.  Heidi and her team have led its transformation into an experience-centered organization driving the strategy, research,  UX design and content that deliver moments of truth for Nationwide’s customers.

You can download the broadcast here or read a summary of Chris and Heidi’s conversation below.  Heidi’s “5 Keys for Transforming into an Experience-Led Organization” are included at the end of this synopsis.

Chris Rockwell (CR):  Welcome, Heidi!  To get started, tell us a little bit about your role at Nationwide and maybe a little bit of how you got to this point in your career.

Heidi Munc (HM):   I think was looking for the role of being a user experience professional before that was a named thing.  I actually have a journalism degree, and started my career in advertising, and then worked for an internet company for about nine years.  I found I was looking for a role where I could be helping people get what they really want and need out of their interactions with organizations.  I joined Nationwide’s User Experience team, and fell in love with our mission here.  We really do protect what matters most for people.

CR:  How has the UX team and function evolved over your time at Nationwide?

HM:  When I joined the team, I think there were about 10 folks on the user experience team, several of them are still with us which is amazing, and we’ve been able to grow, the team over time and we’re getting close to 100.  One of the ways that we were able to grow the team was by making sure that we were always filling gaps that the organization needed.   Sometimes they didn’t even know that they needed it, but we could see the opportunity and we would add tools to our toolkit to help move the company along by solving problems that they maybe didn’t even know they had meeting customers’ expectations.

CR:  Buying and using insurance are highly emotional experience.  How does your team deal with understanding and translating the emotive aspects when you are talking about people’s money or talking about protecting them, and how do you translate that into the business of delivering great experiences?

HM:  The insurance experience is fraught with emotion.  When you have an insurance claim usually something bad has happened and now you really need that insurance company.  We’re involved with complex financial decisions and situations that can be intimidating for our customers and make them feel unsure that they making the right choices.  We have be very aware of this in everything we do.

One of many strategies we use to keep the customer’s voice at the center is literally use the power of recorded voice playing real customer claims calls back to executive leadership and teams so they can live and breathe the stories of people who have been through claims and see what the emotional parts were for them.  It’s been very powerful to keep the human center in our problem solving process.

CR:  The complex nature of insurance and financial products also makes it really difficult for consumers to navigate, too, doesn’t it?  How does that impact how you design experiences?

HM:  Yes, we actually did an extensive amount of research about our customers’ experiences in servicing as we were tackling self-service and digital experience opportunities trying to understand why people call in so that we could see what things they aren’t comfortable doing online and how we can we build features that would give them that confidence. We just got a treasure trove of information about how difficult and painful it is for people to walk through and understand what they need.

People were doing all sorts of things like watching YouTube videos before they would call because they wanted to  demonstrate that they had a certain level of knowledge, there was a lot of burden of education. To help our team an partners understand what this was like for customers, we collected 15 or  so good customer “aha moments”, where there was a big discrepancy between what the business thought about that experience and what the customer thought about that experience.

CR: There is power to having accountability for experience across the organization, and you have clearly come up with some innovative and creative ways to get organizational buy in.  With such a large business how do you continue to fuel this cultural shift, keep momentum going, and keep the focus on the customer? 

HM: You are right, it can be tough and you need to have a lot of stamina.  You need to be kind of like the Southwest flight attendant who can say the same thing over and over every day very carefully and with the same attention to detail and enthusiasm every time. Because we have to change a lot of hearts and minds, you have to reach such a lot of people and you’re going to have to make the case and tell the story over and over to get that momentum.

To demonstrate your progress and value as a UX team, it’s really important to pick areas where there’s momentum already and find some quick wins there. That can feel really dissatisfying sometimes because we are so aspirational but really knocking out some of that low hanging fruit and then demonstrating  the return on investment and what that did for the organization is a way to get buy in to operate at a higher level.

CR:  Another topic you and I have talked about is the distinction between user experience and customer experience and how those two functions in an organization have continued to change.  How are you looking at these at Nationwide?

HM:  We’re definitely at a point where I see that there is probably going to be a change in the labels we use in our profession.  Sometimes when talk about CX, we’re too narrowly focused on just trying to up survey scores.   This is where user experience teams can help because we have the tools and the methods to get out the why behind some of those things and as long as you can help identify ways to problem solve you can be indispensable to that team.

CR: Maybe the biggest challenge is getting alignment.  No one business function owns customer experience – we all own it right; we all have to be responsible for it.  So how do you equip teams, to truly understand what is happening from the customer experience?

HM:  The great thing is that we don’t have to convince anybody anymore so we don’t have to be a strict evangelists, but we do have to be a quick problem solvers.   One thing that we have is an amazing part of the organization called practitioner enablement, and what they do is go out and teach UX tools to other parts of the organization.  This is not because we are trying to make everyone at Nationwide into a UX professional, but we do want people to understand the process of design thinking and what that looks like and how that’s different than regular business problem solving.

It’s a small team, they do a tremendous work to help us have more tentacles into the organization working closely with our business leaders and acting as bridges between the language of design and the language of business introducing the design thinking tools that can help solve real business problems.

CR:  When you have a story of customer experience everybody can get on board and understand that and it can break down internal barriers and make teams more effective.  You’ve written recently about the importance of designers building and flexing business muscles.  Will you talk more about that?

HM: We’ve been talking about this for a couple of years.  UX folks have amazing powers of empathy but we don’t always use them enough within the organizations we serve, so we can have communication challenges with our partners in the business who may not get what we do.  One way around that is to really understand what the business cares about and what pressures it is under.   Speaking the language of business, understanding what motivates your organizations leaders, just makes it easier for you to have the conversations about how the business wins with the customer.

CR: Do you think that should be a core growth set for anybody going into user experience design or research to develop?  The business of design seems like it could be a really rich opportunity to prepare young designers for the industry.

HM: Yes, absolutely.   We’re all taught how to conduct requirements gathering interviews but we can very quickly default to the language we are taught and reflecting inputs back in that language.  There’s a subtle nuance there if you can learn from them and then reflect  back in their language.  It really is the business language that will get them to fund what you’re trying to do to help make things better.

CR:  I also like the way you’ve talked about identifying moments of truth in the journey, so that you can really understand where the investments need to be made.  How do you prioritize where to align, so that your team has the highest impact?

HM:  For the most part the business prioritizes the work and we’re there for the business to help make them successful by helping them understand how to  make our customers happy.  So whatever their priorities are, those are the areas that we focus on with a couple of exceptions where we have been able to proactively identify things that the organization needs but they don’t know they need it yet.

We have also just started an area though called applied insights in the past few months.   With all the research we do for the business we sometimes come up with findings that I like to call durable insights.  We might be focusing on a claims problem statement, but find that the human behavior involved can be applied to other areas of the business.  So we’re building a systems to capture and proactively attach these durable insights to parts of the organization that can use them right away so they can spend less time on up front research and get to problem solving faster.

CR: We’ve talked a little bit about how your teams are organized. How are you thinking about setting up your teams and bringing innovation into the mix?

HM:  Early on, we were organized by discipline: visual designers, interaction designers, content, research, etc. and we would add in different competencies as they were needed by the organization.  We are now organized by more straight ties into the businesses that we support.  We have a whole team that is focused on digital supporting the different lines of business within digital. It’s not all they do; they certainly do research in any channel but that’s their main focus.

The main goal for the reorganization, that I did was to talk less about how to get the work done and move more quickly to action of doing the work.  Having teams that are pointed and focused in a certain area that are a cross functional team reduces how many people need to be involved and makes us more efficient. .

CR:  How is your team  using service design principles beyond digital touch points?

HM: The first foray into that really is with journey mapping and being able to show the map at different levels, the process level, the people level, the experience level, and be able to look at the breakdowns across that journey.  And then we can obviously design experiences for any channel, and that helps the organization see that a UX team is not just digital.

We also have articulated customer experience principles, based on what we know our customers expect when dealing with an insurance or financial services company that can be activated in any channel.  We can certainly create all of our digital features, but we can also help other parts of the organization understand how to activate the principles in their work even if they aren’t customer.  That’s another way to bridge gaps between UX and CX and digital UX and service design.

CR:  You mentioned these periods of disruption, and the last 12 months have been really unprecedented for all of us.  What are some of the sort of moral and ethical issues that you’re running into when it comes to the how the experiences you’re building are affecting customers and how’s that affecting the organization?

HM: Nationwide is doing a lot to teach folks about unconscious bias.  We have to make sure we’re taking that into consideration while we’re doing research and creating more chat bots and artificial intelligence servicing situations.

We have to ask if we are unintentionally reinforcing biases and sometimes you are.  So then it’s this very challenging conversation about because we’re always the ones who you know, want to push go with the research go with the research.  Unless the research is just really reinforcing something that might not be great for society.  Those are very tricky conversations for us to have, and it’s incredibly important that we have them.

CR: Heidi, thank you, we could spend another several hours talking about all of this.  We really appreciate you taking time to join us today.

5 Keys to Creating An Experience-Led Organization

Heidi Munc:  These are not magic because there really is no secret formula.  Success truly comes down to hard work, but this categorizes the things that should be focused on if you’re trying to really transform your organization into being experienced lead.

  1. Find A Spark

Find a spark of interest somewhere.  I think it’s really important to try it out on a high visibility project.  This may sound counter-intuitive. But if you’re in a large organization, you want a lot of people to know about what you’re doing.  So pick a safe bet in a high visibility area that has a lot of momentum behind it.

  1. Focus

You can’t put your bets everywhere, so stay focused on a smaller, safer initiative that can scale quickly into other areas.

  1. People

It’s really important to have the right people involved at all levels.  For us it meant having a champion at the very top level who we partnered with well.  Then you need people to evangelize at every level and to empower and engage the whole organization.

  1. Process

You can’t do this all yourself, so what tools and techniques can you give people so they can fish for themselves? We all have our processes, but sometimes we have to fit into other people’s processes.  Figure out how your work fits into their work, and then, when you have some wins you can maybe get them to iterate their processes.

  1. Storytelling

Last the storytelling we’re all so good at.  Make sure that you use customer stories so you are pulling on both the heartstrings and the purse strings.  It’s a much more effective approach in impacting change within the business.

Download Heidi’s 5 Keys to Transforming into an Experience-Led Organization here.

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.

Update May 2021 – Ford F-150 Lightning

The most popular vehicle in the United States is going electric. Ford has revealed the F-150 Lightning, An all-electric version of its flagship pickup truck due out in 2022.  To read more about this exciting new addition to the Ford family – see this article from The Verge – Ford F-150 Lighting Revealed:  An Electric Truck For The Masses



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 including PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award for the OfficeJet Pro 9015e.










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.