GM Concept UI

November 2013 ––

The General Motors Advanced Design Studio approached munkowitz to concept and design the driver console and touch screen UI for their upcoming Cadillac concept car, the Elmiraj. The goal was to create an experience that utilized a multitude of future driving technologies while still maintaining the elegance and luxury of the Cadillac brand. Munko was freelancing with the Autofuss collective and deep into finishing BOX at the time, so he built a small Seal Team consisting of the talented Conor Greeble and Jason English Kerr, and brought back old-schooler Joseph Chanimal as well. Together they fabricated a very compelling glimpse into the future of Car UI, stressing real-world functionality set within a very distinct future-forward style.

GFX Montage

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The Brief

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The ever-so-handsome Gael Buzyn, GM’s Studio Interior Design Manager, submitted the concept artwork of the car and immediately the team knew this was going to be a project with a heavy emphasis on quality. Clearly the GM team was inspired and united to build a vehicle that was thinking about the future from top to bottom, and the UI for the interior was no different - even if it was for a concept vehicle. Gael submitted a UI framework that the team evolved into a fully functioning and considered interface, and then included additional features such as an Augmented Reality driver view and a fully realized 3D map interface to further the discussions about what the future of driver UI could be.

Driver Console

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The central framework for the design was centered around the Driver Console, and structurally defined the graphic language given it’s form factor - the two circular dials functioning as the central element of which the main interface was built around. The team loved the idea of every graphic command emanating from and respecting this circular framework, and then utilized their developed style and framework to inform the rest of the design components.

Perhaps the biggest ‘oh shit’ moment was the introduction of the AR overlay in the Driver Console.. This view mode takes a recording of the driver’s view and augments it with helpful graphic overlays pointing out features in the road that warrant attention. The full blown concept was to have the AR also exist in the windshield, but for the purposes of the car show deadline, that wasn’t possible.. Regardless, this feature was certainly a glimpse into what the future holds for real-time overlays and tracking of the driving terrain — Sci Fi to the max.

HMI Console

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For the pop out HMI Console, the team was drawn to the idea of a fully interactive 3D environment for the map interface, complete with gesture control and interactive fly-throughs. The story for the concept show was to have the driver start from Los Angeles and work their way down to Palm Springs, so the team first introduced the full-scale map of California and then magnified into specific travel routes, cutting through the mountainous terrain with Sci-Fi precision until the final destination. 

Usability Standards

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In doing so many Science Fiction interfaces, the focus is always stressing density and a visual footprint. With this exercise the team always sought to think about functionality first. The density of the design language gave way to a clean, easy to operate aesthetic that, even though was a bit more boring to design, felt right being placed in this concept vehicle. 

GFX Methodology

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With this usability exercise in place, the methodology for the design language was simple – create a compelling visual system that didn't feel excessive. The solution was an open design, elegant typography and the usage of small dots and lines to punctuate where the eye needed to be. For the map schematics, layers of contour lines assisted in visualizing the height of the terrain being traveled upon, which also transformed in mode and visual weight per the different magnifications of view. Overall, a simple and effective language was devised for the design problem that felt appropriate for the brief. 

Design Director

at Autofuss
for GM Advanced Design Studio
ELMIRAJ Concept UI Credit List

Agency: GM Advanced Design Studio
Agency Design Director: Gael Buzyn
Production Facility: AUTOFUSS
UI Graphics Design Director: Bradley G Munkowitz
UI Graphic Designers: Conor Grebel, Jason English Kerr, Joseph Chanimal
UI Graphic Animators: Conor Grebel, Jason English Kerr
Producers: Micah Gendron, Katrina Lau