Psychological car clinics: testing ground for the emotional impact of design

Dirk Ziems

Of course cars are means of transport but, in addition, they have a psychological function comparable to personal clothing. They are a fashion statement in everyday life – without the drivers always being aware of this. Our psychological car clinic research – recently further developed in cooperation with Johnson Controls International – identifies where the emotional impact of design can be optimized to support engineers and designers in the automotive industry. The new family van provides everything that lets the heart of technology fans beat faster. But the feeling of the design being too sober, too impersonal and too rational somehow arises from the driver’s seat. The new SUV has an impressive front end. Nevertheless, the customers feel distant from the design because it gives an underlying impression of incredible aggressiveness, as if they were dealing with a bulldog about to be released from its chain.
The examples from design research show: holistic emotional qualities decide on the success or failure of car designs. Our morphological research decodes which design elements in general and which combination of design elements in particular accentuate the emotional impact of design.

As part of this research approach we have deciphered the decisive mechanisms of different designs over the years: for instance, the “character lines” on the front grille and bonnet, the “muscle groups” on the flanks which control the dynamic and sporty qualities or the balancing of elements in the cockpit as well as the look and feel of specific materials conveying dignified luxury.

The car marques gain their identity from their distinctive design languages which they continuously develop – sometimes cautiously, sometimes resolutely – in line with general design and cultural trends. Here too, concept m – also with Johnson Controls International among others – has gathered enormous know-how over the years. In the international car business it is essential to adjust design developments to cultural requirements. To this end, concept m with its teams in China and the USA has precise knowledge of the styles influencing e.g. Chinese upper-class drivers or American SUV drivers.

In which formats are car clinics conducted?

concept m offers different car design research settings to give support to implementation and fine-tuning issues in the early phases of new design development and in the later phases.

Car owner clinics take the form of in-home depth interviews in the respondent’s natural environment and at their own car. This is a particularly efficient way to determine how customers evaluate current designs as the basis for carving out recommendations for further development. The special advantage of car owner clinics is their closeness to everyday life: away from the showroom effect, it is possible to specifically see what attitudes, requirements and satisfaction exist in daily usage of the actually configured vehicle. As the personal world (the domestic scene, furnishings, design and style preferences, family situation, environmental factors) are included, the research accesses particularly valuable and relevant insights, for example how a car is actually used for commuting to work or for the family outing.

Car clinics with new prototypes require strict secrecy and make enormous challenges on the logistics. concept m has also specialized in this format and offers car clinics in closed, secure facilities on a small qualitative scale as well as on a large scale with combined qualitative and quantitative methodology.

Art of mediating the requirements of different stakeholders

With our design research and consulting we address specific and very different target groups and stakeholders in the automotive companies. On the one hand there are the engineers whose perception is mainly focused on technical feasibility and implementation, on the other hand the designers who are particularly trained in the further development of existing aesthetic styles and shapes.

Our research findings and consulting processes must address both target groups alike and aesthetically inspire as well as deliver workable results.
By developing special forms of presentation, designers and engineers can be suitably equipped with the wherewithal to successfully push ahead with their innovation and customer projects. The spectrum ranges from questions on technical details to futuristic visions on the future of mobility.
Consequently, tailored market research and consulting can also be offered for globally standardized processes of development.

For further information please contact thomas.ebenfeld@test.local, dirk.ziems@test.local or, Consumer and Market Research Johnson Controls International ')}

Dirk Ziems
Dirk Ziems ist Experte für tiefenpsychologisches Marketing und berät auf Basis von Markt-, Medien- und Kulturforschung weltweit Unternehmen und Konzerne in zahlreichen Branchen und Ländern. Als Mitbegründer der Global Research Boutique Concept M und der Marketingberatung Flying Elephant begleitet er Themen wie die Adaption von Erfolgsprodukten in neuen kulturellen Kontexten, das tiefe Verständnis neuer Konsumgenerationen in China und USA, die Transformation der Werbekommunikation in der neuen digitalen Medienwelt oder die Neuorientierung der Brands in Post-Corona-Zeiten. Dirk Ziems ist auch als Gastdozent an verschiedenen Universitäten tätig.

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