Making digital desirable.
Faster design approvals
Faster interactive screen prototyping
Jaguar Land Rover uses these solutions:
Watch Gerry McGovern’s session at Adobe MAX:
The Business of Design: Reinventing an Icon, the Land Rover Defender
“There has been a seismic shift toward digital and that's had an enormous effect on the way we design cars.”
Creative Director, Interior Design, Land Rover
Building legacies, not just cars
Mark Butler has always been passionate about designing cars and trucks. At age six, he sent his first sketch to a major automaker — a bold move that foreshadowed his successful career in the automotive industry. Today, Butler is Creative Director of Interior Design at Land Rover. He’s designed the interiors of some of the brand’s biggest sellers, always aiming to create harmonious, intuitive driving experiences. But perhaps none have been more personal than his most recent project.
“I used to have an old Land Rover Defender and when my kids were young, they liked nothing more than climbing all over it,” Butler says. “When we decided to bring the Defender back, it was very important for us to stay true to the original spirit: strong and durable — something my kids could still climb all over if they wanted to.”
Historically, the Defender is Land Rover’s go-anywhere, do-anything workhorse, which earned a certain cachet among adventurers and explorers in its 68 years on the production line. In 2019, Land Rover felt the time was right to reintroduce a new, relevant Defender to the market, to the delight of many fans. The goal was to reinvent the iconic vehicle for the 21st century audience while staying true to its rugged spirit.
Once a design for the new Defender was selected, the team built a full-size exterior clay model — painted to give it a realistic look — to help further the creative development.
“When I joined Land Rover over 20 years ago, the internal design of the Defender was clean and simple, with no screen,” says Butler. “There has been a seismic shift toward digital and that’s had an enormous effect on the way we design cars.”
For Butler, it was an exciting challenge offering a chance to reimagine the driver and occupants experience in the Defender using all the latest tools and technologies. Given the company’s design philosophy, that meant designing clean, harmonised interiors with durable and beautiful materials. It also meant building an entirely new user interface (UI) for the digital touch screen on the dash — one that would integrate naturally into the vehicle's interior.
For that, Butler looked to the expertise of his highly skilled design team, including Interface Design Manager Phil Higgs. Higgs joined Jaguar Land Rover in 2008, when the UX design team was just forming. In the years since, his team of designers have made the most of increasingly sophisticated screen technology for an enhanced customer experience.
“When the iPhone came out in 2007, it was a game-changer that transformed how people interact with screens,” Higgs says. “It opened up a new world of possibility for designers and we’ve been pushing the limits of what we can do ever since.”
Together, Butler and Higgs were ready to take on the interior of the new Defender. It promised to be a meaningful and fulfill task for everyone involved.
“The Defender plays a crucial role at the heart of our product portfolio and it provokes a lot of passion and emotion in people globally,” says Professor Gerry McGovern OBE, Land Rover’s Chief Creative Officer. “For many auto designers, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to redefine one of the automotive world's last iconic vehicles.”
“Adobe XD enabled us to pull all the digital elements together to paint a vivid picture of what we wanted to achieve.”
Interface Design Manager,
Jaguar Land Rover
If you can visualise it, you can build it
The teams spent a lot of time thinking about how to radically redefine the Defender — adding a touch of premium comfort and refinement — without losing its grit. It was crucial to think about the customer’s experience of climbing into the car for the first time.
“Getting the right feel is absolutely vital for us,” says Butler. “Our vehicles are designed to have a distinctive on and off road presence and character all their own.”
At this stage in the design process, vision is everything. Butler and Higgs shared their vision for the car interior and touch screen interface, aligning their teams toward a common goal and convincing stakeholders to sign off. The more clearly they could demonstrate the vision, the better. When it comes to the physical space, Butler has found success creating immersive studio spaces to give people a sense of how colours and materials look and feel.
But design mockups for the touch screen interface were far from the immersive studio spaces used to convey the vision of car interiors. Instead, teams collaborated with decision-makers on feedback by sharing images to help visually communicate what the touch screen could look like in real life. It made conveying the touch screen vision harder and decision-making slower. That can be a challenge in an industry where design teams need to be agile and fast.
As designers and software developers considered the challenge at hand, they looked at new ways to bring their vision to life. They wanted to accelerate iteration and feedback cycles. They also wanted to simplify collaboration and eliminate version control and file compatibility issues. Less back and forth meant more forward progress.
Elegant experiences unveiled faster, from sketch to prototype
About the same time Land Rover was gearing up for the new Defender design process, Higgs was exploring an interesting new tool in the Adobe Creative Cloud family.
“We didn’t have a quick and easy way to build a prototype in a way that integrated with our Adobe Creative Cloud tools,” he says. “When I became aware of Adobe XD in beta, it looked like a brilliant solution that would allow us to quickly mockup prototypes integrated with all the tools we already use.”
The discovery kicked off a new era for Land Rover’s design teams that was just in time for the new Defender. The touch screen system needed to be elegant and simple, with a menu structure that puts every important function at the users fingertips. Navigation. Streaming music. Phone integration. Bespoke off-road visualisation — an attribute of all Land Rovers. All the modern necessities, with the ability to customise.
“We always use technology in the service of our values, not the other way around,” says Butler. “Our goal was to create a touch screen system that would enhance the customer experience in the Defender, blending harmoniously with its surroundings.”
Higgs’ team started building working prototypes of the interface in Adobe XD, pulling together visual elements created in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Through low-fidelity prototypes, designers and other stakeholders can spot clunky, confusing and unnecessary features from a mile away. As a result, they can quickly validate approaches and shorten the design approval process by as much as 50%.
That includes the ability to share high-level features with decision-makers across the organisation. In the past, the design team might spend days or even weeks creating a demo video to show how the interactive screen could look and feel.
“Using XD, we can create demo videos with interactions in 75% less time and we can spin up multiple versions showing different paths if we need to,” says Higgs. “XD gives us an expressive prototype that feels real. This helps us make the vision much clearer and that makes it easier to get buy-in from stakeholders.”
“Design leadership and engineering integrity are our key differentiators and we strive to bring those values to every vehicle we build.”
Professor Gerry McGovern OBE,
Chief Creative Officer, Land Rover
Jaguar Land Rover uses these Adobe products:
Create user experience designs and prototypes for websites, mobile apps, voice, games and much more.
Create scalable logos, icons, drawings, typography and illustrations for print, web, video and mobile.
The big moment: launching the groundbreaking Defender
At the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show, Land Rover revealed the new Defender and its PIVI Pro system — an infotainment system that acts like a smartphone and integrates seamlessly into the car interior. It’s fast and modern and it brings exciting new features for off-road enthusiasts and around-town drivers alike.
“Part of the off-roading experience is getting over rocks or through ruts and it’s really helpful to know which way your wheels are pointing and how to navigate your way through,” says Butler. “PIVI Pro features ClearSight Ground View, which provides a view of the ground underneath the vehicle. It’s brilliant for negotiating tricky terrain and urban environments, with tight turns, high kerbs or narrow gaps.”
Another feature provides a 3D view of the Defender visualised within the camera feature, which mirrors the actual state of the car so the customer has full insight into the car's surroundings. When the driver steps on the brake, the model’s brakes light up. The Land Rover team knew these crowd-pleasing features are hard to demonstrate on the showroom floor, so they came prepared to make the experiences real for audiences.
The new Defender PIVI Pro system shows riders relevant and vital information at-a-glance including car speed or off-road driving sequences.
Using XD with Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro, the design teams created immersive demo videos with animated motion graphics to show audiences what the new Defender could do. People could climb into the car and get the full experience — how the interior looks and feels, how the touch screen operates and what it might be like to take the Defender off-road.
From start to finish, it was a big accomplishment. “PIVI Pro is an all-new system and developing it has been a massive accomplishment,” says Butler. “We have a sense of pride, knowing the amount of effort that went into the Defender to make it just right.”
Land Rover creates the future — by visualising it
Redefining such an iconic vehicle isn’t easy. There are loyal fans to satisfy and new customers to win over. This meant that, for the new Defender, Land Rover needed to strike just the right balance between the past and the future. At that, the carmaker succeeded, largely on the strength of its vision and the ability to clearly express it.
“Creating a strong virtual experience before launching the new Defender was key,” says Higgs. “XD enabled us to pull all the digital elements together to paint a vivid picture of what we wanted to achieve.”
Now designers have the tools to bring digital experiences to life, helping people visualise new possibilities for how occupants interact with cars. For now, they’re continuing to refine and improve the PIVI Pro system, using Adobe XD to prototype updates to the Defender’s software and make sure drivers always have the latest capabilities. That includes voice commands, immediate updates to software and graphics and even AI-driven features, as cars become ever more intelligent and responsive. But Jaguar Land Rover never wants to lose touch with what makes its vehicles special.
“We must remain relevant and desirable in a world undergoing considerable change, while staying true to the essence of the Land Rover brand,” says McGovern. “For us, design leadership and engineering integrity are our key differentiators and we strive to bring those values to every vehicle we build."