TRENDS | Ford’s Robert Gelardi talks Infotainment and Interior Design at 2012 Ward’s Auto Conference

At the 2012 Ward’s Auto Interior Conference on May 17, Ford Design Manager ( and contributor ) Robert Gelardi spoke about how in-car technology derived from infotainment features will help re-shape interior design architecture. Gelardi noted how today’s millenial consumer base is proving to be apathetic towards cars in stark contrast with older generations. The combination of social networking, a fast-turnaround consumer electronic product cycle, and environmental, traffic, and economical/energy factors in today’s culture have all but erased the emotional attachment and attraction to the freedom and independence the automobile once stood for.

The solution, he says, is to make better use of the technologies both in infotainment and consumer electronics at the start of the project and to influence the basic architecture and volumetric development of the interior design. Doing so, he says, will not only engage the apathetic millenials, but also create the next Audi TT-style paradigm shift in interior design.

Gelardi showed how even though everyone is trying to forge their own path in right equation for infotainment technology, the basic framework of the interior design remains fairly constant. He illustrated this with a simple infographic showing that the left-right formula for every interior is: a/c vent, gauge cluster, center a/c vents, centerstack w/ HMI screen, and passenger a/c vent. His next slide showed different contemporary interiors all follow the same basic formula. With craftsmanship and materials formula pretty much discovered by everyone in the industry, the next differentiating factor is technology. Gelardi then demonstrated how this is the next logical course of events, showing that from the 1950s new-age pushbutton appliances, to 1980’s computer age, to the 2000s perceived quality age, the next big thing will also be culturally relevant to modern society or face extinction.

Ward’s Auto World’s David Zoia sums it up pretty nicely here, and also includes info from the two other panelists which accompanied Robert, Jason Diehl from Cadillac’s CUE design team, and Susan Drescher, product manager of instrumentation and driver HMI at Continental.

Robert Gelardi can be reached here on Autodesign or at his website,

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