Defining a brand sound and user experience for electric cars
With the release of the Mustang Mach-E, an all-electric SUV, engineers and designers at Ford have been thinking holistically about sound and user experience inside and outside the vehicle. As the automaker’s first foray into sonic branding, Ford set out to create sounds that would serve functional needs while also introducing distinct brand moments into the ride. Just as the original Mustang’s signature engine sound was physically calibrated to convey a sense of power and be immediately recognizable roaring down the road, the Mustang Mach-E is designed with that potent legacy in mind, but adapted to the comparatively quiet environment of an electric car.
“Sound quality is a powerful indication of vehicle quality, overall performance, and is a strong proof point for the Ford brand. Having been involved in the development of the car sounds for Mustang and F-150 over the years, it was a big opportunity for me and the team to design the sound for the first electric Mustang.” — Brian Schabel, Propulsion Sound Design Technical Expert, Ford Motor Company
To design the engine sound, Ford sought out inspiration across a wide spectrum of sources, from Hollywood movie trailers and amusement park rides to Formula-E race series and conventional internal combustion engine sounds. With new regulatory requirements mandating that all electric vehicles emit a sound when traveling at speeds below 18 miles per hour, the design constraints also provided an opportunity to reimagine the Mustang engine sound and still live up to consumers’ deeply ingrained expectations. The final result merges futuristic textures with elements of the classic Mustang sound to create something unexpected and fresh while staying true to the brand.
Beyond the engine sound, the in-vehicle experience is defined by a set of unique, customizable driving modes, called Engage, Whisper, and Unbridled. Each mode changes the dynamic within the interior of the car through a unique sensory experience. Ambient lighting, on-display animations, and sounds are crafted to suit the all-electric environment and distinguish between different driving modes. These sensory cues also enhance the perception of high performance and provide direct feedback on the car’s operation.
“In the sanctuary that is our vehicle, there is no better way to enhance the experience than by crafting clear sonic and visual languages via messaging, alerts, and branding. The fusion of sound and visuals in a holistic, thoughtful way will truly lead us to the future of in-vehicle experiences.” — Brian Caiazza, Experience Designer, Ford Motor Company
By introducing an all-electric version of a car that’s been synonymous with high performance combustion engines for over half a century, Ford has demonstrated a willingness to rethink the brand to meet consumer’s evolving needs and expectations. This disruptive approach extends across the design and development process, with sounds implemented in the Mustang Mach-E shaping the future direction of sonic and sensory experience as more vehicles across the entire Ford lineup shift to electric.
Written by Paul Amitai, Executive Strategy Director
Published June 2020
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