You fall in love with a vehicle’s exterior design, but you have to live within its interior, automotive stylists like to say. So, there’s been a lot of emphasis on cabin design in recent years.
Honda is set to debut an all-new interior design approach when it brings the all-new 2022 Civic sedan to market, though one has to hope it is more elegant than the theme the Japanese automaker has come up with, “simplicity and ‘something.’”
“This really means that interior design is about the people inside the vehicle, not just design that calls out itself,” explains Johnathan Norman, the creative lead for Honda Interior Design in the U.S.
Keep it simple, stupid
The approach harkens back to that long-running Honda advertising theme, “We make it simple,” Norman said, adding the new approach “reinforces our original, human-centered values while adding a touch of modernity.”
A lot has happened since Honda first made a name for itself with products like the 1981 Civic. The 2022 sedan will clearly need to integrate modern features like a steering wheel with built-in controls, as well as a large infotainment screen. But the challenge, according to Norman, is to “reduce visual noise that can distract from the driving experience.”
Among other things, that means making it easier for a motorist to operate the vehicle without having to take their eyes off the road.
Key design cues
The designer points to four key elements to the new Honda interior design approach:
- It starts with a physical volume knob (and, based on preliminary images, may also include a tuning knob, as well;
- Large icons on the infotainment screen that are easy to recognize and operate;
- A fast microprocessor that minimizes lag time, or latency; and
- A navigation menu with fewer levels for a motorist to have to dig down through.
Honda isn’t laying out all of its cars ahead of the ’22 Civic’s debut, but the system also is expected to use a more advanced voice control system that is easier to operate using common speech, rather than precise — and often arcane — commands.
Technology has been the game changer
Coming up with a good look means that interior and exterior designers have to work together, Norman points out. That’s the only way to get thin pillars, a low cowl and a large greenhouse enhancing visibility.
Honda is by no means the only automaker taking a new approach to interior design. Manufacturers as diverse as Mazda and Mercedes-Benz are looking for cabin layouts that are both effective and clearly tying into their individual brand DNA.
Technology has become essential, especially in the form of digital displays. That‘s particularly obvious at the high end of the market where Mercedes and Cadillac, among others, are introducing designs that cover virtually the entire instrument panel with electronic monitors.
For now, at least, Honda is taking a simpler approach, one that it hopes Civic customers will be able to connect with.