Suzuki Motors

Reimagining the way Gen-Z will commute tomorrow

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In the Fall 2018 through Berkeley Innovation to help  Suzuki Motors and their team at the World Innovation Lab (WiL) to conduct research on Gen-Z and give design recommendations for vehicles in the new smart phone era. I worked with Leon Eng, Cherry Wu and Jerome Wang.

The project was separated into 4 major sprints – User Research, Ideation, User Testing and Iteration, and Mid-Fidelity Mockups and Presentation. The entire team worked during all sprints, and I served as the sprint leader for the first sprint organizing and planning research targets and tactics.

The Problem

Suzuki Motors challenged us to identify pain points in the current digital generation's commuting experience, and reinvent a more delightful commuting experience for potential future drivers and/or passengers.

Suzuki has had a long history of success in the Asian markets, though as innovation continues in North and South America the opportunity to grow and become a staple brand in these markets is promising.

Opportunity Areas

The scope of the project was to create recommendations on how Suzuki could make the physical commuting space more delightful for Gen-Z.

Since its invention, the cabin shape and size of vehicles has remained relatively unchanged. Happening simultaneously, the permeation of the smartphone has changed the way consumers interact with each other, their environment, and the companies they buy from.

leading us to arrive at our HMW statement: How might we design a space that gratifies the real needs and attitude of Gen-Z users while they are transported?

Brainstorming the key problem and user group

Brainstorming the key problem and user group

User Research

The goals of our research were to understand:

  1. people’s general commuting routines,

  2. ways that commuting fits into people's schedules,

  3. how people view their experiences with different transportation.


Since research was key to making our recommendation we broke our research into three sections - Secondary research, primary research in the forms of ethnographic observations and interviews, and finally surveys. We focused on high-schoolers, college students, and graduate students mostly in the Bay Area. 

Secondary Research:

Looking to the web our team research regarding innovation in the automotive and transportation industry as well as what trends were affecting in the consumption habits of Gen Z. After analyzing the secondary literature, we have concluded on the three major findings:

  1. Gen Z users love their smart phones and have become essential to almost all activities.

  2. Services based on a shared economy structure have risen to popularity in the past year with Gen Z

  3. Gen Z users are looking for more personalized ways to interact with both technology and reality. Retailers are creating mixes of distribution channels to incorporate the physical into the digital and vice versa.

Primary Research:

Interviews: Our team interviewed 8 undergrads, 17 high schoolers and 4 graduate students. We wanted to compare and contrast commuting rituals across different age groups.

Ethnographic research: Our team took to the streets and observed how people interacted within different forms of transportation. We observed commuters in BART, A/C Bus systems, and Uber pools.

Research Insights

After synthesizing the data from our research we distilled the following insights about commuting as a Gen - Z user:

  • Commuting is a time for personal rituals, most often disconnecting from the world, users enjoyed daydreaming or observing landscapes while commuting.

  • Social norms/cues surrounding communication in transportation affect behavior of users. ie you don’t talk to your Uber driver

  • The quality of a commuting experience is highly dependent on the behavior of fellow commuters.

  • The shorter ‘The First/Last Mile’, is the more ideal the commuting experience.

  • Safety is top of mind, therefore certain modes of transportation (BART) are less desirable.

Pain points:

  • Commuting takes a lot of time

  • No way of knowing which method of commuting is safest

  • Most cars can’t be personalized to include pictures or accessories

  • Commuting interrupts the use of social media, face timing, or watching videos

Beginnings of affinity mapping research

Beginnings of affinity mapping research

separating our research data into buckets

separating our research data into buckets

Finalized Affinity Map

Finalized Affinity Map


Focusing on insights that we gathered from research, we began our ideation phase to create a better space for Gen Z to commute in.

We brainstormed ideas as a team and categorized them accordingly. Then, we voted as a team to select the top design ideas.

To better understand the needs of the current Gen-Z commuters, we conducted a survey and gathered responses and/or further suggestions. Our results of over 75+ respondents showed that users preferences fell under the scopes of (1) Safety/Physical and (2) Inclusive/ Personalization.

Safety/ Physical

  1.  Car system that reminds the driver of 
    proper maintenance (i.e. Change of oil, specifics, pressure)

  2. Interior lights that change according to driver's focus level (i.e Alerts when he/she is falling asleep)

Inclusivity/ Personalization

  1. Facetime and video calling capable windows/ displays

  2. Physical or digital implementation of personal pictures in the car (e.g Built-in picture frame)

ideation & dot voting

ideation & dot voting

Survey Questions

Survey Questions

Initial Sketches

Using the feedback from both our ideation session and the survey went ahead and began to visualize the top recommendations.

Facetime setup in an autonomous car

Facetime setup in an autonomous car

Personalization of interior cabin with personal photos

Personalization of interior cabin with personal photos

Car system with maintenance reminders

Car system with maintenance reminders

interior safety lighting system for drivers

interior safety lighting system for drivers

Final Sketches

After a meeting with our client surrounding our initial sketches, we decided to continue with two recommendations: Personalization of interior cabin and interior safety lighting for drivers.

Our final deliverable consisted of a booklet of research data and insights as well as these final sketches and interior cabin recommendations.

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The instrument cluster will have built in LEDs that pulse when the driver is falling asleep. It detects drowsiness via a driver-facing camera mounted in the gauge cluster.


Interior lighting, positioned in three separate areas. Interior lights help keep the vehicle lit during nighttime, reducing drowsiness. If the vehicle detects drowsiness, the lights will pulse to alert the driver.


A picture frame near the sides of the car can allow for personalized space. Since the car is a relatively dull space, adding a touch of personalization can improve the commuting experience.

Looking back

This was the first time that I worked on a intensive user research project that was mostly exploratory, It was also the largest client I have worked with. I had a lot of fun interviewing and finding new ways Suzuki could be a leader in the automotive space in 20 years. Even though the final sketches were'n’t required of the team for final deliverables, I’m glad we took the time to develop some of our recommendations visually.

Enjoy a cute pic of the team :)