What is Waymo?
Founded in 2009, Waymo LLC is an autonomous driving technology company innovating a “new way forward in mobility.” It was previously known as the Google Self-Driving Car Project, and is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. (the parent company of Google). Waymo currently has two subdivisions; Waymo One focuses on rideshare technology, and Waymo Via targets the transport of commercial goods.
For the majority of its history, Waymo has focused on research & development. As it now evolves into a commercial entity (available to the public), Waymo is reevaluating its brand identity and searching for ways to connect with customers (primarily younger generations) through its branding and product experience.
As a design consultant, I worked with my teammates and project managers to conduct research and create deliverables for Waymo’s design team. During bi-weekly check-ins, we presented our findings, ideas, and designs to our points of contact, and then utilized their feedback and follow-up questions to guide us through more brainstorming and iteration. At the end of the semester, we presented one final deliverable with detailed research findings, brand mockups, and key recommendations.
After understanding the current challenges and goals of Waymo’s brand design team, we started our project by asking:
To analyze Waymo’s areas of opportunity, we conducted competitor analysis on six main competitors spanning both autonomous vehicle companies and traditional rideshare alternatives.
Lack of privacy & peace of mind are primary weaknesses of traditional rideshare (untrustworthy drivers, social anxiety).
Other major autonomous vehicle companies acquire users through appealing to personal connection and partnerships that bring them to where consumers already are.
While younger generations value practicality, they also love companies with unique experiences & customizable options.
After the competitor analysis, our team decided on a few key design deliverables to turn our research into specific, tangible recommendations that would target Waymo’s pain points.
Brand Refresh Campaign Mockups
Research Data Visualizations
New Photography Style Mood Boards
What are Waymodes?
After presenting our research, one question the Waymo team asked was “how can we incorporate a unique experience into our actual product?”. Upon hearing the question, I remembered a specific dressing room experience I had where I was able to customize the room’s lighting & mood. Inspired by it and our conversation with Waymo, I created a mockup of “Waymodes” as a feature proposal.
“Pick your Waymode” gives passengers 4 distinct modes to pick from during their ride. Depending on the mode selected, the Waymo car will automatically adjust the lighting, noise cancelling, and bluetooth features accordingly. This creates a unique, human-centered passenger experience while encouraging people to take advantage of the freedom and peace of mind that Waymo offers. Singing or sleeping isn’t something most would with traditional ridesharing, and working isn’t something we can do while driving, so I believe it is crucial to utilize what Waymo has against other alternatives and to turn it into an experience in and of itself.
Customizable, human-centered ride experience
Allows passengers to take advantage of Waymo’s privacy and safety assurance in a memorable way
Unique in-car experiences unable to be replicated by traditional ridesharing apps or by driving yourself
Tailored Car Interiors
To integrate the car screen features with the physical vehicle, each "Waymode" would be accompanied by a tailored car interior setting. Based on the selected mode, the Waymo car will automatically adjust the lighting, noise cancelling, and bluetooth features accordingly.
Normal Lighting & Bluetooth On
Lights Off & Noise Cancelling On
Lights On & Noise Cancelling On
Default Waymo Settings
As many of Waymo’s platforms already dive into their safety technologies, our goal was to create marketing campaigns focused on getting people to connect with Waymo and to view it as a genuine and exciting brand. Despite the weaknesses of traditional ridesharing, most rides are “safe enough” that many people won’t go out of their way to try something possibly better without a personal connection to the brand. The following two designs are my portion of the design deliverable.
Focuses on the advantages of the Waymo passenger experience rather than Waymo as a company.
Directly explaining advantages (“designated driver”, “you time”) rather than using flowery but vague phrases
Candid photography rather than orchestrated photos to illustrate the effortlessness of an enjoyable Waymo experience
A billboard campaign featuring tailored, relatable text for each city.
Tangible activities emphasizing Waymo-specific experiences passengers can’t recreate through traditional rideshare apps or by driving themselves.
Clear and concise text with passenger photos for more impact and resonance.
Before our final deliverable, I had a fear that the idea of “Waymodes” could be too out-of-the-box and difficult to implement. However, Waymo’s positive feedback and overall like of the idea showed me that fresh perspectives and possibly unconventional ideas are always welcome in the industry. For future branding/campaign projects, I’d also love to experiment with creating more designs that create a statement in and of itself (creating “viralbility“ without using text).
Experience-wise, this was a super fun project for me as it was my first time working with an autonomous vehicle company! I learned so much about the AV field (my team knows that now I’ll always cheer when I see a Waymo car roaming around San Francisco :)) and really enjoyed getting to talk to Waymo’s brand designers and learning about the thought processes behind every choice.