Using UX Design to Create Functional Fashion for Seated Mobility

February 7, 2018

Last month, five UX designers from Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America (MBRDNA) and Mercedes-Benz Vans Future Transportation partnered with Mercedes-Benz USA and Daimler Trucks North America participated in a workshop with members of Bezgraniz Couture’s “Fashion Without Borders” on fashion design for seated mobility in Sunnyvale, CA.

At first glance, there may seem to have vast differences between a wheelchair user and commercial vehicle driver. However, it turns out they do have something in common when it comes to clothing: traditional designed clothes are made primarily for standing and walking positions, and not for long-term sitting. Given this challenge, the aim of the workshop was to create prototypes of functional and fashionable clothes for people who spend most of their time seated.

Frederick Porche, a commercial driver, and Ann Yoshida, a wheelchair user, provided the team insights into their specific needs and what they ideally want from clothing to be functional for them.

Frederick spends most of his day sitting behind the wheel, moving in and out of the truck for deliveries, therefore requesting comfort – no cutting in, no pinching, no pieces that can get caught – as well as durability because his job involves a lot of movement between sitting behind the wheel, getting in and out of the van, and kneeling to grab packages from the back of the trunk.

Similar needs also applied to Ann, who not only needs comfortable and stylish clothes, but also an easy way to change into them. Ann wanted an outfit that would be allow her to move her arms freely, fit her style, and of course, comfortable. She also mentioned the struggle of getting in and out of clothes, and hoped for an easy solution that would shorten the time she needed to get dressed.

“It was an excellent exercise for UX Designers, because it works really well with what we usually do: solving problems,” said Kristina Adam, UX Designer at MBRDNA. “This experience has been a great inspiration to take back to my everyday tasks and projects. As a Designer, we often assume we know what users need, but when we actually see them using our products or ask them about our ideas, we find the opposite to be true. It was so valuable to have Frederick and Ann be there for every step of the process to validate our decisions and adjust accordingly.”

Though our designers don’t create designs for fashion on a daily basis, they do continually create technologies within Mercedes-Benz vehicles to become more personal and human, playing an integral role in bringing the Mercedes-Benz digital solution to life.

“User Experience Design is all about giving users the best experience possible,” said Adam. “Everything we design is about making people’s lives easier and creating solutions to their problems. Whenever we start creating a new generation, or even just a new feature for in-car interfaces, we look at what our users need.”

“Our designers are all about the user experience and enjoyed solving for something as different as wearables with the human centered design approach and the ability to talk directly to the end user,” said Markus Kothner, Senior UX Producer at MBRDNA. “It was an ideal experience to combine approaches of how something works with how it looks.”

MBRDNA will continue to participate in similar workshops to challenge and inspire our employees to create innovative technology for Mercedes-Benz vehicles, the customers and the world around them.