June 4, 2019

Rethinking Smartcar's brand: to infinity and beyond

Sydney Palumbo

Software Engineer

“You decreased the blur radius on your button shadows, didn't you? No, no, that's not it — it's the fonts. Definitely the fonts. Or maybe it's the third accent color...”

Has something about us looked a little different to you lately? Good eye! 🕵️‍♀️ 👀

A few weeks ago, Smartcar's brand got a major facelift. We've always striven for clean, sleek, and simple design, but over the last few months, we felt like something was missing. We wanted our potential customers to have a better sense of our true identity as a company. We wanted them to see our landing page and immediately think: “That's Smartcar!”

Our previous homepage design was clean and simple, but we felt like something was missing.

Empowering developers 🚀

At Smartcar, our mission is to empower developers to shape the future of mobility. We want to inspire the next generation of apps that transform the way we think about transportation and everything connected to it. In a way, creating the first and only standard API for cars has made us trailblazers, but we believe that our developers will be the most important trailblazers of all. Because of this, our brand should instill a sense of empowerment and inspiration.

As Smartcar's API allows apps to interact with vehicles in an innovative and transformative way, we also want to convey a sense of trust and security. Cars are incredibly important to individuals' daily lives, and we expect them to behave in a safe and reliable manner. Thus, we identified the following key element to guide our design process: empowering developers to build a better, safer future of mobility.

Our new homepage design aims to empower developers to build the future of mobility.

Establishing a brand for the (retro)future 🔮

Once we had established a clear vision for Smartcar's new brand, it was time to translate these ideas into visual designs. We wanted to stand out from other popular tech brands that feature colorful illustrations of cartoon people, which you might have seen one too many times. We wanted to convey a sense of professional identity, while at the same time allowing our fresh, authentic personality to shine through. “What could we draw inspiration from?” we asked.

Down the street from our office in Mountain View, CA is the NASA Ames Research Center. Over the years, NASA has commissioned numerous pieces of artwork to capture “the emotions of exploration, such as excitement and uncertainty, in a way in which history could look back and fully appreciate all that the agency had achieved.” The NASA Art Program cultivated a sense of “pride and shared accomplishment” between the public and the agency — it helped shape the way Americans thought about their place in space, in the future, and in history.

To us at Smartcar, that seemed pretty cool. It got us thinking: how could we use this as a blueprint for creating our own unique, exciting, inspiring, and enduring brand? Then we found retrofuturism — the style of many NASA illustrations. It's defined as follows:

Retrofuturism is a movement in the creative arts showing the influence of depictions of the future produced in an earlier era. If futurism is sometimes called a 'science' bent on anticipating what will come, retrofuturism is the remembering of that anticipation. Characterized by a blend of old-fashioned "retro styles" with futuristic technology, retrofuturism explores the themes of tension between past and future, and… empowering effects of technology.

“This is perfect,” we thought. A few years ago, people may have seen technologies like Smartcar's API as a distant vision of the future. But now, it actually exists. Our design could help people see Smartcar as part of the future — an exciting, revolutionary technology that would power innovative changes in the mobility landscape. So, we decided to take cars to space! 👩‍🚀 🌖

Our new homepage design is taking cars to space! Our illustrations are inspired by retrofuturism.

What's to come 🔭

We hope that you'll enjoy looking at our new brand as much as we enjoyed building it. Over the next few weeks, keep an eye out as we're applying the new design to every part of the Smartcar experience — from the doc center to the dashboard to the blog and beyond. Look closely, and you might even find an alien or two! 👽

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