BMW i8

Configure simplicity

A simple minimalistic car configurator designed for simplicity, clearness and developed with unreal engine 4
The future of high end product advertisement is moving quickly into real time 3D graphics, Virtual and augmented reality.

We just need to invest more resources to make its happeal more marketable, and design with usability in mind, so that everyone in the near future will be able to use this technology without the need of powerful but expensive machines.


Learn to “blueprint”

Design, develop and present a car configurator that simplifies the vehicle customization, while still generating interest in the audience
and is able to stand tall against more technical but less artistic and inspired competitors.
The challenge given a background in graphic design, Ui and 3D Design was being able to translate that knowledge into Unreal Engine 4 while also learning blueprint visual scripting language.
A previous knowledge of basic javascript language turned out to be quite useful to face this challenge and understand better how to
approach the tasks ahead.
Given the fact that this is a personal project I had to manage the time outside office hours, this is why planning a strategy was mandatory.
I had to define also a level of priorities in order to maintain efficiency and allow myself to complete all the tasks and relative courses in
a reasonable time frame.


Who are we aiming for?

I started out the project by conducting an initial user research to find out the target user for the bmwi8, finding out information on how it drives, the buyers demographic, where it sold the most and what are the best aspects which made it one of the best selling bmw models.

I then defined what are the most common pain points or frustrations in dealing with car configurator, aligned with what someone who’s looking not just for a sports car but for something more, and especially electric.


Task management

Being a designer my focus was more on the visual side of the development, but since I also wanted to make a working app and not just a presentation, one of my duties was also scripting in UE4.
I started with a simple sketch that I later translated into Adobe XD to develop a working prototype, and the transition animation.

Other responsabilities included the BMWi8 3d model optimisation for real time, environment design and development, lighting, shading and rendering.


Time’s the limit

The scope of the project was to develop a configurator in unreal engine 4 without the online implementation, but just as a working application.
The only constraints I had were my knowledge of scripting language and my time as a freelance. I game myself about a month and a half including the time taken by the course to study UE4, and a limited budget to acquire external resources and plugins in case time wasn’t going to be enough.
The rest I had to either script, develop or design myself.

I managed to stay within the time frame I set for myself fortunately, even though I had some setbacks in modeling and scripting.
The final result given these constraints, came out as expected.
Given more time and resources I would have definetly implemented more details in the UI and for the overall UX, having more time to learn new
techniques and understanding better UE4 scripting.


What about the development?

After analyzing the user persona i followed the process I always use when designing a new project. I started first sketching with pen and paper the main design blocks of the project; at this stage I usually work on as many ideas as possible, always keeping in mind the core principles and target audience. I already do a simple round of user testing at this stage just to slim down the choices and focus the development on what works best.
I then moved to prototyping with Adobe XD withouth too much interactions and just placeholder images. Now I begun to simply the design even further, aiming for a fluent navigation stripped down to the minimum.

The user testing with the Ui protoype turned out to be challenging, going back and fort adjusting the design and getting the message across, but helpful nontheless.
Once that was taken care of was time to move to the actual development in UE4.
As stated already I had to follow courses in order to get myself up to speed with the software, real time development and blueprints.
I managed to develop my car configurator thanks also to the great unreal community
online and a vast library of customizable assets and plugins.


Final thoughts

The process was challenging and demanding, the coding part could use some refinement, but given time constraints the detailed process of planning ahead and defining priorities helped to keep the project focused on the goal and within the time schedule given.

As a result of this experience, I also learned that when designing a configurator with an uncommon interface, starting with user feedback as early as possible really helps things to go smoothly down the line.