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Honda Interface Exhibition

Fri, 11 Apr 2008

Ginza, Tokyo - Honda recently had a small exhibition to show their progression of IP and binnacle design. Situated in the design gallery of Matsuya, one of Tokyo's premier department stores, it included a chronology of Honda dashboards from the first Civic to tomorrow's FCX. Opposite this was a grid of recesses, which each contained dials taken from the current range of Honda road cars.

The topmost floor of Matsuya has been showcasing art and design since 1953, but this is the first time Honda has displayed here. Operating Officer General Manager Styling Design Development Division Nobuki Ebisawa states ‘the concepts of Honda Design, ‘at-a-glance recognition' and ‘intuitive control', suggest the vehicle interior as a space for providing an interface between vehicle and passengers' the show highlighting the meter as a symbol of at-a-glance recognition, and how Honda's designers are fusing high visibility with 'new sensation'.

The commentary supporting the time-line explained how the IP has progressed over the past thirty or so years, though limited space meant only photos were used to illustrate these points. Kicking off the comments were the '72 Civic and '76 Accord, whose interiors featured the concept of zoned instruments and 'a symbolic representation of alphanumeric characters for better operability and visibility.' These concepts originate today's Honda Design interface philosophy of 'at-a-glance recognition and intuitive control'.

Further up the scale, it was interesting to note how the '85 Legend and the NSX had to deal with top speeds in excess of 120mph, in their instances introducing satellite switchgear near the wheel and a simpler, larger centre console. But when the Legend came to be replaced in 1990, the evolution of navigation systems proved the dominant factor in determining IP design, having to accommodate screen-based maps.

The binnacles opposite were cast into black holes and wired-up so as to fully impress the 3D effect pushed by Honda. This is one of their main design themes, and having gauges taken from a line-up as diverse as Honda's made interesting viewing to compare. One memorable example is the binnacle from the Honda Life K-car, which includes a birthday message(!), while the Elysion MPV features a deep 3D effect using 'virtual illumination technology'.

The caption supporting the dials of the new Fit/Jazz briefly mentions its hair-line texture, but otherwise the focus here was graphic design -though no explanation why this and the Life have orange characters, while all other models stick with blue/white. Both the four- and five-door Civic models had their graphics on display, marking different demands of different markets - the four-door is global, the five just Europe, and it is this that has greater emphasis on performance, highlighting the tachometer and mounting it coaxially with the gauges, the speedo separate. In this respect Honda Design has come full circle -it was the '78 Prelude that also mounted its dials coaxially to minimise eye-movement thus increasing vision for better 'handleability'.

Related Article:
Design Essay: Instrument Panel Architecture 

By Takeshi Sato