July 4, 2022

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Take a look at the new Ioniq 5 and you’ll find nostalgic pixels everywhere.

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Senior Design Manager of Exteriors at Hyundai Design Brad Arnold said he left “no pixel untouched” in a phone interview with me. The design theme communicates that Hyundai has zoomed into the last pixel, he said, indicating that they have paid attention to the details.

“It’s nostalgic to eight-bit video games and there is a very playful aspect of it,” Arnold said. “In design, we deal in high-res Photoshop images all the time but if you zoom in closely, it’s basically a bunch of pixels.”

While drawing on emotions was unintentional, Arnold said, the design relates to different generations at various levels. If you’re a child of the 80s or 90s, you remember Atari and primitive PC-based games like Oregon Trail. For a younger audience, it’s Minecraft. Arnold says the Ioniq’s design plays on what was a historical element and remixes it. Think Kygo’s remix of the Whitney Houston version of “Higher Love:” it’s evocative of a certain period of time, but different.  

Once you start looking around, you’ll start seeing the pixels everywhere: on the door sill, in the seat pattern, adorning the lay-back front seat controls. Where it’s most striking, I think, is on the steering wheel. The vast majority of brands place their logo right in the center of the wheel so there is no mistaking what you’re driving. Hyundai decided to use four well-spaced pixel squares in the center to stay on theme. Andrew Moir, Hyundai senior design manager for interiors, told me that wasn’t an easy decision, at first.

“Internally, there was some resistance because there was a perception that when you’re proud of your brand, you put it on the steering wheel,” he said. “But we kind of feel we want the whole vehicle to explain that it’s Hyundai, not just a badge.”

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