Designing for New Futures

How do you design for an industry that has yet to arrive?

Tom Raith
Tom Raith
Jan 16 · 6 min read

How do you design a brand that will disrupt transportation as we know it — but is still testing and improving its autonomous vehicle technology as you read this?

Meet Cruise. Cruise is creating a self-driving car service for the cities we love. Our mission is to build the most advanced self-driving vehicles to safely connect people with the places, things, and experiences they care about.

To reflect our growing ambitions as a business, we partnered with Moving Brands, an independent, global creative and innovation business, to redesign the Cruise brand identity to be able to represent future services, and even businesses, in this emerging industry.

The first step: take a good look in the mirror.

Our first step was to take a good look at the original Cruise brand identity system. The brand identity had its redeeming qualities — the brand voice was bold, the color palette reflected San Francisco (the city in which we were founded), and the system even had fun Easter egg moments like the Binary Code under the wordmark that says “robot car.” That said, we felt there was an opportunity for the system to be even more distinctive, flexible, and better equipped to scale with the business and flex across mediums. Just as importantly, we wanted to make sure it could accommodate multi-sensory touchpoints.

Identify relevant visual design patterns.

What stood out: there was an opportunity to draw inspiration from relevant categories but design something as new and differentiated as the self-driving ride service we’re creating.

Explore new territories — with brand strategy as your guide.

We kept two main elements of our brand strategy in mind as we started to explore: 1) Our focus on improving life in cities, 2) Our ambition to shape a new future of transportation. This way, we could explore freely — without getting lost.

We created unique visual design “territories” that could potentially deliver on our ambitions as a brand while being conscious of established visual design patterns.

Every territory explored a different idea or way of approaching the brand identity. “The journey”, for example, explored how the concept of getting from “A to B” will be forever changed because travel will be less mundane. Since we won’t be the ones driving, we’ll actually be able to use travel time for fulfilling pursuits like connecting with a loved one or even reading a book.

While there was richness in virtually every territory, we kept coming back to those two components in the brand strategy that inspired us and ultimately helped guide us in choosing a single territory to pursue.

Inspired by our ambition to work with fellow city lovers to shape our cities for the better in the 21st century, we selected a territory: “In harmony with the city.”

This territory drew inspiration from the community minded ideals of civic design — but gave us the potential to do it in a new way.

Define your design principles.

Open: it should feel freeing, inclusive, and expansive in its reach.

Uplifting: it should feel elevated in its form, mood, and expression.

Sculpted: it should feel as if it’s shaped from the built environment.

With our design principles established, we created new identity forms by sketching in different materials: motion, physical form, 3D models (knowing our deliverables needed to be multisensory). What we discovered was that we loved the bold simplicity of civic design, and that motion and 3-D were ideal for communicating ideas about modernity, mobility, even the play of daylight in the city. So what if we combined the best of both?

Think beyond today’s landscape.

We ultimately landed on an identity that reflects who we are as a business and our aspirations for the future. An identity that is sculpted — built like the physical environment we operate in — and also open and uplifting, like our vision for the cities we hope to shape in the 21st century.

We don’t have a logo per se. Instead, we created a symbol whose interplay of shadow and light reflects the different times of day in a built urban environment. This also makes the symbol responsive to different mediums, inputs, and senses.

Our colors are born from our home, San Francisco. Our core color, Presidio, is inspired by our city’s iconic architecture. The other core colors in our identity are asphalt (of course) and colors that represent what we hope to help create in future cities we operate in: clean air, water, and light. We’ve also developed a color strategy that can expand to the new cities we operate in and reflect that city’s unique personality, enabling us to show up as an integrative part of the fabric of the community.

Currently, we’re busy extending the new Cruise identity system across channels and mediums: from our car’s exterior and communications, to our app, in-car experience, physical spaces, events, and beyond. What’s more, we’re designing for a variety of new multisensory touchpoints to come, including experiences that have yet to be created — for an industry that has yet to arrive.

We look forward to sharing more Cruise brand design work in the near future.

Join us.


Cruise is building the world’s most advanced self-driving vehicles to safely connect people with the places, things and experiences they care about. Join us in solving the engineering challenge of a generation:

Tom Raith

Written by

Tom Raith

Director of Brand Design at Cruise. From San Francisco, CA.



Cruise is building the world’s most advanced self-driving vehicles to safely connect people with the places, things and experiences they care about. Join us in solving the engineering challenge of a generation:

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