Colour & Trim

Colour & Trim

Cadillac Lyriq

Crisp, clean with a beguiling sense of movement, Cadillac’s colour and trim team pushed the brand into new territory for its first EV – Lyriq

“What’s so exciting and engaging for me about the LYRIQ is that it’s really the vision of the new design language for Cadillac on its first EV,” says Cadillac colour and trim design manager Jennifer Widrick. “It’s setting a precedent for everything going forward. As a designer, there’s the fantasy and then there’s the job of bringing that fantasy to life for customers. There are a lot of very exciting trim options that we’re exploring for production.”

The cabin of the LYRIQ concept bristles with experimental colour and trim touches, from the delicate tiny beads sewn into the seat leather to the intricately back-lit, open-pore black ash veneer of the door cards. But before we get into the detail of that detailed interior, Widrick takes time to highlight the significance and technical nature of another crucial part of her job - the exterior’s complex paint colour.

“One of the team’s specific ideas about colour in relation to this car was having this connection to nature,” Widrick explains. “The exterior colour is a breath of fresh air, it’s very crisp and clean. The imagery in the designers’ minds was about being out on the water in Seattle, cutting through the fog and the mist. Getting this crystal-like appearance on the exterior really highlights the bodyside, its length and its motion. In person it has this extreme purity, which I think most people would call white. But it’s right on that borderline of white and silver. The paint takes on both tones and has a few more layers than a normal finish. It also has ‘travel’, by which I mean how the colour moves as you’re looking at it.” 

The official photos of the LYRIQ concept taken at dusk outside General Motors’ famous Technical Center designed by the world-famous archi-tect Eero Saarinen show this ‘whiteness’ off to good effect.

The interior of the LYRIQ also boasts unique colour and trim applications. The main cabin colour is called ‘juniper’ – after the evergreen tree and bush – and it is certainly another complex hue. “It has a lot of depth, almost a very dark blue/green,” says Widrick. “It is a colour pulled from the natural environment and offers great reflections but its darkness also allows all of the LYRIQ interior’s metal parts to stand out creating multiple ‘reads’. You see this graphic that encompasses some of the technology in the vehicle first. Then on the second read you see the jewelry of the components. Our designers pulled inspiration from watch-making and other detailed products to inform them on how to treat these important elements that our customers interact with on a daily basis.” 

"The imagery in the designers’ minds was about being out on the water in Seattle, cutting through the fog and the mist"

Apart from a nod to nature, Widrick says this new dark juniper colour has relevance to Cadillacs of the past too. “If you look back into Cadillac history I would say that the brand has a precedent of using more expressive with colours, so it’s a space we’re absolutely interested in exploring. This new juniper straddles that line between just enough colour – it’s very soothing, calming and peaceful – without being distracting. You’re still able to focus on the execution of the design, the excellent technology and appreciate all of the details. It’s how to offer a colour experience, but not go too far with it.”

It’s perhaps relevant to note that the finish on the dark juniper-coloured areas is not over-slick and shiny and nor too are the metallic areas of ‘brightwork’ that punctuate it. Historically, Cadillac has periodically erred towards the very shiny but Widrick didn’t feel that was appropriate for the LYRIQ and its new design language. “It is toned down, not a hard chrome, but more of a polished look,” she says. “It does have some lustre to it, but it’s not matte. The knurling you see on the controller is emulated around the vehicle on touch points as well as behind the main screen to draw your eye in and create interest. We’re very careful when we have a matte colour like the juniper to really set it off, getting the right hierarchy of finishes all working in harmony. For instance, all the highlights in the car have a polish which doesn’t dominate the high-gloss islands where the technology is situated.”  

This toned-down approach is evident in the door card panels too. Once most luxury automotive wood inlays would have been covered in a thick high-gloss lacquer – partly to ensure their longevity but also for aesthetic reasons where shiny equated to expensive. By contrast, the LYRIQ show car offers a more modern, understated black ash, open-pore wood veneer finish, made possible due to new less-shiny and thinner lac-quers that still offer very effective protection. This approach, where the natural texture of the wood can be appreciated by a customer’s hand, has started to appear on car interiors by several upscale brands within the last half-decade, but Cadillac’s designers have really gone the extra mile with what can be achieved. On the LYRIQ the black ash veneer top layer features laser-etched holes, under which is placed a thin layer of laser-etched aluminium. Then both materials are back-lit. The result is a very high quality look and one with tangible depth. “It gives an ‘inside and outside’ mood and feeling, which is really a step forward in terms of how we might treat decor on our interiors,” says Widrick. “It is certainly these types of details that are pulled from interior design and architecture, that inform how we bring new experiences to the LYRIQ.”

Like other designers on the Cadillac team Widrick loves the integration of intricate details in the LYRIQ – such as the aforementioned storage liner material made of an eye-catching bright blue suede-like material. “Opening the drawer we wanted it to be as if you were revealing a space where you might place something precious,” says Widrick. “We called the colour of that material ‘juniper berry’ and used it throughout the interior, even embroidered down the centre of the seats ending in a bright anodised metal bead.” The detailed photograph of the bead at the end of several parallel rows of embroidered lines on the seating shows it off perfectly and looks exquisite, but also appears to be potentially a bit uncomfortable and impractical? Widrick says not, explaining that the bead has been placed carefully, with extremely soft leather around it, to protect the user from catching their clothing on it, while also protecting the bead itself.

This juniper berry blue can even be spied within the floor-mounted centre console storage area below the IP, at first seemingly just a highlight within a pinstriped pattern within the floor of the storage bin itself. There’s a lot more to this flooring detail though, as Widrick explains: “This surface is actually constructed from the scraps of leather left over from constructing the seats and from trimming the interior, so there was nothing wasted in this vehicle. The designers found a place to use everything and created something beautiful out of these additional pieces. If you touch its surface it feels like a solid piece, but there is leather and aluminium stacked up and tightly packed in vertical lines in there, as well as the translucent blue acrylic pieces that help create a feeling of depth.” 

It’s undoubtedly an intriguing and smart look and when you understand the sustainable way it’s been made, a laudable one too. Indeed, the ap-proach is similar to the black ash veneer, previously mentioned on the door panels but also applied to the seatbacks, and at a scale more typical-ly associated with much more expensive, intensively hand-crafted cars, like those from Rolls-Royce for instance. Widrick acknowledges as much, but encouragingly says that in time, a production-feasible version of these large-scale ash veneers akin to the concept’s seatbacks, is not out of the question. “There are certainly ways to achieve all different levels of veneer, but the attractive thing about ash is that it’s fast-growing and ethically harvested, which means they would have grown the trees for this application. The ash is quite big so you can create large pieces in a sustainable way. We’ve treated its open pore with a dark stain to create a beautiful clean surface. That’s consistent with customer feedback wanting to feel that very natural accent.”

"This new juniper colour straddles that line between just enough colour – it’s very soothing, calming and peaceful – without being distracting"

Framed or in some cases bisected by strips of metal, whether on the seatbacks or on the rear-loading cargo floor, these elements of the colour and trim design package not only elevate the luxury feel of the cabin but also act as ways of understanding the space, as Widrick concludes: “For the interior it’s all about the lines and the length of the vehicle. All these lines converge, from those metal ones on the seatbacks to the rails on the trunk floor going forward to create a sense of motion. These straight lines move you to the front and there, in the instrument panel area, we’re really using colour and deco to move your eyes around the vehicle.”