AUSTIN, TX--(Marketwired - Mar 13, 2017) - Art and communication company SpecialGuest today announced a collaboration with NIO U.S., a next-generation, electric and autonomous car company. Unveiled during this year's South by Southwest festival, the collaboration is a part of a larger effort for NIO to produce vehicles for U.S. consumers in 2020. 

NIO tapped SpecialGuest as a key creative partner to support the design of its in-car digital experience for the U.S. market. SpecialGuest collaborated with NIO to help design and prototype NIO's user interface, user experience and soundscape, resulting in a sophisticated user experience at the intersection of utility and visual art.

"It's been a dream job, not just because we got to develop an autonomous car interface from scratch, but because the NIO team are baller designers themselves," said Aaron Duffy, Co-Founder/Creative Lead of SpecialGuest. "We became one team. We love when tech development, communication, and production experimentation all blend together. The autonomous driving experience has the potential to scare people if the design is cold or the story isn't told correctly. With NIO, we got to transcend the sci-fi concept car world and create something warm, inviting, human and even classic." SpecialGuest partnered with Midnight Commercial on tech innovation and human-computer interaction.

NIO also tapped SpecialGuest to help manifest the in-car user experience in a way SXSW attendees could experience and be moved by. The resulting creative concepts feature an immersive, simulated driving experience within an interactive car pod, which in turn is featured alongside a living room style gallery installation with the UI displayed as visual art on the walls. Together, the installation illustrates a fluidity (or commute) between home, vehicle, work, and play.

Inside the car pod, attendees interact with a novel car user interface and video driving experience, starting in manual drive before proceeding to autonomous drive. When in autonomous drive, attendees have the option to toggle between several different experiences, including Map Mode, Calls Mode, Timeline Mode, Music Mode, Movies Mode and Zen Mode.

"NIO is showcasing what digital experiences will be in a vehicle designed from the ground up for autonomy," said Alex Castellarnau, Vice President UX/UI, NIO U.S. "Our mission is to give people time back and the freedom to be everything they want to be. SpecialGuest helped us bring this core notion to an in-car experience that places people at the center."

SpecialGuest also collaborated to create an experience film expressing NIO's vision for autonomy as a way to bring your favorite spot with you wherever you go, debuted during NIO CEO Padmasree Warrior's keynote.

About NIO
NIO, formerly NextEV in the U.S., is a global start-up, designing and developing smart, high-performance, premium autonomous vehicles. NIO has teams of world-class R&D and design experts from around the world with significant technology and management background from leading automobile and high tech companies. NIO has more than 2,000 employees in San Jose/San Francisco, Shanghai, Munich, London and eight other locations. In October, NIO USA announced that it was issued an Autonomous Vehicle Testing Permit by the California DMV and it would begin testing on public roads under the Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program guidelines as it progresses on its path to bring autonomy to market. Investors include Tencent, Temasek, Sequoia Capital, Lenovo, TPG and other world-renowned investment institutions. For more information, visit

About SpecialGuest
SpecialGuest is an art and communication company that gets people thinking. We partner with thought leader clientele who are aiming to change the world, re-think things, or disrupt a category. Qualities of our work are experimentation, thoughtfulness, cleverness, and sophistication, resulting in inventive work that has built in discovery and makes the work satisfying and memorable. We practice a tightly-knit collaboration between our clientele and community of artists, directors, writers, inventors, engineers, scientists, designers, technologists, coders, and academics plus a range of other specialists, all who bring smart strategic thinking to everything we do. We partner with clientele from the ground up, including strategic planning, concepting, and bringing new products into the world. We create/produce across experiential, technology development, virtual reality, design, interactive, content, digital channels, films, social media, and IP. We have operations in NY, LA, and London as well as partners in Paris and Buenos Aires.