JENNIFER BRACE: CREATING A VEHICLE ENVIRONMENT THAT WELCOMES YOU IN AND INVITES YOU TO EXPLORE
Jennifer Brace, User Interface Design Engineer
- Jennifer Brace is a member of the Ford engineering team charged with developing the design, display logic and engaging graphics of the MyFord and MyLincoln Touch driver connect technology
- Brace acts as the interface conduit, working in constant conjunction with the Ford design studio, ergonomic and SYNC teams to ensure that the driver technology is pleasing to the eye, easy to use and provides maximum function
- A Michigan native, Brace earned her bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and her master’s degree in Engineering Management from the University of Michigan – Dearborn in Dearborn
- Brace lives in the Detroit suburb of Northville, where she loves a good game of volleyball or a leisurely walk with her English Bulldog at her side
When Jennifer Brace joined Ford as a mechanical engineer in 2004, she never expected to work with outside technology leaders such as IDEO. By 2006, she was part of a visionary team of Ford engineers collaborating with IDEO to dream up and develop Ford’s all-new driver connect technology now known as MyFord Touch.
“IDEO was a company I learned about in college as having a great process for innovative customer-focused design. Now, I was being given the opportunity to work with them to help create a product that was going to redefine the driver experience for Ford customers. I couldn’t help but be drawn in,” says Brace, who joined the Ford human-machine interface (HMI) team four years ago as a user interface engineer.
Brace is responsible for ensuring the graphics of MyFord Touch are engaging and eye-pleasing, along with having class-leading usability. She also has the master task of menu structure, determining what features are included on the system’s menu lists, when and where they appear on the menu and what’s the most efficient path to take to get customers to what they need. No simple task, since MyFord can present multiple layers of information and is the interface between the driver and a large number of vehicle features from SYNC-powered voice-activated phone calling and Internet connectivity to climate control, navigation and audio.
“We didn’t want the experience to intimidate anyone, but to invite curiosity,” says Brace of the personalized settings structure offered by MyFord. “Drivers can chose the level of information they want to see, but the system is designed to make you want to touch and see what else it can do. It invites drivers to learn more at their own pace.”
One of Brace’s “wow” moments recently happened while she was doing early demos of MyFord and MyLincoln Touch at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The system’s touch screen for ambient lighting control features a unique 3D carousel display of colorful light orbs. The screen’s appearance and usability prompted many heated discussions and design iterations during MyFord’s development. “During the demos, people were asking to see the light orbs specifically and commenting on how much they loved them,” she says. “It was a nice surprise and proved that our hard work and long discussions paid off.”
Automotive is in the blood
When Brace isn’t envisioning how to incorporate that newest vehicle feature into the MyFord menu, she can often be found on the volleyball court year-round, playing on several women and coed teams. “Summers are for the sand and winters are for indoor play on hard courts,” she says.
She also spends time dreaming about that 1967 Shelby Cobra (blue with white racing stripes) she wants to own someday; a dream she has had since she was a little girl hitting the car show circuit with her dad, an engineering technologist at Ford. “Growing up, summer weekends with the family were always spent at car shows,” says Brace. “My dad has been building classic street rods since before I was born and I always loved spending time in the garage with him.”
Personal Insights and Fun Facts
- Jennifer lives in Northville, Mich., with her English Bulldog Buttercup, who is known for her ability to snort like a pig
- A self-proclaimed foodie, Jennifer is a fan of Food Network’s TV series Ace of Cakes, and especially appreciates the cameo appearances made by the colorfully decorated Ford Transit Connect, the new cake hauler on the show
- A love of automotive engineering runs in the family. Jennifer, along with her father and one brother, practice their engineering skills in the automotive space
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 164,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.ford.com.