Designing For Automotive

Automotive represents one of the most critical components of the U.S. economy – perhaps no other product conveys our personal identity better than the car we choose to drive.

The CommonGround team has an extensive history in this vertical, extending back to the early days of the Internet, when companies were seeking to create their online identities and deciding how to utilize the new technologies to market and sell their products. Our team, working in various capacities, helped define the standards for successfully employing today’s digital tools and techniques.

Let’s take a brief look at some of the work our design partners have done for the industry over the years.

The Team

Our core creative team at CGC has over seventy years’ collective experience in design, branding and marketing. This expertise provides the foundation for every project, and is what helps us exceed expectations on all of our work.

Aaron Harvey

Partner & Creative Director

Aaron has worked with over twenty-five Fortune 500 organizations, designing for some of the worlds’ most recognized brands. His auto experience extends over twenty-two years for a number of major manufacturers. His core experience in the sector includes General Motors, where over seven years he handled various aspect of this account. He has also done work for Lexus, Subaru and Scion, including web, mobile, advertising, apps, print and campaigns.


Partner & Brand Manager

Davey’s background is in marketing and branding. He served as a regional marketing director for Washington Mutual, and has been responsible for both traditional and digital marketing and advertising campaigns for organizations such as Washington Mutual, Bank of America, Chase Manhattan and others. He joined CGC as a partner in 2012, with a focus on content and brand strategy, as well as UX, CX and QA.

Gary M. Smith

Creative Director

Gary has over twenty-five years’ experience working in advertising and design, with automotive representing a major component during this period. He’s served as Creative Director at agencies such as TBWA\Chiat Day and MRM Worldwide. During this time he was responsible for creative strategy, concept development and web design for clients such as Nissan, Infiniti, General Motors and Indian Motorcycles.

Our Approach


We’ve worked with many large companies – including some of the world’s most recognized brands. We offer these clients an approach that is both scalable and flexible. In addition to our core creative team, we maintain a network of designers and developers with unique specialties and skills. This enables us to provide service that is effective, but also efficient.


We understand that design work is a little different for corporate clients. Projects can vary greatly in scope. Timelines can be uncertain, sometimes necessitating a quick turnaround, while at other times needing lengthy reviews and approvals. We use an operations model that allows us to prioritize our corporate partners, ensuring that we are working around their schedule.

A Storied History

Our creative team has been designing for automotive for as long as the industry has been on the web. Over the years we’ve worked to build these brands through a variety of goal-oriented projects, whether that be exploring solutions for a digital strategy, or helping design and implement digital counterparts to their traditional advertising campaigns.

General Motors

Our team helped reimagine GM’s digital strategy during an era of great change and uncertainty. The work allowed the client to adapt to the new digital landscape, and also defined the ways that major companies would approach marketing with these evolving technologies. Let’s explore some of the major projects the team was involved with.

GM BuyPower

• Received the Internet Marketer of the Year award, Advertising Age, automotive category

• #1 Most Useful Manufacturer Site award, J.D. Power, 2002 and 2003.

• Best of the Web award, Forbes Magazine, 2004.

At the core of the GM work was BuyPower, an effort to transform how autos are marketed and sold over the web. This included extensive development of new design strategies, one example being the evolution of “hero imagery” to forge user connections. Today this is a standard approach, largely informed by this pioneering work.

GM Ticket To Ride

Ticket to Ride was the first ever online auto promotion campaign. Our work explored how to pair digital design and complex data-driven campaigns to target customers.

The project demonstrated that digital marketing could outperform traditional techniques. A core benchmark became targeting consumers in a manner that drove sales much faster than mail-based marketing could – the project gave GM the capability to put potential customers into showrooms when they were needed.

GM Overdrive

• Internet Merit Award, One Show Interactive, 2002 & 2003

GM’s Viewmaster campaign, “Secret,” sought to evolve the quality perception of GM’s products. We were focused on the digital advertising segment of the campaign, including the implementation of some Internet firsts – like passing objects between two distinct banners. The campaign also represents one of the first major efforts to market to millennials, a group that had just become the fastest growing customer base.

GM Summerdrive

Our team was tasked with transforming GM’s summer promotion efforts from a one-sheet landing page into an omni-channel campaign. We collaborated between the various marketing partners to design and implement a campaign that included a dedicated site, TV ads, print and identity. Summerdrive identified strategies and elements that became central to GM’s ongoing promotional approach.

Getting Nissan Back on Track

In the mid-2000’s, Nissan was struggling following years of declining market share. Through creative strategy, concept development, core web design, and digital campaign integration, we worked with Nissan to turn things around.

Repairing the brand remained the core long-term objective. Campaigns like “Future Driven” and “_shift” helped re-establish the company as forward-thinking, innovative and dynamic. We also worked with Nissan on the relaunch of the 350Z and Frontier.

During this time, the auto maker saw an increase in total U.S. market share, from 3.0% to 5.98%…and that share continued to grow in the ensuing years as a result of one of the most successful brand refreshes in history.

Pairing Luxury with Performance

At an inflection point for the brand, the team was involved on a major refresh of Infiniti, responsible for digital creative deliverables, presentations, and new model launches. A core strategy was to reposition the Infiniti G35 as a luxury sports car.

During his time on the account, the G35 became Motor Trend’s Car of the Year, and went on to become a relaunch success story.

Indian Motorycyle

Indian Motorcycle Company went bankrupt in the 1970’s. Our team consulted and worked with the brand’s new owners as they sought to reintroduce the iconic line. Indian was relaunched, and began a decade-long path from obscurity to double-digit market share.

Lexus Labs

Some of the team’s earliest experience in automotive was work with Lexus, where we were involved in designing and implementing Lexus Labs, an interactive training seminar that provided cost effective, on-demand staff training. The work helped pioneer how today’s dealers utilize technological solutions to increase performance.

Subaru All Wheel Green

Our team designed the website and print campaign for Subaru’s “All Wheel Green” initiative, which included vehicle promotions centered around personalized guides for fuel efficiency and eco-friendly driving.

Scion Owner's App

Scion sought to transform the traditional paper owner’s manual into a digital version that would be both cost effective, and more desirable to the brand’s younger clientele.

Our team worked on app design and UI, evolving how vehicle-specific information was conveyed, as well as how owner concerns or questions were addressed. It also allowed users to stay connected with product features and tips, videos and explanations, and even Scion events and music.

Telling the Story

Marketing for automotive is sophisticated and intricate. It’s vital to convey the right message and tone, whether that be the elegant sophistication of Infiniti or the free-sprited lifestyles captured in the GM Summerdrive work. As we’ve shown, we’re experts at working in this vertical, including branding and messaging. Our team is highly experienced in using the existing style guides and coordinating with the various marketing departments and advertising partners to capture the culture and brand in every element of our work.

Brand Experience

We’ve worked with many large organizations and major brands. Our team brings a wide range of skills to the table, and the expertise necessary to successfully coordinate with a corporate client in order to bring the best product to market, every time. These are a few of the organizations we’ve been privileged to work with over the years.

Some of the awesome brands we’ve worked with

Next Steps

Over the years, the core CommonGround Creative team has been honored to have frequently worked within the automotive vertical to evolve digital strategies, explore new product releases, and repair major brands. In our experience, auto is an exciting economic sector that engages its customers like no other, but it also entails industry-specific challenges. We are poised and ready to take on the next auto client, whether the needs be large or small. Our able-bodied team will bring their expertise to the table in a manner that is conscientious of scalability and flexibility, seeking to bridge any gaps in your current marketing efforts.