October 01, 2021
By Carlo Wolff
To see the LYRIQ, Cadillac’s first electric vehicle, come to fruition thrills Candice Willett ’03, lead designer for Choreographed Experiences and Lighting at the luxury brand. She is eager to start up the sleek crossover with her key fob and watch its many LEDs illuminate the car from the Cadillac badge down, then wrap all around and throughout the inside. The exterior lighting Willett designed for the LYRIQ offers a calming, jewel-like welcome.
Production of the $58,795 LYRIQ is set to start in early 2022. It has a range of 300 miles, offers hands-free driving, remote parking and a 19-speaker sound system. Willett worked closely with Tristan Murphy ’06, Interior Design Manager at General Motors, who describes the LYRIQ as having “a very high learning ability.”
Lessons learned at the Cleveland Institute of Art helped Willett become a driving force at Cadillac. She fondly recalls Richard Fiorelli, Foundation faculty emeritus, teaching her how to make a hat that could catch, carry and release a ping-pong ball. That exercise taught her the value of perseverance and feedback.
“We had to pass the ping-pong ball from our hat to the person next to us. It was about developing a concept and a look,” she says. “At the time, we thought it was fun, but it was about designing with intent, trying to make something that was achievable with another artist.”
Industrial Design faculty members Carla Blackman and Douglas Paige taught Willett “to look at the world around us and be receptive to what you’re seeing,” she says. They also taught her to be passionate about projects and customer-oriented.
Willett and Murphy are both graduates of CIA’s Transportation Design program, part of the Industrial Design major. Daniel Cuffaro, chair of Industrial Design, emphasizes that students in the program learn the importance of problem-solving.
“Typically, Transportation Design is very focused on styling, on how to create a look,” Cuffaro says. “Product design is focused on problem-solving. In industry, the transportation people who graduate from CIA are seen as different because they’re not just stylists; there’s a problem-solving element and a styling element.”
A closer look
Like other EVs, the LYRIQ is quiet. But it’s no shrinking violet. The exterior lighting Willett dreamed up is the vehicle’s literal wake-up call. Such lighting will characterize all the EVs Cadillac is expected to field by 2030, the year it ends production of cars powered by internal combustion engines.
“With LYRIQ, we were able to push the personality of the vehicle and go into more of a digital application,” she says. “Working with so many LEDs gave us a whole other opportunity, another canvas, with the movement of light to help communicate with our customer. The vehicle ‘understands’ you’re there and shows it’s ready to take you on an exceptional and inspired journey.”
Willett’s tenacity was key to bringing the LYRIQ from concept to showroom, Murphy says.
“She’s a bird dog,” says Murphy. “When you’re told ‘no, this is not going to happen,’ and you’ve got all these roadblocks, it’s really easy to say the world is against you. She is really good at continuing to push that uphill and get it over the hump.
“Any time you’re doing innovation, you’re going to face resistance,” says Murphy, who’s especially proud of the LYRIQ’s wraparound dashboard digital display and speaker grills. “We’re not doing our jobs as designers if we’re not being told that we’re rattling the cage. She will push and push and push and get results. She figures out ways to get the job done.”
At home, work is off the table as a conversation topic. Willett’s husband, Dustin Shedlarski ’05, is an interior design manager for Ford. She’s proud of the skills he brought to Ford’s new F-150 EV truck, but with a 16-year-old son, “by dinner time, the last thing you want to talk about is cars.”
“I feel like I go to work every day and make really cool things,” says Willett. The LYRIQ “was a once-in-a lifetime burst for me to be able to push a vision and have it come through, and it’s a new thing for Cadillac. With such a historic lineage, to be able to say that is pretty humbling for me.”
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