Marc Mellone: a global study into mobility needs – and opportunities

The future of mobility is about much more than autonomous cars. A Fjord research project delved deep into the specific mobility needs of varying people worldwide.


Marc Mellone is a senior business designer with FJORD working out of the Berlin studio. He has dedicated the last two years of his career to driving innovation in the automotive space from human insight to service, from research to market implementation of minimum loveable services.

The journey of mobility has been through walking, animals, wheels, animals and wheels together, and finally to the car. Where next? Flying cars? Autonomous cars? The whole industry is very product driven, but is still very car-focused, not people-focused. So, Fjord, being people-focused, decided to look into the people aspect of this. There are many places in the world, and many people who want to move between them. Lots of research to be done.

Long live the Archetypes

Fjord started the research by looking at 12 diverse geographic markets. Normally they’d be split by regions, but we chose to segment by urban, suburb and and rural. That created geographic archetypes, which could be found in multiple areas around the world. For example, how often can you find Black Forest-like areas around the world?

They looked at four major factors:

  • Society and Governance
  • Setting and economy
  • Living conditions
  • Mobility

And a number of physical archetypes emerged:

Wealthy car community

It’s a place where a small number of very wealthy people live. They mainly use the car to get about – and often don’t really have a choice, because of a lack of other options. There’s quite high travel distances, but quite small travel times, due to lack of traffic.

Zeistgeist City

Cities that are progressive digitally and in regulation – think Berlin or London – and with much higher population density than the Wealthy Car Community yet still with substantial financial power. Lesser car ownership, higher public transport use, and a variety of other options of mobility available.

Sin City

Mainly distinguished by crime. Crime is so high it changes how people move around.

These are just three of the 12 archetypes they derived. For example there are also:

  • Huge and underdeveloped
  • No mans lands
  • Polluted Mega City
  • European Mid-Sized Town

These findings were tested in six cities worldwide:

  • Berlin
  • Seattle
  • São Paulo
  • Bristol
  • Stockholm
  • Tenerife

The human themes

NEXT attendees listening to Marc Mellone talking at the Copper House

They ended up with 15 clusters from the first market they tested, and ended up with 21 overall after all the markets were analysed. They call then “human themes”, and here they are:

  • Bring it! – rural areas where they use delivery services, rather than going to places
  • In the bubble – optimised living zones in a small bubble around where you live and work
  • My ride, my pride – the typical car advocate. Or a bike or scooter advocate.
  • Social butterfly – people who enjoy the social interaction of public transport
  • The fitness factor – muscle powered travel that boost health
  • Leave no trace – try to reduce their carbon footprint or switch to electric cars
  • Social Wellbeing – aware of the services they use and avoid ones they feel are unethical
  • Using Dead Time – People who want to be productive while travelling
  • Peace of mind – people who want cognitive comfort, with no demands on their mind while travelling
  • Enjoy the journey – people who chose their journey by enjoyment of the mode – like taking a ferry instead of a subway
  • Me time – like to be alone
  • Planning is king – people who want to plan their journey
  • Challenge accepted – people who have to rethink journeys due to changes in situation that make it harder – an injury, disability or a dependent travelling with them
  • Road Ahead Closed – people who have blockages in their infrastructure
  • Now or never – they want instant travel, whatever the price is
  • Physical comfort – they want the Leather seats and other signals of luxury travel
  • Hack the system – what to save money and challenge services by finding quirks in the system.
  • Money, money, money – they have to spend less money, or enjoy it economising
  • Weirdos Everywhere – they don’t like the public spaces
  • Risky roads – they perceive roads as dangerous
  • Stranger Danger – they fear crime in an unsafe situation – and thus avoid some modes.

Most people are a combination of these themes. Some themes are mutually exclusive, though. Planners and Now or Never are in opposition, for example.

There’s a meta level, that groups the themes. But also there are sub-divisors within the themes, based on motivations. If you want more detail, the results are available in a 300 page book or an interactive tool. This allows you to explore which human themes are most prominent in each geographic archetypes – and that expresses the pain points which you can build services for.

Liquid expectations

Amazon has created our expectations of delivery services. When we encounter services with a poorer deliver offer, we feel disappointed.

How does this apply to mobility? Well, young Europeans in Tenerife found that none of their normal car services work there. In car rental, lots of people are hesitant, disliking the wait, the discussions with the staff. This is a poorer experience that the app-based car services in the city.

There are still plenty of people who have no access to many western-style mobility services, because most are designed for a small band of relatively wealthy people worldwide. There’s a business that can be created. Another opportunity lies in designing to shift mindsets, or in providing services for under-served mindsets.

An example: a woman in São Paulo who commutes using five forms of travel over two hours – any she doesn’t every use her phone, because she’s scared of it being stolen on the way. So she memorises it. People are using facebook to arrange carpools, but they struggle with how to pay the driver back for the trip. So, there’s a situation an app-based solution cold be designed for – and they have done so.

Most mobility products are designed for existing pain points, but there’s a real opportunity in designing products to shift mobility mindsets.