Trends: Horizontal Button Islands

Screens have resulted in much simpler yet more premium interior designs that tend to do away with many physical buttons and switches. The impact on the user experience and ergonomics has been variable – to say the least – but a secondary trend impact of this development is the horizontal button island.

Buttons used to be everywhere in the car interior, but now the few buttons left are becoming a design feature. Clearly demarcated in an ‘island’ zone, these typically high-quality buttons remain to control key, safety-critical functions such as screen demist and the hazard warning lights.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class
2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class buttons 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Borrowed from the larger S-Class, the distinctly premium feeling interior of the new C–Class features this island of buttons below the three air vents. They control the major HVAC functions.

Audi TT
2015 Audi TT exterior 2015 Audi TT air vents
Audi’s new TT interior integrates the HVAC controls into the air vents themselves, and is almost button-free except for this horizontal bank which controls the major car functions, such as park-assist and traction control.

Kia Sedona
2015 Kia Sedona exterior 2015 Kia Sedona buttons
The new Sedona, launched at the 2014 New York Auto Show, features a touchscreen. Nonetheless it retains this bank of horizontally-arranged buttons for the main menu functions within the screen display.

Citroen C4 Cactus
Citroen C4 Cactus (2014) 2015 Citroen C4 Cactus HMI
The simplification mantra employed in the Cactus means it boasts an almost button-free interior, with most functions relocated into the touchscreen. Six key driving-safety orientated buttons remain in a horizontal bank below the screen though.

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