Inside Rolls Royce – The Saatchi Gallery get “interactive” right!

Inside Rolls Royce - Saatchi gallery London

As I child I had a favourite car. It was not the usual choice of a ten year old in the early nineties- it was a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. The love for this car was one of the reasons that my career is now in the design industry.

When I learned about the Saatchi Gallery in West London hosting an exhibition about Rolls Royce I expected something special. What I wasn’t prepared for was how joined up and intuitive the interactive side of the exhibition was.

Rolls Royce is all about quality, luxury, and the attention to detail. This was very clear in the contents of the exhibition, taking you through their process, craft and bespoke nature of their offering. Each room had a different element to the car; leather, paint, wood, technology, spirit of ecstasy, craft and detail.


Generally when I hear that an exhibition is “interactive” it makes me cringe! An app for apps sake and some cobbled together augmented reality was what I expected. What I found was far more sophisticated. There was not an overkill and somehow they managed to maintain the traditional, physical design integrity so core to Rolls Royce. Much of the interactive technology would go unnoticed.

Entering the exhibition you are given a fast wifi connection and asked to download the app. As soon as the app springs to life you feel like it is part of the exhibition.

As I walked around the exhibition, the app recognised where I was and adapted. After a bit of research I think that they used beacon technology- a low energy bluetooth network of sensors talking to the app. Essentially, as you walk past a sensor- beautifully disguised as a lamp displaying the icon for the room’s theme, it talks to your phone and moves you to that section of the app- simple but very effective!

The phone app is simple- you are guided through the content and you have a button in the top right- a link to take photos. Once you have taken a photo you are asked if you want to share on twitter. A pre populated tweet is there for you ready to go with #insiderollsroyce as the tag. This populates a live twitter image feed later in the exhibition.

The room about colour is all about the bespoke nature. You can take an object to Rolls Royce and they will match this in the paintwork. You walk into a room lit up in pink and see in the middle of the room a canister with a pink flower. Swap this with a green necklace and the room lights up green.


Perhaps the most impressive part of the exhibition is the Spirit of Ecstasy room. The Spirit of Ecstasy is the winged figure that sits on the top of the front of every Rolls Royce. Around the room are examples through the ages and a nod towards the technology used to build the figures today. Artwork surrounds the room with photographic interpretations of the Spirit of Ecstasy. The main attraction is a star filled screen that reacts to your movements. This is augmented reality done well- it is a piece of art in itself. Augmented reality takes a visual input (users a camera or sensors) and manipulates that into an output (another screen or viewing device). Early use would rely on a shape to build a CAD model on so that a display would show the real world with a computer model integrated into it. It is where the real and virtual world come together. Time has moved on and now a movement from a person can effect a display. The idea at the exhibition is to form your own moving spirit of ecstasy- moving stars that react to your movement. A volunteer moves in the centre of the room and this effects the 10 ft display in front of them.

Large touch displays invite you to touch as do huge fabric walls where the pattern changes with a little pressure.

Interactive does not necessarily mean technology. There is an area to design your own Rolls Royce- outlines to colour in and a wall of visitor designs for all to see. Experts talk about the processes, such as leather and wood work,  showing how different materials are used.



In each room a quote spread across the wall. This was a wonderful touch that tied everything together…

Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it.

Sir Henry Royce

You can look anywhere and find inspiration.

Frank Gehry

Accept nothing nearly right o good enough.

Sir Henry Royce

The best design comes down to three or four lines.

Giles Taylor

Style is a simple way of saying complicated things.

Jean Cocteau

Creating a timeless design is challenging but the key is always simplicity.

Giles Taylor

Luxury must be comfortable otherwise it is not luxury.

Coco Chanel


Interactive can mean the use of an app, beacon technology and augmented reality. It can be a technological device that responds to touch or an area to design your own car. It may be a conversation with an expert or a demonstration of a craft.

Rolls Royce is all about interaction. The bespoke nature puts the customer first. The care put into each vehicle from 1910 to the present day makes a Rolls Royce much more than a car.

Inside Rolls Royce interactive exhibition – job well done!



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