Chris Bangle is one of the most prolific designers of our generation. He is also one of the most outspoken modern day automotive design critics. Here, he reflects on the current state of the car design industry.
Chris Bangle is not a man in need of an introduction. Having been both praised and criticized over the course of his career, he is quite simply someone who will be remembered for having influenced a generation of designers and automotive design.
He’s also one of the most outspoken design critics of modern times, and for good reason. Bangle believes we should all strive to do better, challenge perceptions and push the limits of conformity. This is what prompted the polarizing form language Bangle instigated at BMW (and who could forget the Fiat Coupe?). In fact, the former BMW Group design director stepped so far out on the limb of non-conformity when he pushed through the E65 7 Series (actually penned by current BMW Group design director Adrian van Hooydonk) and the E60 5 Series that it made the board uncomfortable.
But that is just where Bangle is comfortable. His vision for the conservative company first began appearing on vehicles after board member Wolfgang Reitzle stepped down, opening the floodgates to his non-conformist creations. He was later responsible for overseeing the development of the new Mini range, Rolls-Royce models and a number of innovative motorcycle concepts. Save for the concepts, all became massive sales successes. And, as the old industry saying goes, customers vote with their wallets.
During his tenure, Bangle was also instrumental in building DesignworksUSA — BMW’s consultancy subsidiary — into a global design agency for international brands operating within a wide variety of industries. That set him up for his next venture when, in 2009, Bangle abruptly announced his resignation from the BMW Group and the automotive industry. That didn’t mean he was done with car design though.
“When people ask me what I do I tell them I’m a car designer,” he says. “So they say ‘oh, you design cars’, but when I tell them I don’t it leaves them a bit perplexed.” Car design can be applied to anything, he says. It’s a philosophy, a mentality. You needn’t work on transportation devices to do it.
Though Bangle told us he wasn’t interested in working in-house within a car company anymore, his own design consultancy, Chris Bangle Associates, is set to work with Chinese carmaker Changan to develop the company’s methodologies and philosophy. This is an area in which Bangle thrives.
Comprising a small team based in the outskirts or Turin, Italy, Chris Bangle Associates works on various industrial design projects and, through the consultancy, Bangle continues to foster innovation on a smaller scale.
In the video above, we speak with Chris about the current state of the automotive design industry, find out how he feels about what’s going on within vehicle interiors and ask him to highlight some of the design trends he witnessed while at the recent Geneva motor show.