The Great Chris Bangle

“Bangle is arguably the most influential auto designer of his generation.”

– Phil Patton, New York Times, February 20, 2006.

And one look at Bangle’s work is enough to conclude that Patton isn’t exaggerating. Bangle is and will continue to be one of the icons in the automotive industry, for no one else has had the kind of impact he has had in the field of automobile design. Bangle started his career at Opel after graduating from Art Center College of Design, Pasadena. His next stop was Fiat, where he designed the Coupe Fiat. In 1992, BMW named him Chief of Design. He was the first American to be offered this position. It is his excellent, fearless work with BMW is what he is known for the most.

Some of the faculty members of DYPDC Center for Automotive Research and Studies caught up with Chris Bangle when he was in India recently, and had the great fortune of indulging in chit-chat about design and his philosophy, amongst other things.

Mentioned below is the transcribed version of their interaction.

According to Chris there are quite a few elements that make a design stand apart, that make it distinct, unique in comparison to others. It has to have an element of brilliance. Jaws should drop. It should be the first one to solve an existing problem. So in that sense, it has to be futuristic. The design should be timeless and distinct. It should be so awe-inspiring that it shifts paradigms, in the bargain, inspiring others. It should have this quality that makes others want to be “it”.

Chris said to be a successful designer one needs to learn to challenge everyday doing; to respect convention but not be bound by it. He said culture does play an extremely important part in shaping a person. It plays a crucial role in design as well, he said. He advised designers to be aware of it; to be courageous most of all and not be afraid to do what you really want to do.

He also spoke about the things a designer should keep in mind while designing a car. He said he would like to discourage in designers the thought that there’s something called a “women’s” car, and that if you make one, no one will buy it. He advised designers to never fall in this mindset or be racist against small cars. Also designers should always follow proportions surface detail while designing, he added.

When it came to his design strategy, he said he followed 10 steps, which are as follows:

Step 1: Understanding the dogmas: i.e. what I am, what I am not

Step 2: Finding the metaphor

Step 3: Re-thinking the metaphor

Step 4:

(a): Just thinking…a lot

(b): Thinking what culture can do

(c): USP

Step 5: Making a bold Conclusion (here he talked about 7 series, Bangle Butt)

Step 6: Evolving Metaphor

Step 7: Defining in action

Step 8: Preparing to take heat (talked about the job of a design head)

Step 9: Leveraging my resources

Step 10: Empowering my team

The faculty of DYPDC Center for Automotive Research and Studies are absolutely thrilled that they got to spend time with one of the greats of automobile design and are already looking forward to meeting Bangle the next time he’s in town.

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