Chris Bangle is one of the most ingenious influential and creative designers best known for transforming the BMW brand as Chief of Design drawing admiration and envy from competitors like Ford.
A daring designer whose work has provoked endless discussion, Bangle is best known for his tenure as Chief of Design for the BMW group, where he was responsible for bringing the designs of the BMW, Mini Cooper, and Rolls Royce into the twenty-first century. He resigned from the company in 2009 to set up his own company Chris Bangle Associates based from Italy.
Graduating from the Art Center College of Design, Bangle began his career at Opel, and then moved on to Fiat where he became chief designer designing the brazen Coupe Fiat. In 1992, he was named the first American Chief of Design at BMW. Bangle oversaw the design of numerous breakout and brand changing designs for the BMW brand and BMW as a company that caused some controversy for BMW enthusiasts. He also oversaw the design of BMW’s recent re-do of the MINI Cooper and he led the design of the Rolls Royce Phantom after BMW acquired the iconic British brand.
No other designer has had such a far reaching impact in the automotive industry. His mandate to “strategize emotion” through design energized the typically conservative brand, updating BMW’s classic design with bold, sculptural lines, a far cry from homogenous car design.
Bangle also pushed BMW to acquire Designworks a major design firm and a partnership that allowed BMW insights into design priorities in fields as diverse as yachts, aeroplane interiors and coffee machines. Bangle’s idea was that having a design studio that did work in a variety of industries and categories would not only inform BMW’s design studio, but it would also give the company’s designers a steady outlet of work outside of cars and SUVs that would keep the talent fresh and energized.
What Bangle achieved at BMW in fact goes far beyond cars. Bangle’s designs challenged the old purist engineering community to reassess the appeal of a car – it became surface and line rather than engine and performance. It appealed to women as much as to men. It was a luxury car yet it became the leading fleet car in Europe. Over the past 20 years BMW has become much more than a brand dependent on engineering. It speaks to emotion, femininity, the family, art, and ideas.
His daring designs have helped BMW become the global leader in premium car sales and brought in legions of new fans, spurning rivals to follow suit in emulating his distinctive style.
Chris can help a company understand what is needed to leverage a creative culture and how to think ahead and reinvigorate relationships to customers and objects but he comes with an innovative warning – Be prepared to think differently.