Chris Bangle Moves On.

Chris Bangle

Wow! Chris Bangle has left BMW. This is surprising news, in many ways, but perhaps most of all because I think many of us were beginning to think that Chris Bangle WAS BMW. So, yes, I was very surprised early this morning when the automobile sites that I follow were buzzing with news that after 17 years leading design for BMW, Chris Bangle had resigned. Being a loyal customer of BMW’s for almost exactly as long as Bangle has been directing design there, I have to say that this news made me a little sad. Yes, Bangle has had a controversial tenure at BMW. Yes, some of the designs that came from his leadership were not well received. But many, many others were, and it was under Bangle that BMW saw both its brand awareness and its sales rise to fairly incredible levels. Bangle was not only responsible for numerous designs for new vehicles, but also for incredibly visionary and forward thinking vehicle concepts (like the GINA Light Visionary Model). All of these, the good and the bad, found their DNA in the cohesive design language that Bangle developed in the 1990’s for BMW (anybody remember “flame surfacing”?) This language, and its evolution, is still in place. While controversial, Bangle’s influence on BMW is unmistakable, and is best summed up by Klaus Draeger, BMW’s Board Member for Development:

“Christopher Bangle has had a lasting impact on the identity of BMW Group’s brands. His contribution to the company’s success has been decisive, and together with his teams he has mapped out a clear and aesthetic route into the future.”

Another impressive accomplishment by Bangle was the successful creation and direction of BMW’s design consultancy Designworks USA. Designworks is now a formidable design agency in its own right, working with international brands and companies in a wide variety of industries and doing work that is innovative, cutting edge, and very impressive.

Apparently, Bangle is leaving BMW but he is not leaving design. How could he? His stated plans are to continue designing in a non-automotive related industry. I wish him the best, and am excited to see where he goes next.

Strangely coincidentally, just two days ago I decided to watch, again, Chris Bangles’ presentation at TED from back in 2002. It’s excellent, has some great back story on the design of models that seriously influenced cars that are now on the road, and benefits from his passionate use of profanity:

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