The Korea Herald


Work with Samsung ‘inspiring and challenging’


Published : Oct. 2, 2011 - 15:23

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Former BMW designer Chris Bangle shares ideas and hopes on future design

Chris Bangle, former chief of design at BMW, will make his second visit to Seoul early this month.

Bangle, who resigned from the German carmaker in 2009, has recently become a design consultant for Samsung Electronics.

With tangible results expected to come out during his visit this time, expectations are growing here about the new laptops and smartphones that would be born out of the Samsung-Bangle collaboration.

In an email interview ahead of the inaugural Herald Design Forum, in which Bangle also plans to participate, he explained what he enjoys about his work with Samsung.

Chris Bangle (The Korea Herald) Chris Bangle (The Korea Herald)

Q: In Korea, you received offers from both Hyundai Motor and Samsung Electronics. Why did you decide to go with Samsung?
I may have spent nearly 30 years in the car business, but my new enterprise -- Chris Bangle Associates SRL -- is a design consultancy without limitations or preconceptions regarding our clients and their needs. Samsung has become a valued and trusted client-associate; besides the complexity of themes we are involved in they are great people -- the interaction I have with their team is inspiring and challenging!

Q: As an automobile designer, what do you think will mark the future trend of car designs?
A: Car design is still in a phase of “car-toon cars”; overly expressive facial caricatures and undeserving emotional forms swathing ungainly proportions. Much of the proportional nightmares these car designers are trying to overcome is not their fault; the priorities that lead to cheap pedestrian-protection excesses and overly voluminous engine-bays are engineering, cost driven. Economic downturns take the mood with them, turning once visionary managers into arch-conservatives, and that is never inspiring for the designers.

After the “car-toons,” after the “butt-face” on the back of the cars has eclipsed the expression on the front for sheer goofiness; after car designers have exhausted all the gimmicky LED light-necklaces up their sleeves and begin projecting colored lights below the chassis like any decent lowrider; after beltlines go up so far in the name of “coupe-look” that you cannot get the tollway ticket through the side windows; after the track-widths of even the smallest cars approach Hummer-dimensions in the hope that some vestige of “powerful shoulder” will emerge from their insipid flanks ... what then?

Eventually car designers will experiment with negative-tumblehome; one of the “last frontiers” -- along with asymmetry and non-constant-surfacing -- remaining to be challenged. Conceptually there will be new thoughts involving “shared” vehicles, meaning ones that you use but don’t own, perhaps resulting in a new take on the lockable trunk -- or even a trunk you take with you. Imagine that; Trolly-bag manufacturers in the front row for the next automobile paradigm!

Lots of interesting self-visualizing camera concepts will appear as traffic legislation and insurance premiums force people to document every single minute of their car’s life. On that score I have been predicting that the exteriors of cars will become visual display panels in the not-so-distant future; when that happens there is no “need” for form and surface designing; the imagery projected can take care of all of that even if the screens are flat. Then perhaps the automobile can fulfill its destiny to be a stupid box, once and for all. Actually the business model of making money while you drive by renting out the surface is attractive. And not just advertising; today one pays extra for the privilege of defining the color of your own car; imagine all those who would willingly pay more to define the color of the other guy’s car!

Q: What do you think is the most important aspect when designing products? 
A: “Product design” itself is not the same thing as “creating an artistic statement that has a function,” which is what many of the magazines seem filled with these days. To me it is a problem-solving challenge that is the most important, which means first understanding the “why” of the issue at hand, before getting on with the “how” band then the actual “what” -- the design itself. Many persons within an organization assume that the motives are clear for themselves and others, but unless this is first discussed openly great opportunities may be missed and efforts wasted following false leads.

Q: What made you pursue your dream as a designer? When do you feel the most happy as a designer? 
A: I’ve been told I am naturally curious and have iconoclastic tendencies. I like to draw and to take things apart to see how they used to work. I suppose I am “naturally creative” even though I believe “creativity” per se is not a gift any more than intelligence is; what is important is what you are encouraged to do with it and I was always very fortunate to have encouraging people around me. I am too impatient to make a good “rational-thought” person; I am more likely to be with the “emotional” contingent. So, put it all together and I suppose “designer” is a good focus for my energies.

I am most happy when I am honing in on a solution that “squares the circle”: combines the apparent “opposite ends” of the solution spectrum. I am big on having one’s cake and eating it too ... design-wise that is.

Q: What personalities or characteristics are most required to become a great designer? 
A: It begins in the mind of the designer; if what he or she is working on is “great” in their own heads then they are halfway there; if the solution asked for is not a re-hash of the normal state of affairs so much the better. I was always of the opinion that greatness is a measure of the journey, not just the result.

Q: What is your most memorable design so far?
A: If it is something more tangible you are interested in, perhaps the concept and rough design for the “Art of Car Design” permanent installation at the Pinakothek der Moderne Museum in Munich, Germany is the single thing most memorable project in every sense of why, how, and what was done ... and most importantly, who was involved. In 50 days (and nights) we created a 12-meter-14 meter colossus of fluid marble (about 26 tons hang cantilevered on the wall), plaster, and associated car parts, all to the theme of an homage to car design. Please go see it -- no, touch it; it is the only part of the museum you are supposed to touch!

Q: What is your next dream as a designer? 
A: I would like to see design evolve out of the egotistical phase it is in now, with an over-emphasis on the precise execution of the single person’s creative vision as the only available measurement of design quality. By reinforcing this idea we have systematically reduced the contribution of the collaborators and manufacturing people involved in reproducing the design to the lowest common denominator: cheap and quick, with tolerable quality.

I look towards a time when the designer is only one of many who contribute their creativity in the final product, and the people who actually make our daily-use tools, toys, and accessories of life are as important to the design expression of each item as the designer with the original idea was.

When the complete cycle of creativity has become a co-involved one, we won’t have so many disenfranchised youth seeking a chance to be acknowledged, so many marginalized societies trying to be productive, and so much useless -- and meaningless -- crap filling our landfills.

Q: What is your image of Korea? How would you define “Korean design?” 
A: “Korea is what Korea does,” a good philosophy that works as well for design as it does for politics and art. Korea’s designers, on the other hand, are so well-integrated in all the world’s companies that it would be difficult to single out their contributions to, let’s say, a German car, and call it “Korean design.” Given that modernism is so international that it is difficult to find local tendencies, so folk art is often a reference point for a culture’s designs. But even that is not too apparent in the consumer products from Korea; where there seems to be room for national expression the exuberance is always mitigated by the necessity to sell in the global marketplace.

Student work is a good source of a “national design essence,” if it can be called that. Often from Korean designers I see a willingness to express visual idioms in a directness that nears the figurative. Of course, that is very watered down, but nevertheless I would expect Koreans -- and Asians in general -- to be receptive to visual languages that are more complex and descriptive than the simple geometries of the West. 

Q: Please offer some advice on how to guide the Herald Design Forum.
A: Give demanding challenges to your experts that make the participants and audience think about the dogmas of design. You might even post outrageous positions and require them to defend or refute the premises. Encourage free-thinking fun!

By Lee Ji-yoon


<한글 요약>

크리스 뱅글 ‘삼성과 일해보니 좋네~’

세계 자동차업계의 살아있는 전설로 통하는 크리스 뱅글 전 BMW 총괄 디자이너가 현대자동차와 삼성 전자로부터 디자인 컨설턴트 자리를 제안을 받은 상태에서 삼성전자를 택한 이유를 밝혔다.

이번주 헤럴드 미디어 주최 디자인 포럼에 연사로 참가하는 뱅글은 삼성과의 디자인협력이 그에게 “영감을 불어넣어주고 도전하게 만든다”고 코리아헤럴드와의 인터뷰서 밝혔다. 

"삼성은 중요하고도 신뢰받는 고객이자 협력사로 발전했다. 삼성의 복합적인 디자인 테마와 그들과의 교류는 나에게 영감을 불어넣어주고 도전하게 만든다.”

뱅글은 4일 삼성전자 서초사옥을 방문, 경영진 및 디자인 관련 책임자를 만나, 디자인 관련 협력사항을 논의 할 예정이다. 

뱅글의 한국 방문이 빈번해 지면서 삼성과의 협력을 통해 탄생할 처녀작에 대한 기대감도 높아지고 있다. 특히 뱅글은 이번 두 번째 방문과 함께 구체적인 결과물을 내놓을 것으로 알려졌다.

지난 7월에도 삼성전자 서초사옥을 찾았던 뱅글은 이번 방한기간 동안 이재용 사장 등 삼성전자의 경영진과 만날 가능성도 높은 것으로 알려졌다.

그는 디자인 자체가 문제의 해결책을 찾게 하는 도전 과정이라며 “ ‘어떻게 (how)’라는 질문에 이르기 전에 우선 ‘왜 (why) ’라는 질문에 대한 대답을 해야 한다”라고 말했다.

“그 다음에는 디자인 그 자체에 대한 ‘무엇 (what)’에 대한 질문에 대해 대답할 수 있어야 한다”라고 덧붙였다.

뱅글은 곧 “자동차의 표면을 디자인하는 것이 과거의 일이 되어버리는 시대가 올 것이다” 라며 “자동차 차체에 디스플레이 패널을 장착함으로써 (스스로 색깔과 디자인을 실시간으로 만들어 냄으로써) 자동차 디자이너들이 차 외관에 많은 공을 들이지 않아도 될 것이다”라고 말했다.

지난 2009년 초 돌연 ‘다른 제품의 디자인을 하고 싶다’며 BMW 총괄 디자이너직을 사임한 그는 삼성전자로부터 영입 제의를 받고, 이탈리아에 있는 자신의 스튜디오에서 프리랜드 형식으로 IT 제품 및 생활가전 등 삼성의 프리미엄 제품 디자인 프로젝트를 진행하고 있다. 계약 조건 및 구체적인 내용은 철저히 비밀에 부쳐져 있다.

삼성전자는 이건희 회장의 디자인 고급화 선언 이후 해외 초일류 디자이너를 물색하는 과정에서 크리스 뱅글을 전격 영입했다.(Herald Online)


크리스 뱅글은 누구인가 

2011 헤럴드 디자인포럼 중 ‘디자인, 산업을 말하다’를 주제로 열리는 제2세션 토론자로 나서는 크리스 뱅글(56) 전 BMW 총괄 디자이너는 세계 자동차 디자인 업계의 살아있는 전설로 통한다.

2001년 BMW 7시리즈를 디자인하면서 단순한 직선미를 추구하던 이전 BMW의 디자인 콘셉트를 파괴하고 곡선미를 재해석한 혁신적인 디자인으로 주목받았다. 

물론 뱅글이 처음 7시리즈의 새로운 디자인을 선보였을 당시, 이를 낯설어 한 언론과 마니아들로 부터 혹평을 받았다. 특히 치켜올라 온 엉덩이를 연상시키는 뒷면 트렁크 라인은 ‘뱅글 버트’로 불리며 놀림감이 되기도 했다.
그러나 위엄과 존재감을 바탕으로 한 BMW 플래그십 세단 7시리즈의 디자인이 시간이 흐를수록 고객들로부터 좋은 평가를 받으면서 뱅글의 명성은 하늘로 치솟았다.

그 덕에 세계 3대 자동차 디자이너로 추앙받았던 뱅글은 지난 2009년 급작스레 30여년 가까이 몸담은 자동차 업계를 떠나 디자인 컨설팅 업체인 크리스 뱅글 어소시이츠 SRL(Chris Bangle Associates SRL)을 세웠다. 

올 초 삼성전자와 현대자동차로부터 동시에 러브콜을 받은 그는 신형 휴대전화와 넷북 디자인을 희망한 삼성전자와 손을 잡기로 해 국내에서 큰 관심을 끈 바 있다.