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[Herald Interview] Chris Bangle, front-runner in innovative design

Bangle to share design vision at second Herald Design Forum Sept. 19-21

The following is the first in a series of email interviews with leading designers participating at the Herald Design Forum on Sept. 19-21. ― Ed.


As companies try to create competitive advantage with innovative design, new design concepts are fast emerging, according to Chris Bangle, head of the eponymous design brand Chris Bangle Associates, in a recent e-mail interview with The Korea Herald.

Just as Bangle said in the interview, we may see consumers sending text messages or surfing the Internet on a self-driving car in near future.

As designers spearhead changes that improve the quality of life, Bangle himself has been driving such changes especially in automobiles and now in various other fields including digital appliances, exhibition design and robotics. 
Chris Bangle, managing director at Chris Bangle Associates and former BMW chief of design (The Korea Herald)
Chris Bangle, managing director at Chris Bangle Associates and former BMW chief of design (The Korea Herald)

Bangle is known for moving BMW’s image into the future, bringing innovative designs of the BMW, Mini Cooper and Rolls Royce during his tenure as design chief at the BMW Group.

Bangle resigned from BMW in 2009 and established the eponymous design company based in Italy.

He began a new role of inspiring young designers, students and many others at the Herald Design Forum, organized by Herald Corp., publisher of The Korea Herald, last year.

The high-profile designer looks forward to meeting the Korean audience and sharing his design vision again at the second design forum, scheduled to be held from Sept. 19-21.

The following is the Q&A with Chris Bangle who talked about his latest activities, global design trend and what he expects from this year’s Herald Design Forum.

KH: What impression do you have of last year’s forum?

CB: I learned much from the speakers last year and hope that my contribution inspired the participants. The more challenging the positions the presentations take on issues, the more fascinating it is of course. But for the speakers I think the really interesting part was the challenging Q&A from the audience itself ― so I hope there are lots of them this year!

KH: What kind of activities have you engaged in during the past year?

CB: I really enjoy collaborative projects with our clients, and my colleagues and I here at Chris Bangle Associates S.R.L have been very busy with new concepts for mobility and the home in the past year. For most of these projects we have been working out of our studio in Italy with designers, engineers, marketing and business associates of our clients.

The more we have been able to host them here in the Borgata studio, the more creative and enjoyable our collective work has been ― it is a lot of fun to all be together on a project rather than split off into distant work groups. The work is quite varied ― electric vehicles, digital appliances, consumer electronics, exhibit design, robotics ― and we approach it all with the passion and emotion that has remained with me since my days in the car companies.

KH: Is there a product group that draws your interest?

CB: I am personally interested in all that “moves” you, either physically or emotionally, and the technologies and contexts of the future are great challenges and opportunities to explore with our creativity and open minds. Electronic goods ― in particular those we communicate with ― are poised to usurp the car as the last refuge of our personal freedoms. I have been trained to see the automobile as either objects of desire or forgettable and ubiquitous means for transportation, and to apply completely different mentalities of design to exploit these differences. Now a new concept is emerging that brings electronic goods and vehicles together ― the car as a multi-avatar proactive representative of non-owners and non-drivers ― a concept that puts even our ideas of sculpture and form in question. Where all these interest areas overlap, there is much to study and be inspired by!

KH: The BMW recently unveiled next-generation electric cars ― i8 and i3 concepts ― at the Beijing Motor Show and in Korea. Are these cars in line with your design philosophy?

CB: The projects you mentioned were active in my time at BMW, and although they have evolved considerably I still don’t wish to comment on them. Suffice to say I am a strong supporter of “personality” in the car’s design, and I hope that the iCars have enough to sustain them for the long run.

KH: What do you think will be the future global automotive design trend?

CB: As I mentioned, the concept of the car is evolving right now, although it is not too apparent in the salesroom. Soon consumers may be offered real choices of self-driving cars that allow them to text or surf the Internet as much as they want while being driven around. How will that rate against a sexy shape? Is there a way to make “sharing” a new springboard for the formal discussion in car design? I would like to see more research; every time I have delved into the subject with my designers or students we discover something interesting!

KH: There are many designers in Korea who consider you as their role model. What advice would you like to give them?

CB: That is very kind. I hope I do not disappoint them! I would suggest to any young person interested in design to study as many different things as possible, do as many artistic-type activities (dance, music, theater) as possible, and keep a sketchbook in which they draw everything they see or think! Take notes on life; there will be a test afterwards!

By Lee Woo-young  (wylee@heraldcorp.com)
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