Detroit Auto Show gave us an unique opportunity to speak with the BMW Design Director and the man in charge of BMW’s future design language, Adrian Von Hooydonk.

Born in the Netherlands, Adrian Von Hooydonk studied at Delft Polytechnic University in Holland and later at the Art Center Europe in Vevey, Switzerland, until 1992. From there he came to Munich, where he joined BMW as a designer. In the year 2000 he went to California to work for the BMW Group subsidiary Designworks USA. He was Director of the internationally renowned design agency from 2001 to 2004.

Then, under Bangle as the BMW Group’s Head of Design, he became Head of the Brand Design Studio for BMW Automobiles.

Some of the cars “penned” under his design influence are the BMW 6 and 7 Series lines, as well the Z9 Concept Car, the BMW Concept CS and the M1 Hommage Study.

In February 2009, BMW AG named Van Hooydonk the BMW Design Director and a new era began for the Bavarian automaker.

What design trends (outside of automotive design) do you see showing up soon in automotive designs ? (Sculpting, machine tools, appliances, colors, fabrics, metal surface details, wood)

Adrian Von Hooydonk: That is really a big question, I have a team of 450 designers working on just that. For the BMW brand, it will always be about emotional design, we know that we design cars for people that love to drive and this is something that our customers will see on our cars. When you see a BMW parked, you should already start thinking about how it would be to drive that car, to be emotional with that vehicle.

I think we have fine tuned our design language, it is still very sculptured and now we are able to make the surface changes in a very very subtle way. We are launching one new car after another in the next couple of years and that means the design team has been super busy in the past three years. Right now I am looking forward to the launch of the new 5 Series which I believe it will look very good on the road.

How has the current economic outlook influenced colors in design? There is a belief that we are seeing many more ‘grays’ available as color options on cars in the past couple of years.

Adrian Von Hooydonk: I think color is making a comeback. Over the last years, and you probably haven’t seen that yet here, especially since in this country, and I’ve lived here for 5 years, you see a lot of black and silver BMWs. This is typically also the color the dealers or the leasing companies specify. But I think the consumers are having a great interest in colors now and we’re going to offer more interesting choices in the future. The very sporty Z4 we’re launching here in Detroit, features a metallic red which I think it is a very nice color and very strong color statement.

How will increasing ‘by-wire’ features (braking, steering) influence interior design?

Adrian Von Hooydonk: All these drive-by wire features influence design. They require a little bit less interior package space, so this will free up some space, but typically safety features need more space. We have now a lot of airbags in the interior, but so far we haven’t been able to make cars more compact because of that and also because some of these drive-by wire features are still extras that you can order; and as long as they are not standard, we cannot really build the car around these smaller technologies.

But I think we are going there and in the next ten years, we will be there.

How are new drivetrain packages changing design, or constricting design freedom (electric vehicles, hybrid powertrains, even alternative fuels with the possibility of high pressure fuel containers)?

Adrian Von Hooydonk: I think the new drivetrains, such as electric mobility, are around the corner. When we will get there, we’ll be able to do a completely different car design. The first outlook we gave in Frankfurt last year with the Vision EfficientDynamics. A very low and wide car, very sporty and yet it seats four people. We were only able to do it because of this new drivetrain that uses a very small three cylinder engine combined with two electric motors. All together, those engines deliver a performance like an M3, but they are much smaller.

This is just around the corner, but it’s coming. Right now, we’re still in a phase where we’re doing hybrid cars. So you have two engines that are fairly large, like in this X6 where you have a conventional V8 engine, very powerful, then you have a big battery in the back. When you do hybrids, you need more space. As soon as we go to this radically new drivetrains that we’re working on and things like Project i, then we will have more freedom in design.

How have pedestrian impact standards effected the ‘F’ code cars?

Adrian Von Hooydonk: These regulations are not making our job easier, that’s for sure. I think what you can see on the F10 5 Series is that we are still able to fulfill all these regulations and make the car look like BMW, make it look really good. The F10 has a very very sporty front-end and you would never imagine that we had to fulfill all these difficult regulations. I’m very optimistic that we, together with our engineers, will still be able to build good looking cars.

But it is not getting easier, that’s for sure.

Are we going to see more cars being designed from the inside out, as we have seen with the 5 Series GT?

Adrian Von Hooydonk: It could be. Our customers expect more from their cars. They want to be able to do more with their vehicles, the 5 Series GT is a great example of a car that drives and handles like a BMW, very sporty, looks elegant from the outside, but it is much more versatile. This is the first car that we built from inside out and we would like to see how it’s being received. Until now, we’re very happy, there are more orders than we planned for at this point in time, and that’s always a good sign. But it’s still early days and if it continues, we can very well imagine doing more cars having these kind of functionality.


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BMWBLOG interviews Adrian Von Hooydonk – BMW Design Director

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