Whether powered by electricity, hybrid engines or fuel cell technology, car engines are facing a period of transition. The impact this has on vehicle design and what it means when autonomous driving is added to the mix is explained by Adrian van Hooydonk, Head of BMW Group Design.

Adrian van Hooydonk<br>© BMWMr. van Hooydonk, what constitutes good automotive design?
There is no such thing as a set formula. It would be nice, but also quite worrying, as a formula means that everyone could simply apply it. In design, a combination of rationale and intuition is what constitutes a good draft. First and foremost, however, design must be authentic. Authentic regarding a brand and its history, but also authentic regarding existing technologies. This may sound simple, but it can quickly become complex. If something is fast, it should look fast. If a car handles sharply, the design should express this. Good design must never be too complicated, and that is an art. Take the BMW Concept 8 Series, for example. We wanted to create a type of gentleman's racer, which means its design is not provocatively aggressive, but just hits the nail on the head. It is not louder or more conspicuous than the owner wants to be, but sophisticated.

Automotive drive systems are currently in a period of transition. In what ways must car design also change and what are the challenges?
We are currently experiencing an extremely exciting time in vehicle design. I know that many people say that cars are becoming ever more similar in looks. In this context, I sometimes draw parallels from motorsport. If the rules and regulations in a series remain unchanged for a period of time, all racing cars will look very similar at some point, as the engineers and technologies all move more or less in the same direction.

Regarding vehicle design, the rules are figuratively changing at the moment, as technology is also changing. In the future, we will use ever more electric motors and hybrid engines; a development which can clearly be seen as we want to provide 25 models with electric drive by the year 2025. We already have a revolutionary city car in our portfolio with the BMW i3 and a revolutionary sports car with the BMW i8. The four-door i4 and BMW Concept iX3 provide a look at the future and show how we combine electromobility with the BMW core values of dynamism and elegance, or at least provide a glimpse of the design of electric vehicles if and when they become part of the model range of the BMW core brand.

Alternative drive options may be joined by automated driving in the future. What does this mean for automotive design?
If cars can drive autonomously in the future, at least at certain times, the vehicle interior becomes much more important. People will suddenly have the time to look around and do other things than concentrating on traffic. This means that they will appreciate the interior equipment and details far more in the future; they will place new demands on cars. Currently, 80 percent of driving a car is the actual driving experience and everything else is only a small part of the overall experience. This balance will change.

What role will new materials and production processes play in developing the design for future mobility?
Materials play a vital and multi-faceted role. Design stirs emotions. Not just the geometry of shapes, but the materials used all contribute to the experience. Here at BMW, specialist teams develop exterior paints and special paints, design seat cushions and special door and steering wheel trims, as well as decorative trims using all surface materials. We talk a lot about "vehicle characters" internally and the teams constantly work on developing the character of a car as best as possible using the materials at hand, while simultaneously providing the customer with a wide range of individualization options.

The direct experience of a vehicle is also important for us as part of the internal design process. To this end, we have many different options. Sometimes we only view the models as digital representations, while at other times we use 1:1 models made of a special clay. Computers cannot do everything and sometimes you have to touch and feel the surfaces to see if they are perfect. (pu)


Vita Adrian van Hooydonk

  • 1964 born in Echt, Limburg (Netherlands)
  • 1982 - 1988 Delft Polytechnic University, Delft (Netherlands), Masters Degree in Industrial Design
  • 1988 - 1989 Free-Lance Industrial Designer (Netherlands)
  • 1989 - 1990 General Electric Plastics Europe, Bergen op Zoom Product designer (Netherlands)
  • 1991 - 1992 Art Center College of Design, Vevey (Switzerland); Degree in Automotive Design
  • 1992 - 2000 BMW AG, Munich (Germany); Automotive exterior designer
  • 2000 - 2001 BMW Group DesignworksUSA, Newbury Park (USA); Head of automotive design department
  • 2001 - 2004 BMW Group DesignworksUSA, Newbury Park (USA); President
  • 2004 - 2009 Director of Design, BMW Cars
  • since February 2009 Senior Vice President BMW Group Design

Further Information

BMW Group   |   HfG Offenbach   |    Braun-Sammlung Ettel Museum für Design   |   VDMAimpulse 03-2018: "Automobile design evokes emotion"   |   VDMAimpulse 03-2018: "Product design cannot be left to the marketing department"