designing for difference? Chris Bangle at Revs

Chris Bangle, car designer, was at the Stanford Revs Program this evening.

He’s a superb speaker and came with some great stories, on the back of his notorious leadership of the BMW design team, about how cars might begin again to look more distinctive, when so many today look so bland, just the same as each other.

Chris Bangle at Revs tonight

His line? To embrace emotional appeal and think outside the frame on the materiality of form.

Always ask – Why?

Ask – why does the surface, the skin of a car, the integument of its form, need to be so precious, stamped out of steel on a multi-million dollar robotic machine tool production line, then painted so perfectly, without any blemish? And when this commitment denies any possibility of agile design change – because it would cost so much to change the production line.

Just what is surface anyway?

No – think of angles, not super-smooth curves; think of textures. Think of skin; think of fabric. Cue the marvelous BMW concept car GINA – covered in taught reactive fabric.

Look how it wrinkles!

Chris is a classic designer who focuses on styling and surface. With supreme flair. Hence his sensitivity to the affordances of steel and paint – or fabric, the qualities of material, emotional, engagement with form. He looks to the future of new experiments in form and surface.

And more. The car he sees as a triangulation of mobility (simply getting from a to b – you could use a bicycle or skates), environment (car interior or the windswept immediacy of feeling the wind in your face), and what he called “avatar” – “car-ness” – because the car is a stand-in for who you are or would want to be. (We have had so much to say about the “soul” of a car in my class for Revs this quarter – [Link])

Perhaps we might delegate other tasks to the car, other than “this is how I want to appear – this is my identity”. How about – the car cares for me, the car does things for me?

Because we are deeply entangled and engaged with our cars.

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