BMW has a rather distinct history; strict adherence to a limited set of design principles. Through years of tradition and brand establishment, these designs have since become an icon, easily recognizable even without the badge. This article attempt to celebrate the enduring power of BMW design principles.
These design principles have, through the years, become synonymous with the BMW brand, insofar as to become an extension of the brand itself. Like Audi’s (wildly successful) signature daytime LEDs, BMW design their cars with an almost-obsessive devotion to these principles (which reminds me of what Lexus did to the 2012 GS line).
Creating an easily recognizable yet appealing design and infusing the design with emotion and character is a perpetual uphill task, sometimes necessitating a ridiculous amount of money just to make a dent in the minds of the consumers. It also takes some time for the general public to appreciate and/or identify with the design.
Some manufacturers play around with designs that polarize its audiences, like the Mercedes-Benz Biome concept, Mazda Furai concept or the Citroën GT concept (GTbyCITROËN), while others go for a more conservative, yet recognizably futuristic designs (e.g. Lexus 2054 Concept, Audi RSQ, Cadillac Cien, Porsche 918 Spyder Hybird).
The BMW design principles can be hailed as one of the most successful brand strategies of the 20th century, and it requires a close and symbiotic relationship between the marketing and design divisions to truly capitalise its effectiveness.
Unlike perennial competitor Mercedes-Benz which experiments much more liberally with their designs, BMW has to stick with a particularly limiting set of design principles. How good this strategy works for each marque is subjective, but one can not deny the pressure and stress its design team goes through (albeit differently) when delivering every single facelift.
BMW design icons.
Over the years, the styling of BMW cars has produced a host of design icons which have become synonymous with the brand as a whole and, in some cases, signature features of individual models. Collectively, these iconic elements have helped shape the identity of the brand and its cars.
A kidney-shaped radiator grille and twin circular headlights “sawn off” along the top define the front end of a BMW. These distinctive “facial” features ensure that a BMW is clearly identifiable even without the brand logo on display.
The two-part, rounded-off radiator grille – known as the kidney grille – was established as an iconic feature of BMW cars in 1933. This design element has been a fixture across all the brand’s model series since 1935.
The brand’s hallmark twin circular headlights are “sawn off” across the top, creating the distinctive focused look over the road ahead.
The proportions of BMW cars have become a hallmark feature. A long wheelbase, long, sweeping bonnet and set-back passenger compartment generate a feeling of dynamic urgency before the car so much as turns a wheel. In other words, a BMW needs only a single glance to tell you what it’s all about: Sheer Driving Pleasure.
The Hofmeister kink – the counter-sweep at the foot of a BMW’s C-pillar as it meets the body – was named after Wilhelm Hofmeister. The former BMW Body Design Director first introduced this styling cue to BMW cars in 1961. The Hofmeister kink emphasises the car’s dynamic, forward-surging stance and hints at BMW’s traditional rear-wheel drive.
The side windows of a BMW, with their chrome-coloured surrounds and black B-pillars, recall the styling of classic coupés. Their long, low-profile design enhances the dynamic appearance of a BMW.
The customary swage line of a BMW divides the car’s body and is a defining element of its side view. The designers use the swage line to enhance or dilute the wedge shape of the brand’s various models. The car’s door handles are integrated into the swage line, allowing its lavishly contoured surfaces to be showcased even more effectively.
L-shaped rear lights.
The L-shaped design of the rear lights underlines the width of the rear end, which in turn visually enhances the car’s presence and stability.
Important operating and control elements in the instrument panel and centre console are angled visibly towards the driver, putting them directly within reach.
Andrew is a man of many talents (some hidden). He often baffles many with his uncanny ability to stay awake for an inhuman number of days, then disappears. For hours. TCG labels him “Comatose Man” for his nocturnal endeavours and sleep super powers.
Trained professionally to shoot people in the face, he has recently focused his photography talents to his other passion – cars. A qualified driving instructor with HPC Motorsports, he’s also a talented driver and can be seen outbraking and overtaking Type-Rs at Sepang in his limited edition Satria R3.
In between not sleeping, shooting and eating (he’s a huge foodie, any time of the day), he writes. And write well he does!
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