Designtalk: Light - Magic - Technology with Adrian van Hooydonk and Paul Cocksedge. Highlight Summary.
“Today, our customers expect the cars to work very well but they buy our products for something else, something that is more emotional. With the lamps, we have reached that level where it began to be more than just a functional piece.”
“We try to use the technology in a way that it strengthens the character of the car and becomes a design project in and of itself so that it's something that you see from afar. And also when you go up closer to the car, there is a lot of stuff that you can discover.”
“We start using light to also create an ambience in the car. It does create an atmosphere and we are using more and more LEDs for that. In the BMW 5 Series that is on the road now, you begin to see that also with LED and some lighting conductors we are now emphasizing the actual geometry, the shape of the car. It now begins to go past the mere function of showing you where the door handle is. It's now becoming more and more part of the character of the car.”
“Now, a tail lamp consists of over 60 pieces. And basically – and this is, maybe, where it begins to touch on the work that Paul [Cocksedge] is doing – you don’t know where the light is coming from. That's at least our objective. We're trying to do it in a way that – when you look at it – you begin to wonder: How did they do it? A little bit of magic, maybe even poetry.”
Paul Cocksedge about his project for BMW Design - Sestosenso - presented at Salone del Mobile 2011 in Milan, Italy.
“What BMW was doing in the BMW 7 Series was really understanding how light travels and how it travels through transparency. I was very attracted to this idea as Adrian says about the invisible – that relates to my work as well.”
“I designed a lamp inspired by the front head lights. The aim of this show was about getting people closer to what BMW have done in the car. Normally, you always expect to see something in the middle, a light bulb hanging. But in this situation, because the light is transmitted through transparency, there's nothing there. So people entered the space and saw these clear lamps that were actually giving a very strong light but the light source starts at the top. It's disguised. And as you entered, you could hear the car driving around. We used real recordings of the car. And you could almost feel it as well because we had surround sound. What happened is people started to look through the lamp and even get inside the lamp. And at that moment, something interesting happens because you realize that actually the car has been driving around you and it's in the light on the wall but your eye can't perceive it. So it really, really plays with this idea of hiding, invisible, and showing people the magic of light, really. I mean a lot of my inspiration comes from me not understanding how light works. Through the lamp, we see the car. So that was the way of bringing all our worlds together.”
SESTOSENSO: a luminary apparition by Paul Cocksedge. Inspired by the new BMW 6 Series, the first BMW with Full-LED headlights.
Adrian van Hooydonk about Sestosenso.
“I think Paul did a fantastic job with this project because it was about light, it was about magic, and he did what he is really good at, I think, to create more than what the function of the light actually would allow.”
Paul Cocksedge about the inspirational aspect of light.
“What I find interesting especially working with light is that you have a lot of gifts that arrive at the studio of new technologies to work with. LEDs, OLED technology – this is a constant inspiration because it allows you to do things that you couldn’t do usually, so it's an exciting time, especially when working with light.”
Adrian van Hooydonk about lights as part of a car company's design DNA.
“More and more companies have discovered their lighting design as something they can become recognizable by. I think BMW has incorporated the lighting design in their corporate character for a while. It's always been part of what the design department does. Not just the grill but also the light. I think that combination has made sure that even five-year old children can recognize a BMW in traffic. In the last 5-6 years, we have made sure that also the tail lamps have now become part of this identity. The LED technology has made this possible. When the first cars with LED tail lamps came around, I think in the car industry it was just a matter of showing who can afford the most LEDs. What you saw was a lot of dots. And who had more dots was the better car, obviously. Five to six years ago, when we came out with the LED technology, we decided not to do it that way. It wasn’t important. I don’t think it is important to show even where the light source is. It's far more intriguing, more magical if you do something that people have to look twice. Because light – you can also call jewelry on the car. So it has become much more. It has become part of the character and maybe the car has become more of something that is alive because of lighting.”
BMW 7 Series LCI (facelift) LED Headlight
Adrian van Hooydonk about the future of light in car design.
“The next thing for us is laser light
. LED is already very small, a lot smaller than a light bulb. And laser for us is probably the next technology that we're going to use. Laser light, of course, is a very, very sharp beam. You can't really look into it. It is dangerous. So you need to put some filters and lenses in front of it. And through some mirrors, you can actually direct this laser beam very, very precisely. So the laser beam comes out of the piece in the center and then, you can direct it towards the outside and you can also change the color of the light. You can turn it into various colors. The advantage is that it's even more energy-efficient, uses less energy, and that is going to be more and more important in the future. And that it's actually built even smaller than an LED. But we're still working on this technology. We hope to get it in production in the next 3-4-5 years.”
BMW Laser Headlights from i8 Concept
Adrian van Hooydonk about the benefits of being open-minded.
“At the beginning of any project, I don’t try to tell people what I'm thinking of. I really ask them to give me their idea of what it should be. And typically, they surprise me and then my role is a role of art director. It's also very beneficial, I think, to my team and myself to not get completely isolated because the car world, of course, is big but it's also not all that important. So you have to make sure that you stay in touch with life in general and talk to real people like Paul Cocksedge and see what he has to say about our work. And this dialog, I think, brings you further.”
Adrian van Hooydonk about the design process at BMW.
“It takes about three years to develop a new car. In my design group, we have around 500 designers and engineers and model makers. Basically, the way it happens is that the design phase takes about one year. And in that year, we go from an empty sheet of paper, a clean sheet of paper, to a fully finalized design model. And we do it to a design competition. So I brief the whole design team; then they start sketching. Four or five weeks later, we look at the sketches, we make some selections, we make models – computer models or clay models. Then, through several months and selections, we finally arrive at one exterior model, one interior model that we then choose, select to go to production. This period is followed by two more years where we, of course, still do a lot of design work and the engineers really have a lot of work to make sure that all of this stuff in the end works.”
Design Team Working on Vision Efficient Dynamics Concept (Precursor to the BMW i8)
Adrian van Hooydonk about the actual paradigm shift in car design.
“Right now, we are living through a very, very exciting time in car design. I know that a lot of people are saying that all cars look the same. And I sometimes compare it with racing. When the rules and regulations stay the same for a long time, all the race cars end up looking alike because the engineers and the technology will basically go one way. At the moment, the rules are changing in car design because engines are changing. We are going to have electric engines; we are going to have hybrids. The way we build cars is changing. We have already gone from steel to aluminum and now, we're going to carbon fiber. And all of this means that there is no more rule book. So right now, I think actually it's very exciting to do car design because everything can be re-defined. And there's also new challenges. But overall I think that in the next decade or so, we'll see car design growing apart again. Maybe after ten years, when the technology has settled again, maybe the design is going to grow similar again but right now, I think everything is open and very, very exciting. And technology is changing quickly.”
Paul Cocksedge about his opinion on BMW's future.
“Well, you know, I'm from London, so driving is a different experience there. You've got the congestion charge. You stop for a minute, you get a parking ticket. It's quite a battle having a car in London. So I'm quite interesting in the concept of the sharing of cars, cycling or these bits in-between a car and a bike and these types of technologies. But when I came here and I got driven around in a BMW to the venue, to my hotel – it was just an experience of cars in a way I've never experienced it before.”
Adrian van Hooydonk about BMW's ideas for the future of mobility.
“There are many cities like London where it's hard to get around. So we also think beyond cars, of course. BMW has made motorcycles for a longer time than cars. And motorcycles now are, let's say, leisure vehicles, fun vehicles. I think that going forward two-wheel transportation actually will play a bigger role again. That's at least how we're looking at it. Maybe we'll come up with something in-between a motorcycle and a car. Probably for a city, all of these mobility services will have to be zero emission – electric. And we're even looking into that idea of not owning a car. At the moment, we sell a lot of cars or we offer them as leasing. But right here in Munich, we have a test program running which is called "Drive Now", where you can subscribe and then, you can use the cars that are parked in the city only for the time that you need it. We know that times are changing – talking to people that live in these other cities have made us very aware of it. In Munich, it's easy for me to arrange – in London, it's a little bit harder. So we have to be a bit more creative but I'm sure we can manage.”
BMW i Pedelec Concept (Electric Bicycle)
Adrian van Hooydonk about the influence of the Chinese market on car design.
“At the moment, the Chinese market is a big market for us. But so is Europe and so is the US. So these regions of the world are of equal importance to us. More important than that, I would say, is that in our company, the brands that we have – MINI, Rolls Royce, BMW – they all have a very, very strong history and heritage. And I think for premium brands, history is important. Customers want to know where this brand is coming from, what it stands for. And they want to know that the brands that they buy or the products look the same, actually, all over the world. This is helping us. For a premium brand, this is the case. If you think of fashion brands, like Louis Vuitton or Prada, their products typically look the same around the world. And that's also true for our products because our customers typically travel a lot or through the internet, they are connected to the world anyway. Our Chinese customers would be very disappointed if they would find out that we here in Munich would drive a totally different BMW. They would feel cheated, in a way. But of course, culture or taste are different. And we try to cater to that through colors, materials and so on. We have design studios all over the world. So we want to observe and be aware of what people want from their cars. Maybe from our studio in Shanghai, we will find a completely new idea of mobility. And maybe that idea could be sold all over the world because the world is connected these days. But we will not do a car especially designed for China. I think with our brands, that wouldn’t be the right way.”
Recently Established BMW Designworks Studio in Shanghai
Adrian van Hooydonk about his view on Paul's working environment.
“I do envy Paul because he lives in works in London, he has a cool studio and I can relate to that because before I worked at BMW, I had my own little design studio in Amsterdam and I know what that's like. I didn’t get much work done but I'm sure he does.”
Paul Cocksedge about his view on Adrian's working environment.
“It's interesting because when you talk about the design process, it's very similar to designing a lamp for production. It does take time. A lot of these things – I may have more – I can maybe act quicker on ideas and get things started quicker but to get something beautiful in production or complete it as good as it can be is never as quick as you want. So I know I've been working on lamps that sometimes take three years to be finished and perfect. And when I visited Adrian in his studio, it's about ideas and creativity and that's what we're doing in our studio. Of course, there's differences and Adrian has more responsibilities in some aspects but we both share a passion for design. So when we're having a drink or relaxing, that's our link. It's about creativity. We've just chosen slightly different places to release those ideas.”
Adrian van Hooydonk about switching jobs with Paul Cocksedge.
“I think we should just try it and see if my team will miss me. I'm sure I would enjoy London, though. I could also imagine, to invite Paul to my team. I don’t know if I could keep him happy with the work that we have but from a personal point of view absolutely! It didn’t take long for us to get along and find common ground. For me, there would be no problem at all.”
Paul Cocksedge about his position in between engineering and art.
“I'm just creating things, I have ideas, I use anything and everything. Some of the pieces I do have engineering in them and electronics and there's all those things that an engineer would think about. So for me, it's a mesh of everything.”
Adrian van Hooydonk about his position in between engineering and art.
“I think in both our jobs or work, we need to solve a lot of problems - technical problems, cost problems – make things work so that people have something from the product. That is, let's say, what engineers do. And like artists, we want to do more than that. We want to create something that inspires people and that they want to use, that they want to play with. So I would say it's both.”
Design Talk held at the international Media Launch of the new BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe with Olga Polizzi, Deputy Chairman and Director of Design at Rocco Forte Hotels, and Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President BMW Group Design. 5th May 2012, Hotel La Verdura, Sicily.
Host: I guess we could start by addressing the evolutionary process in design. You’re constantly involved in design. Where is your starting point?
Olga Polizzi: It’s always quite difficult when you’re starting a new hotel. We’ve got hotels from Manchester to Abu Dhabi. Our philosophy of hotels is that every hotel has to feel right in its place. So if you’re in Munich, you should wake up and feel as if you’re in Munich; if you’re in Sicily, wake up and feel as if you’re in Sicily. None of our hotels are the same. Each one is really thought through. For us, to do a hotel in Berlin, we’ll go and have a look; we will read things up. We’d look at a lot. I’ll wander around the city trying to understand what is Berlin. Well, the most important thing is also what sort of building are we in? Is it an old building? So we respect the building as well as the place. Here in Sicily, it’s a very harsh environment, very, very strong sun, strong winds; when it rains, it rains very hard. The waves are strong. You can’t do something pretty-pretty. It has to be harsh in itself. So we’ve got concrete floors. Very simple decoration. But the first thing, obviously, is to look at the contours of the land, which way you want to face. People always think of design as sort of pretty curtains and pretty carpets, but it’s a lot more than that.
Adrian van Hooydonk: Wow – strong winds and waves! Those can be a source of inspiration for us as well, but there are other things that come into play in car design. And that gives us inspiration. There’s the history of our company, of course. The cars that this company has made have always had a special character, a sporty character. They were always made for people who enjoy driving, and still find that a pleasant activity. Those are things we want to express in the design. So we don’t just want to create a beautiful object to look at. We want to have people begin to imagine what it would be like driving this car or using it. At the beginning of each project, we actually sit together among designers and some other experts and we talk about the character of the vehicle. We try to describe it in terms of a human being. Because we see our line of cars as a product family. So there has to be a family resemblance that also has something to do with our history and our heritage. But then each product, each car has a character of its own. Like in a real-life family, there are different characters. Those are then based on what people can experience when they use these products.
Host: Could you expand on that, Adrian? The new model, what kind of character is it?
Adrian van Hooydonk: Of course, the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe is one of the top models in the range. And it is meant for travel. You could travel fast or you could travel far, and then arrive in style, I would say. You can use it as a business tool but also enjoy some very nice holiday trips to places like this.
Host: Let’s have a look at the premium aspect. What role does it play in upholding the luxury statement, both in your hotels and in designing a new BMW?
Olga Polizzi: It’s difficult. Luxury sort of changes. Ten years ago, a 30-square-metre room was quite luxurious with a decent-sized bathroom. Now, we’re all more and more spoiled. We go to more and more places, luxury now means a 45-square-metre room, separate showers as well as baths. You have separate dressing areas. It’s continually evolving. You have to keep moving just to keep slightly ahead of the game. I thought quite a lot about what is similar about hotel design and car design. It’s actually amazing how much there is in common. Design – it’s like business. There are so many strands that are very much like each other. A luxury car has to feel luxurious. When you slam the door, it has to have that clunk that you know it’s strong and that it’s expensive. Obviously a lot of hotel luxury has to do with service, because you can have the most beautiful hotel in the world and you walk in –Wow! It looks marvellous, everyone is happy – and then you have rotten service and you don’t want to go back again. It’s the same with the car. It can look absolutely amazing, and if it stops in the middle of a lane, miles away from anywhere, you really don’t want that car. Someone can take it as far as you’re concerned. So we do have that in common.
Adrian van Hooydonk: I also believe luxury is changing. It’s actually diverging. There are very different expressions or experiences of luxury, I think, around the world now. So as such, it may be harder to do or to design. In some ways luxury, I think, can be very minimalist. But it then really comes down to the details, to the materials. And then in other ways it’s more about personal space. A car, of course, is not as big as the hotel rooms that you mentioned, but for car design, luxury can also happen in a small space. MINI, for example, offers that. But it is very much about personal space. It is, in a way, for many people that lead busy lives, a case of when they get in their car, this is their personal cocoon. It can also be quite relaxing, and at the same time, if you like driving, you can really get involved in that. So more and more, it’s about every little detail. It goes deeper and deeper. If we look at the headlamp today, it consists of 60 pieces, all of them designed. That’s a design object in and of itself. As I said, I think colour and material are playing a bigger role now.
Host: What materials or maybe what favourite thing – an object, a special item – has to be in the car, in the hotel room, that kind of changes the atmosphere?
Olga Polizzi: In a hotel, I think there always has to be something unexpected. It’s always rather nice to come in and think there’s something that you haven’t seen somewhere else. Something that makes you smile. Something either very luxurious or unusual.
Adrian van Hooydonk: I’d agree with that. Because when you enter a hotel room with your luggage, first of all you want to find the main things, how to operate these things. Where is the light switch? Where is the bathroom? In car design, we like to create a design that people can understand, let’s say, from a distance. But we like to do design that draws people in, involves them. Because owning a car, when everything goes well, should happen over a period of time, over years. And then, in our design, we also like to add some elements that people will only discover later. Second read or third read. And on the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe there are some lines on the roof or on the C-pillar that I think you won’t notice right away. The main design theme on the exterior of the car is only two lines. So it’s not overly complicated. What happens between the lines is very complicated but you only realise this over time when you live with the car, or sometimes when you park the car, you walk away, you press the key, you look over your shoulder, a certain light falls on the car, you then probably see some things that you haven’t seen before. The idea is that you make the customer fall in love all over again with this object. And that, I think, then creates modern luxury or something that holds its value for a longer period of time.
Host: How important is quality these days, now that we’ve experienced so much that we feel, well, we know something about it? Is quality even more important today than in the past?
Adrian van Hooydonk: Functionality is, let’s say, the entry ticket these days into the world of luxury. And then, also design. Design is a word that maybe 15-20 years ago not many people used. Today it’s used a lot. So nowadays, I think when you’re a designer doing these types of projects, you have to make sure that you fill the word ‘design’ with meaning. And in our view, it’s about detail. Because it’s down to every little detail. Because it can fall apart if the big picture looks good and then you look at the detail and it doesn’t work. Then, I think, customers are all-too aware that it’s not a good design. Okay, obviously in the car that we’ve presented here, we tried to look into every little corner. We even have stitching in the interior in a contrast colour and you can only do that, you can only highlight that if you’re pretty sure about how the lines run. And then you can actually add this detail because it focuses the customer’s eye. So I think quality is extremely important, but it’s much more than functionality these days.
Olga Polizzi: Yes, I think in hotels the main thing is comfort. You’ve got to have a very comfortable bed, you’ve got to have comfortable chairs, you’ve got to have good lighting. I think luxury has a lot to do with that. That everything works well and is really comfortable and is in the right place. And there’s that in many other aspects of design. I mean, every chair is checked: Does it work with each table that one uses? Is it the right height? The air conditioning, where are the outlets and how are they working? So it’s a myriad of details.
Host: So it’s a certain feeling you convey in your rooms and in your cars. What makes driving nowadays an exclusive experience?
Adrian van Hooydonk: We sell cars all over the world and very few countries have autobahns. Most countries have speed limits and many countries have urban areas with a lot of traffic. And still we sell cars there. So I can say that already today, a BMW is more than just a car that you can drive fast. It is, actually, a very complex object that you can control or operate really, really well. Everything functions extremely precisely, whether it’s the switches on the dashboard or how you open and close a door. So already today our products are about more than just the driving. But I’ve lived in the US as well and there’s a speed limit there that I tried to adhere to, and sometimes you only need an off-ramp on a highway to experience why our car is different from others. So it’s not only about top speed. You can have this driving fun in many different situations. But today, it’s already about more than just that. It’s also about attention to detail and about precision in every detail.
Host: What makes a hotel room something special? A very special experience, or is it about the entire surroundings?
Olga Polizzi: We always use a lot of local materials or products. Let’s take this hotel. The stone is local to here, and we’ve used it a lot. Then we had some old Sicilian tiles and, again, they were a lot made from hundreds of years ago to recently. We had an 18th-century tile and we took that as our main point of reference. And we’ve used it in lampshades, on walls, actually as tiles, as pitches. So it has that feel that goes all the way through the hotel, gives it a sort of unity. The nice thing is if somebody actually writes to you and asks, ‘Where did you get this?’ or ‘Where did you get the other?’. In the old days, the last thing anyone wanted was for their house to look like a hotel. Nowadays, a lot of people copy their houses from hotels. So we have changed, we’ve moved on. And perhaps it’s us copying homes. We like having books in the rooms. It’s the little things that people notice, amazingly. It’s not sometimes the larger picture.
Host: Adrian, when you enter a hotel room, what do you look for first?
Adrian van Hooydonk: First, I look for a place to put my bag down and for the switches. The basics. Because that can be daunting. I’m typically in a hurry or late for something. So I like to find out how the room works before the next morning. Then, of course, I like to look around, the view and so on. Certainly here, this was fantastic already coming into the room last night with the view over the sea. That was really great! Great views are something you can never get enough of. Also this morning, it was beautiful. And then, yes, I’m a designer, so I look at every little detail. I look at a lot of interesting objects. I try to figure out who makes this chair, what is this lamp? So I like travelling these days because I think hotels have changed, as Olga said, a lot. A business hotel is also very different today. If travelling is a big part of your life, then a hotel becomes more and more important, even as a business hotel.
Host: Olga, what do you look for and what do you expect of an ideal car and what makes driving interesting to you?
Olga Polizzi: I’m not really a car person, which is a bad thing to say here. But obviously, I like the look of a car. And then I really just want a car that keeps going. So for me it’s really functionality and the look. I don’t really go into the great details and I never read the manual. I just sort of turn the key and hope it’s all going to work.
Host: Adrian, there are many items you took up in the new BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, but could you explain how you did it?
Adrian van Hooydonk: We’re going to make things even more easy. In our cars, you don’t have to turn the key. You push the button and it works. So yes, we are aware that the car absolutely has to work. And then when you drive it for longer, it can involve you a lot more. We know that not all of our customers are driving at the limit all the time. Today, with modern technology, we can cater to all of that. You have the Driving Experience button where you can go from comfort to sport. So according to your mood, even, you can make the car do different things. That’s something that’s very easy to operate. We know that for a lot of customers, when they’re thinking about something else, they leave the gears in automatic. There are eight speeds. The car will select them for you. Where does it go from here? I think this technology has now really allowed us to make the cars cater even better to the needs of the individual customer. You can drive the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe in a really sporty way or in a very comfortable way. It happens really easily at the push of one button. So now, finally, we are reaching a point where the technology actually makes life easier and more enjoyable, not necessarily more complex. And the same is true for the internet connection. All our cars have this. It means that, while you’re travelling, you can book hotels from the car or find out information about places you don’t know yet. So it can actually bring something to you without you ever having to read a book, read a manual or study the place you’re going to.