Adrian van Hooydonk about light in car design.
“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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”