BMW design icons

Interesting | March 1st, 2012 by 10
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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 …

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.

Front end.

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.

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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.

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Focused look.

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.

Hofmeister kink.

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.

Window design.

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.

Swage line.  

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.

Driver-focused design.

Important operating and control elements in the instrument panel and centre console are angled visibly towards the driver, putting them directly within reach.

[Source: BMW]

10 responses to “BMW design icons”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great article!!

  2. StraightSix says:

    I also like how the foot pedals are kept the same over many years, I mean E30 has virtually the same pedals as F30 which is awesome.

  3. FreudeKing says:

    So when they come out with these front wheel drive cars to end decades of tradition at BMW, they had better not design them with the Hofmeister kink, seeing that they identify this design element with RWD! Furthermore, this means that from this moment on, not all BMW will have the same traditional design elements because some of them are now FAKE BMWs with FWD. i.e. brand dilution so that they can make more profits and sell more units… someone at BMW needs to be fired!

  4. Alen Residovic says:

    They forgot the roof antenna near the rear window , which looks like the sharks back, and the older BMW like E21, E30, 2002, 1800, E34, had the bonnet and headlights designed like the sharks head and body. 

    Also, the M models have additional grills under the side mirrors, which sometimes have integrated side turn signal lights. Like the E46 M3, E60 M5, F10 M5… etc…

  5. Alen Residovic says:

    Forgot to mention Angel eyes, as a recognizable bmw design element from the E39 facelift, to today’s models. The newer models start to have an eyebrow over the angel eyes, starting from E60, X1, F30, F10, F1… etc. Although you can put “angel eyes” under, double rounded headlights…

    Maybe another interesting thing is the placement of the BMW emblem on the hood… It ALWAYS comes on the hood, and on the same place. Other car makers put the emblem on the grills, od like some Mercedes models, 3d logo… I’d say that the BMW emblem on the hood is a recognizable design element for all BMW’s

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