If you’re a fan of the blue and white roundel, then it’s likely you know of the name Chris Bangle. You may have even heard the expression “Bangle Butt”. If not, Chris Bangle was the head designer at BMW for many years and penned such BMWs as the E65 7 Series and E60 5 Series. These are the cars that caused the “Bangle Butt” phrase to be coined, given they had strange, squared off rear ends. Let’s just say that Bangle’s designs weren’t very loved.
In fact, Bangle was pretty much hated by most BMW enthusiasts for causing the brand to stray so far from its design roots. However, that wasn’t necessarily Bangle’s fault. BMW brought him in to shake things up and that’s exactly what he did. Unfortunately for Bangle, this wasn’t well received by most enthusiasts of the Bavarian brand. So Bangle eventually left BMW and moved on to other things.
Now in the second act of his career, Bangle has his own design firm which works on projects of a wide variety. Chris Bangle & Associates is located in the small town of Clavesana, Italy and he runs it with his wife, Catherine. Aside from Catherine and himself, there are only two other full-time employees — two secretaries. Everyone else that works for Bangle does so freelance and he hires a number of outside designers to assist him on his various projects.
“I wanted to found a design company of associates for the reason that I believe in co-innovating, with everyone from clients to engineers, marketing and end users,” said Bangle. “The clients we have are still classic design clients. But they are clients that want more than just product design, they want their own company to embrace design and grow along the way.”
While Bangle began his career in the automotive world, designing cars for Fiat, he rarely does any car work nowadays. Instead, Bangle’s projects range anywhere from nursing homes to liquor bottles. However, he is currently working on an automotive project. In fact, almost his entire team of freelance designers is working on an upcoming electric car. It’s the first automobile he’s been excited to work on for a very long time, according to Bangle.
There’s no word on which car or for which company, but it is an electric car. But he does say that he isn’t currently involved with any autonomous driving projects. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have any feelings on autonomous cars, though.
Bangle obviously feels very strongly that cars are emotional purchases and their design must be emotional as well. If you couldn’t figure that out from his time at BMW, you’re not looking at his cars close enough. Whether you’re a fan of his designs or not, there’s no denying the fact that Bangle was bold and innovative with his designs. He also feels that people currently aren’t for autonomous car designs, such as Google’s self-driving car. They aren’t emotional enough. “People have a right to be critics,” said Bangle. “The idea of using things in our life and giving personality and character without adding hands or eyeballs or feet. That’s what car designers should be promoting as a skill set.”
He has a point. Cars are emotional purchases, regardless of whether or not we drive them. We buy cars based on design more than almost anything else. If that weren’t the case, we’d all be driving around in beige rectangles. And, to be completely honest, most autonomous car designs aren’t far off from such rectangles.
Bangle seems to be doing very well for himself at the moment. He’s currently been designing for some very high-profile clients, such as Adidas and Samsung, as well as many local projects. Chris and Catherine seem to be happy and doing well and that’s good to hear. While his time at BMW was controversial, many of his designs are still around and he certainly left his mark on the automotive world. And while many of his designs were not very good (E60 5 Series), he did design one of the best looking BMW sedans of all time, the E46 BMW 3 Series.
So we’re glad to see Bangle is doing well in the second chapter of his career and life. Hopefully, this one doesn’t bring him as much controversy.