What’s next for Chris Bangle, BMW’s Controversial Designer?

3-Series | August 16th, 2016 by 17
chris bangle bmw3

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 …

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.

bmw m5 e60

E60 BMW M5 with famous “Bangle Butt”

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.

BMW 7 Series E65 2002 Photo 16 750x562

E65 BMW 7 Series

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.


E46 BMW 3 Series Sedan

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.

[Source: FastCoDesign]

17 responses to “What’s next for Chris Bangle, BMW’s Controversial Designer?”

  1. Mike N. says:

    Don’t care what the haters say, the E60 was a very good looking car, especially in M5 or M sport guise. It looked sleek and modern, and had trim and tidy proportions. I like it more than the F10, which to me looks a little bloated and bland, to be honest.

    As for the E65, well the LCI at least made it tolerable 😄

    • Mihai says:

      I can’t agree more, E60 M5 (in space gray) is by far the best looking M5 so far, it still looks ‘fresh’ after 10 years! F10 looked old the moment it came out… I’m glad to hear Chris is doing fine :-)

      • Fritz says:

        The F10 was designed on Bangle’s watch.

        • Mihai says:

          There’s no question about it, but He left in Feb 2009, f10 was unveiled more than a year later I believe – I would not be surprised if creative differences in the design direction of the new cars had something to do with his departure. I mean if after e60 you come out with f10…

  2. maxnix says:

    I think the Bangle designed 7 series was the last one to out sell the MB S series.

    Everyone ended up imitating him, so he was influential.

  3. Jason says:

    Unpopular opinion: Chris Bangle was a genius and his designs are still a huge influence today. The bangle-butt era cars have aged better than other “forward thinking” designs from the same time period (the 1st gen Mercedes CLS being a prime example)

  4. FoggyAgave says:

    That M5 looks great – don’t forget the Z4 – super innovative for it’s ‘flame’ surfacing concept ^^

  5. Alexander S says:

    You know. I look at my E60 LCI and it still looks very good and not dated. This is the best award for Bangle as good designer. A lot of design elements in this model still look fresh and definately it was way out of time and more modern than it’s competitors ten years ago!

  6. Max Herrman says:

    for me Chris Bangle is a legend. Thank you for unique design.

  7. JK says:

    I think of him as Jony Ive of car design.
    I didn’t know he designed the E46 3 series, timeless design.

  8. Giom says:

    Reading all these Bangle praises now reminds me of a time when my ‘positive’ Bangle comments were the only pro Bangle posts in many threads. My thoughts back then were – and still are, people are afraid of change. Sometimes, change is exactly what is needed most…

    • MultiKdizzle says:

      You are correct. I felt the same way at the time.

      E60 is still the best 5 Series ever produced. Chris Bangle, please come back to BMW.

  9. GregV8 says:

    Wow, I came here to comment how I must be the only person who likes his designs. Nice to see so many supporters. I feel terrible about the whole Chris Bangle controversy, because I used to hate his cars, and used every opportunity to express how BMW should get rid of him, and how bad he is for the brand.
    And here we are 10+ years later and all these cars are growing on me. The E60 looks fantastic, and the 6- and 7- series are also special. They are all unique, interesting, attractive, and most importantly- not copying anything else. I say Bangle was way ahead of his time and I’m sorry for not realizing that.

  10. Fritz says:

    The “problem” with Bangle is/was probably more rooted in his smug attitude.

  11. Freeway says:

    I was just thinking on how the E60 5-Series looks really good today. It looks more modern and sharper than the 2013 Lexus GS350 which came out 9 years later. Actually, the E60 could come out today and I think it wouldn’t look dated. Chris had a vision. At the time I didn’t get it but looking back his designs are timeless and advanced.

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