New ideas are not always embraced. This holds true for automotive design. Two of the most controversial automobiles BMW has ever produced, at least in terms of their styling, are the 7 Series sedan and the Z4 roadster. As a way of understanding the philosophy behind BMW's design direction, and to take a different approach to its cars' new styling, european car interviewed designers and artists both from within and outside of the automotive industry, including some involved in architectural design, product design, fashion design and fine art. What do these designers and artists see when they view a new BMW automobile?

To lend some direction to their responses, we asked three questions: What is your background? What kind of cars do you love? And, of course, what do you think of the design of the Z4 and 7 Series?

Tom Matano, Director, School of Design, Academy of Art College San Francisco
BMW Design has embarked on a journey in search of a new identity with the 7 Series, followed by the Z4 and 5 Series. Some show cars gave us a glimpse of things to come.

BMW needed to move forward to define its position because of the recent Mercedes-Benz move toward "sportier" with the S-Class and other models that followed. Audi has established modern Teutonic direction.

I would like to hold judgment until the next 3 Series introduction, which will conclude the current phase of identity development."

Lewis de Soto, artist, Napa, Calif., Art Instructor, San Francisco State University
"When I was a child, I wanted to be a car designer. I never got to this, though I customized cars as a hobby. My professional background is in painting, photography and sculpture. In the last ten years, I have produced installations, which are total art environments that utilize images, sounds, video and sculpture. I also create public art for buildings like the San Francisco International Airport.

I've owned about 40 cars. Of course, I love the aesthetic standards--Ferrari, Porsche, Alfas. I currently drive a '99 Audi A6 Avant quattro that has Apex springs, OZ wheels and other minor modifications. It is a wonderful car where every detail is harmonious. My other tastes are more offbeat: I love the 1965-67 Corvair Corsas and Datsun Fairlady Roadsters; I admire the 1950s Ghia Chrysler dream cars and almost any large American four-door hardtop station wagon. One of my favorite cars is the 1960 Pontiac Bonneville two-door hardtop; it looks like a chromed aircraft carrier. I've owned two.

The direction that BMW styling studio has taken since Chris Bangle has taken the reigns has been largely problematic for a number of reasons. First, I think Mr. Bangle makes designs that are overly conceptual. That is, the principles of design are fine, but they do not harmonize as a whole; they do not elicit desire. I think this is going to hurt sales in the long run.

The elements within his design strategy do make sense--the strong angle that connects the windshield pillar to the body on the Z4, for instance. But viewers of the car draw this line unconsciously, because it is inferred from the back bottom corner of the fender well, for instance. You don't need this line to remind us of the rake of the windshield. The BMW chevron bisecting this space makes us aware of the design over function.

The 7 Series is equally problematic; it uses styling cues used by small cars to make them seem bigger; but, in this case when you see the car in person, the car is too big in terms of its massing. This same problem occurred with the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado. It translated well in image form, but its massing was too large. This massing suggests a superiority of the car over the owner. It is the same problem with many SUVs. The driver in a SUV is diminished, and there is an implied vulnerability about the driver--that somehow they NEED protection from the outside world. It is problematic to put the driver in a position where he or she does not feel at one with a car but dominated by it.

This mass problem occurs again in the Z4. The car from the side view looks like we are looking at a 3/4 view, because the tail recedes into the distance. It looks "fast" in a picture, but when we see the car in person, the tail end is overly truncated, with too many surfaces trying to resolve this small area: The lights, fender swells and trunk lid have to meet on different planes, so you get all this strange uplift and downlift of shapes.

Compare this to the Z8 and the current 5 Series, where we see a suggestion of how a car is enveloped around the mechanicals to imply strength and agility. In the 7 Series and Z4, the body seems to sit on the mechanicals like 1970s-era GM sedans.

I think that the new designs are not an evolution, but a different direction. The problem with this direction is that when you look at the cars, if you have a design sense, you try to "resolve" the aberrant directions within the design, although you understand why they are there conceptually. The old 7 Series was a big car with a narrow fluke that was pitched wedge-like forward. It gave the sense of speed and stability at the same time. The new car, with the upper strake line which then downturns near the rear of the car, creates this feeling of slumping that makes the car look ponderous and heavy. The trunk lid looks like it was added as an option, like the old Nissan Pulsars with the "wagon-back" lid that was a different color.

The old Z3 design has some heritage detailing that comes off like a modern interpretation of an older paradigm of a sports car. The Z4 tries to look like something new, but it tries too hard. It looks self-conscious.

ec: Are BMW's design trends paralleling trends in art? Is there anything you're currently creating that could be examples of this or in contrast to it?
LdS: I think that BMW's design does parallel some tendencies in visual art in that it seems overly self-conscious at being 'design' and lacks a transparency that gives the viewer a sense of the subject of the car. In some forms of visual art, there is a sense that the artist is not a painter but a 'painter' in the ironic sense, playing with the idea of what an artist is but somehow not making a painting in the traditional sense. Look at the work of Jeff Koons or Mark Kostabi. I am creating a car right now as an artwork. I am creating a 1965 DeSoto Conquest, a model car that never existed. It is derived from a 1965 Chrysler New Yorker body and mechanicals. I am transposing the design ideas of Elwood Engel in creating this fictional DeSoto. DeSotos were not made after 1961. What I want to use the car for is a metaphor for the notion of conquest in the New World. Hernando, my namesake, was known as a particularly cruel character in dealing with the native peoples in the Southeast. I wanted to create this symbol of his achievements and drive it along his route through that part of the country. It has been incredibly fun doing 'badge-engineering,' trying to understand how designers adapt the same platform for a number of different models. How do you create a sense of individuality from brand to brand? How do you create an aura that identifies this car as part of a family of cars? In this case I studied DeSoto's design history and the interpretation of aesthetics that Elwood Engel brought to Chrysler from Ford. His 1961 Continental was a very significant design.

ec: Anything else you think is significant that will add a new way of looking at BMW design?
LdS: I think it is unfortunate that BMW is abandoning the elements of its previous design, which elicited desire and, most importantly, the understanding that mechanically these cars where understanding. It is not a good thing to have the general public mistake BMW with Pontiac designs. It may, however, be good for Pontiac.

Larry Eisenbach, Program Manager, Advanced RD&D, Sustainable Product Design, Imitative NIKE
I was born in Portland, Oreg., raised on blue crabs and the Oriole baseball dynasty of the 1960s by the Chesapeake Bay just outside of Baltimore; went to college on Long Island Sound in Connecticut where I earned a B.S. in Industrial Design and then made a beeline back to Portland, leaving all family and relatives behind on the East Coast. I had grown up a car fanatic of sorts and was determined to become a car designer. In my first semester at college I realized that I didn't have that talent, but that never stopped me from appreciating the art. When I was 16, friends of a neighbor bought a Fiat X1/9. I loved that car and swore I'd own one someday. Sixteen years later I purchased a 1985 black beauty for a song ($4,200!) with only 18.5k miles on the odometer. I've owned it ever since as my spring and summer, fair-weather ride. Other cars I've loved: 1927 Bugatti Type 35B (Look at those wheels! They are contemporary by today's standards!). A 1936 Cord Model 810, a 1966 Lamborghini Miura (I've always preferred Lambo's to Ferrari's probably because they seem to be the underdog and always take more risks!) A 1971(?) BMW M1, (I have an original brochure on this mid-engined ultimate driving machine, as well as the1993-1997 Porsche 911, the height of perfection of that line.

I also love my daily driver, a black '92 VW Jetta with Koenig aluminum wheels, factory body moldings, ANSA exhaust system, and K&N air filter system, (144K miles and still going strong).

All these vehicles, in my mind share common traits:

1) Classic lines; 2) Purposeful designs--the Jetta is so much better in this regard in my mind then it's jellybean successors: larger interior, plastic moldings where it counts to prevent minor dings, and a mammoth trunk; 3) Beautiful proportions

ec: What do you think of the new BMW Z4 and 7 Series cars?
LE: The 7 Series--This is a LARGE car and I am not a fan of large cars but I'll give you my take on it, largeness aside! Bangle and company is to be lauded for attempting to move BMW's family appearance down a new path in an evolutionary way and for the most part they have succeeded here. I like the rear 3/4 view the best. The side and rear surface development is clean and subtle, as in the very nicely done beltline crease and gentle wheel well flaring. The backlight detailing of the taillights, reflective bar and tight creased trunk deck rear edge which resolves nicely into the C pillar are all beautifully developed. I don't like the front-end as much and it really centers on the headlight treatment. The hood is stately enough and the elongated grille (kidney beans) looks okay. But the headlights have become bug-eyed versus the "sinister," "partially hooded" look of the previous 3, 5, and 7 Series with their carved lower hemispheres (now copied by a number of other players most notable on the Acura RSX which is nicely done even though a copycat!). I really don't like the amber "eyebrow" look - sorry, you know how the Japanese give face like attributes to the front of their cars? This one looks confused or "sheepish" even--not characteristics I would normally assign to a BMW.
The Z4: For me, this is the worst defection from BMW's mystique I've seen, (maybe ever). I've spoken to a few other designers about this and concede that maybe I'm stuck in the past. No one will accuse Bangle of a lack of boldness here, even bravado. But is this a BMW? I don't want to be harsh; they have definitely made a statement. But is it a good one? Per my theww traits of automobile beauty identified above in my most loved cars...where are the classic lines here, where is the purposefulness of the design, and where are the beautiful proportions? Will anyone covet this car 25 years from now? Will the "flame" surface treatment flame out? Will anyone be able to explain it 25 years from now? The Z3 was a retro car with bulging, muscular wheel flares, an aggressive stance, and yet classic BMW looks. The Z4 in its most awfulness is seen driving down the road with its convertible top up. Ungainly! This is no timeless design here. My favorite parts of the design, (since it can't be all bad), are focusing in on a single rear taillight cluster and the clean interior design work.

ec: Do you see a change in design from what occurred in the previous Z4 and 7 Series? If you do, could you talk about the changes you see?
LE: I basically answered this question for the Z4 above but a little bit more on the 7 Series. I like the fresh overall look of the new 7--I'm just bummed by the move away from the front fascia treatment--that was classic BMW.

ec: Are there design trends that you see in these two cars that are paralleling design trends in architecture? Is there anything that you are currently working on or anything in the past that would be examples of this? (I'd love to include some information about what you're doing now as well. Do you see a parallel between product design and car design.).
LE: Definitely. I'm not as up to date on my architects but you see buildings being proposed and built where movement becomes a part of the buildings surfaces and a much more fluid, sculptural style is apparent in the more progressive work. I also see in this movement, though, a desire to make the flamboyant impression and wonder if these designs too, are something less than timeless. Will they look as provocative in 30 years or simply silly?

ec: Anything else you think is significant that will add a new way of looking at BMW design--as well as Nike's or just the general design trends?
LE: People buy Nike shoes for similar reasons they by BMWs or Porsches or more exotic fare (and like those cars, they generally pay a premium for them!). Though there are a small percentage of people out there that buy Nike shoes for their intended purpose (on the field, track and court), the majority buy them not so much for what they are, but for what they represent. They buy into the mystique, the athlete, the passion and drama. The same can be said for buyers of BMWs and the like. The fact that they could take a 30 mph curve at 60 mph, or go 0 to 60 mph in 5 sec. The fact that the top athletes in the world wear Nike product... "Yeah, I want a piece of that."
One more thing, in this age of high-priced whiz-bang sneakers, Nike 's top sellers continue to be designs done in the late '70s and early '80s! Classic styles in basketball, the 1980 Air Force I and Cortez Nylon Jogger. Some of this I will attribute to a movement societal to surround ourselves with simpler things that are familiar. In contemporary lives becoming ever more complex, honesty and simplicity in products is making resurgence. BMW, Bangle and company should pay attention.

Michael Hui, Senior Designer, Nike Footwear
"I was born in Hong Kong and grew up in San Francisco. I am 31 years old. I studied transportation, and product design at San Jose State University in the mid '90s, but I opted to go into product and furniture design as I had more of an interest in those things. However I never gave up my passion for automobiles. I am generally fascinated with any provocative car whether it is vintage or new, European, or domestic. I currently own a 2001 BMW M3 coupe. I bought it because of its uniqueness in style and because it was such an unusual model for BMW. It sold poorly, but it was a popular car among racing enthusiast, for its raw performance.

My favorite car so far is the Ferrari Testarossa from the mid to late '80s. I loved the low and wide proportions and the eye catching, yet functional design of the side slates. The connection to racing with its flat 12 engine is still my favorite power plant of all time. The outrageous styling is still potent even after almost 20 years since it first came out. ec: What do you think of the new BMW Z4 and 7 Series cars?
MH: I really admire the new Z4 and 7 Series styling. The luxury car market is such a "me too" place, and it is refreshing to see BMW, which in the past has been known for its stodgy styling, break out and do something distinctive. It is also good to see that BMW recognizes that there are different demographic markets, and ages, buying their cars, and they have responded by giving each of their lines a unique look to match. No more one design for the entire company. People can say what they will about flame surface design, but I feel it is an appropriate language for a younger, and trendier crowd.

ec: Do you see a change in design from what occurred in the previous Z4 and 7 Series? If you do, could you talk about the changes you see?
MH: Yes, I see an evolution to the Z4 and 7 Series. Will they revolutionize those designs with something new? No. Anytime you create controversial design, there is always a maturing of that styling over time. A gradual softening if you will. It usually involves adding new details or elements to change the character of the product to keep it up-to-date, like changing to a new bumper design for example. Ferrari did it with the 348 models where they softened the Testarossa design and add more up-to-date details and wheels. I think BMW has invested a lot of time and resources on the Z4 and 7 Series designs, and will not throw them out anytime soon. In fact, I expect to see those design cues on up coming models. ec: Are there design trends that you see in these two cars that are paralleling design trends in architecture? Is there anything that you are currently working on or anything in the past that would be examples of this?
MH: I see some parallels in architecture with the interiors more than the exteriors. The layering of the dashboard reflects some elements of Frank Gehry's MoMA building in Bilbao, and to a certain degree the flame surface styling on the Z4, with its long arches, bares some similarities to Gehry's creations as well. The use of brushed aluminum and ash wood trims, are also cues from interior design.

ec: Anything else you think is significant that will add a new way of looking at BMW design--as well as Nike's or just the general design trends?
MH: I see what BMW is doing with designing luxury cars, with what Nike has done, and continues to do, with sneakers--creating create products that push the boundaries and expectations of those products. To continually shift the paradigm, I see similar thinking with the Z4 and 7 with that of the Air Jordan shoe. No one can predict what that shoe will look or perform like, and because of that, it stirs controversy when it comes out. But isn't that what good design ought to do?

James Tong, Senior Designer Footwear design, Nike
As long as I can remember, I had always been crazy about cars. Especially fast cars! I wanted so much to become a car designer that I went to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena to study it. After working in the car industry and going to the school; I learned that car designing as a career required more than just design skills and the love of cars. Cars are such big products that development times are long and there are far too many people involved than I like to work with. Therefore, I prefer working on products in a smaller scale with small teams.

BMW, was one of many companies that I thought did the coolest stuff. In fact, two of the most beautiful cars every produced were powered by BMW, the BMW M1 and the McLaren F1 supercar with a BMW V12. However, over the pass 2 years BMW has quickly lost me as a long-time fan with its latest styling directions.

In the past, most BMW products had classic lines that were designed with a strong sense of confidence. The new Z4 and the 7 Series have far too much surface details on their designs. When you look at the designs for the first time there is no place where your eyes can rest. They are way too busy for German designs. In terms of general design trends, I believe BMW's design direction is far too extreme.

It is difficult to believe that a company like BMW has to try so hard with its designs.

Bill Barranco, Automotive Design Recruiting Specialist, Autovision Inc.
I started drawing cars at age 6, later found out I could get a college degree for it, went to Art Center, and the RCA, designed concept and production car interiors and exteriors, working for Ford, Nissan, Volvo and design manager at IAD in Worthing UK. Recently went to sprint car racing school for the fun of it and loved it. I've never liked BMWs very much. Too conservative for me, and too much about engineering, not enough "soul" or spirit.

The cars I love: The Germans--Modern: Audi (not tomorrow's Audi aesthetic) born from J May's pure formula of the fuselage interrupted with the wheels. It's all about the wheels. The old: BMW Isetta, great solution for urban centers, cheap and cheerful.

The French--Modern: Renault, a new form language, weird/lovable/retro/modern that speaks about alternative culture. Old: Really liked the Argus concept car, back in '94 (designer now changing the world of Citroen).

The Japanese--Modern: Nissan is about to wake up the whole automotive design community with models coming into production now. Too many models to list here. Old: Mazda RX7. Dependable horsepower wrapped in a very European skin.

The Italians--Modern: none. Sorry, they're still getting up off their laurels. Old: Lambo Muira, Ferrari F-40 and, of course, the Fiat 500.

The Americans--Modern: I'm still waiting. Cadillac 16, so let's see one on the road. Chrysler's Magnum looks promising, as did the Lincoln Mk 9 show car. Old: '50s to '60s Chevrolets, especially the best from Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell.

ec: What do you think of the new BMW Z4 and 7 Series?
BB: Z4--the US ad campaign, "land shark" seems an accurate and perfect description. I would love to see this car redefine the roadster definition. However, I have yet to get a grip on that boot lid"

7 Series--what really made the difference for me, was seeing the new 7 Series on the road.

The stance is Teutonic, bold, aggressive, self confident and (dare I say) different, something that is rarely seen in such high-end luxury cars. With Packard, Bugatti and Duesenberg it was the norm. It is as much art as engineering, and by that definition, the 7 Series would be a failure if it didn't challenge the norm. U.S. sales indicate so far that it is not a failure."

ec: Do you see a change in design from what occurred in the previous 7 Series? Do you see an evolution from one of the previous BMW's to the Z4?
BB: To quote Chris: "Evolution is for fish." The heritage of BMW begins with the affordable car for the average German. Shall we go back to that with this brand? The MINI is the closest to the BMW's heritage."

ec: Are BMW's design trends paralleling trends in art? Is there anything that you're currently creating that could be examples of this or contrast with it?
BB: I am a supporter of the direction that BMW (Bangle) has chosen, and I highly admire the bold, daring and even challenging new aesthetic that some call "flame" design. Call it what you will, you see the literal inspirations on the streets of Europe, Asia and America, i.e., sheer steel and glass architectural construction, tattoos and flames on low-end cool clothing, louder, in-your-face advertising, the boom in super-realistic animation, etc. BMW has raised the bar, challenging the norm and sometimes change is uncomfortable."

ec: Anything else you think is significant that will add a new way of looking at BMW design?
BB: It is often said that people look like their dogs. Take Chris, his exuberant personality, his glasses, his shoes, and perhaps this analogy applies to new BMW form language. But seriously, for inspiration on how to "see" new BMWs look at shoes. The foot is relatively a constant set of dimensions and design parameters. Walking is an integral part of the function of mobility, yet some of the best dressed wear very progressive and sometimes painful shoes. In shoes we see subtle or radical design (or none). You can easily spot a design conscious person by looking at their shoes.

Cars are no different than clothes, relative for what we use these products for. Spend a lot, or not. We make choices now with automobiles based on image as much as safety or performance.

My final parting shot: Uneducated critics of car styling say that all cars look alike. Chris Bangle just gave them "something different." So my suggestion to these people now is go buy a BMW.

Teresa Spafford, Lead Designer Color and Trim, Mazda North America
I graduate from BYU College of Design, in product design. I have worked with various companies for product design, recently worked at GM Design Center before coming to Mazda. I thoroughly love my job at Mazda. My favorite cars tend to be very simple with clear definitions of their intended experience they are giving the operator. 1956 Corvette, Land Rover Defender 110, Toyota Land Cruiser 1971, Porsche 356 and 911 Turbo. Some people love big American Classics; others are drawn to Italian designs. Me, it's a constant tug between speedy sports cars and bomber tough utility. One thing is consistent, they provide an "air" of freedom.

ec: What do you think of the new BMW Z4 and 7 Series?
TS: This is a loaded question because if I say one way or the other I will offend 50% of the readers. BMW took a hard turn and looked their brand image square in the eye with these two new vehicles. First gut response is "what in the hell were they thinking," but then the details move around in your head and start to make some sense. I like the details, they are bold and daring. I applaud the design team for the sales pitch, and the belief in their brand.

ec: Do you see a chance in design from what occurred in the previous 7 Series and do you see an evolution in design from one of BMW's previous designs to the Z4?
TS: There is huge potential for these designs to change and develop. The 7 Series and the Z4 have given the future design teams plenty fodder to think about on the next generation beyond the current models. So many diverse directions. There's a point in design where you figure out the formula (hopefully) or recipe for a successful product. After baking the same dish multiple times, don't you want to eat something different! So you go out, way out on limb sometimes.

ec: Are BMW's design trends paralleling trends in design? Is there anything that you're currently working on that could be examples of this or contrast with it?
TS: Yes, in the fact that everyone's seeking out the next big thing! And sometimes it can get a bit ugly, and sometimes it is more beautiful than anyone could have imagined (other than the designer of course). I feel BMW was doing a little soul searching of their own. It's more about the process and strategy.

ec: Anything else significant that will add a new way of looking at BMW design?
TS: While traveling in Europe recently, this same discussion came up around BMW's new design theme. Surprisingly enough the European designers I was with defended the new direction and had all good things to say about it. I hear quite the opposite from many of my American counterparts. But everyone agrees the interior design quality, craftsmanship, and details are superb. Some of the interior parts are not what we're used to seeing from a BMW. Personally, I feel there is a lot to learn from this exterior styling theme (especially the Z4) I think it puts designers on one side of the fence or the other. The interior materials, color coordination is clean. The theme consistency is well executed from inside out."

Jason Alread, Assistant Professor Department of Architecture Iowa State University
I'm an assistant professor of architecture at Iowa State University and I have my own architectural practice. I was an associate at HLKB Architecture in Des Moines, and while there I was the project architect for the Center Street Park + Ride (1999) and the Newton Road Parking Facility (2001)--both of which won National AIA Design Honor Awards. I also was fortunate enough to work with Maya Lin and Colleen Vojvodich on a major installation at the Principal Financial Group in Des Moines, titled "a shift in the stream" (1999).

A few of my favorite cars: 69 Plymouth Satellite Sebring (I owned a Satellite) Porsche 356, the original Datsun 240 Z, Audi TT, BMW 507, and also, I drive a VW--I think the best designed cars for the money.

ec: What do you think of the new BMW Z4 and 7 Series cars--the exterior and interior design?
JA: I have a mixed review between the two. I think the Z4 is incredibly beautiful, and technically fabulous. An immediate head turner, they seem to have raised the bar on roadster design, while still being reminiscent of their heritage. I love the new design, both inside and out--although the technology nod clearly goes to the 7 Series.

The 7 Series is also a truly impressive automobile, but did not have as strong a gut level appeal for me on the outside. I swear this is not just because on is a two seater and the other a sedan. I'll be way out of my league here to comment, but the curvature of the rear window and the way it meets the trunk--the hood to grille transition and the shape of the lights remind me too much of other large sedans.

The interior is beautifully minimal, and the iDrive has a certain simplicity that seems to say--"pray I don't break, cause you can't imagine how I work".The interior is what I find utterly innovative--the technology of this car is mind-boggling. Everything is so new and minimal that you need to re-learn how to use it. There is a real commitment here to pushing the limits of interior car design."

ec: Do you see a change in design from what occurred in the previous 7 Series to the one now? Do you see elements of other BMW's in the Z4?
JA: The older 7 Series seemed longer and lower--this had a more classic BMW look to me, although I believe the new car is larger. The old 7 Series was getting dated looking; I just think the higher body style looses some of the sleek quality. The new 7 Series looks more muscular, and I'll admit more modern--but less appealing to me, this is of course on the outside. The inside retains the ultra high quality finishes, but moves into a new realm with the way the technology is integrated into a wood paneled luxury rocket ship. I must admit I love the inside and feel less excited by the outside. I like the Z4 much more than the Z3, which always reminded me of those VW's turned into Rolls Royce's. The hood was just out of place on that car. They say the Z4 looks to the 507, one of my favorites, and I agree. I must say, though, the 507 is still the best, there seemed to be nothing tacked on or unnecessarily styled about it. I can't completely say the same for the Z4, but possibly I'm being nostalgic here.

ec: Are the design trends seen in these two cars paralleling design trends in architecture? Is there anything that you're currently working on now that would be an example of this?
JA: I find the interior of the 7 Series has some direct minimalist intentions that are much like architectural work in this style. I try to think of design in this way; it's so amazing that by doing something that looks simple you can have such a dramatic impact. It shows how cluttered and saturated our everyday environments are. I'm a believer in minimalism as a response to technology. On the other hand, and I apologize for this, in terms of sustainability no cars are great and these don't rank high. They drink fuel and there is an increasing trend toward aluminum componentry, which is ecologically bad news. In the end this is probably something no one thinks about when dropping $50- to $100,000-plus on a car, but it bears a mention.

ec: Anything else you can think of that will add a new way of looking at the new BMW Design?
JA: I think they now lead Mercedes. I have affection still for Audi, but the technology coming out of BMW now is just amazing.

Truman Pollard, Chief Designer, Mazda North America
I was born in L.A. and I am the son of a car-salesmen. I worked on

NASCAR racecars and was a welder for the food processing equipment industry

(Repaired machines in meat packing plants). In 1976 I graduated from Cerritos collage with a 2-year degree in Architectural technology. In 1979 I graduated from Art Center College of Design with a bachelors degree in Industrial design and I started immediately at Honda R&D in Torrance. In 1990, I was employed at Mazda Design as Chief Designer and studio manager. I love old Corvettes and I have a 1976 stingray. I'm not very familiar with European cars, but I love cars with significant influence in the American automotive industry, muscle cars, hot rods and Trucks (America's true sports car). New passions include Mazdaspeed, import tuner cars and high entertainment events like Hot Import Nights.

ec: What do you think of the new BMW 7 Series and Z4?
TP: Current BMW styling in total is a little odd with some design details creating more complex forms then customary for BMW. I'm still trying to find out why BMW thought the changes were necessary.

ec: Do you see a change in design from what occurred with the previous 7 Series and do you see an evolution in design from one of BMW's previous designs to the Z4?
TP: BMW must think the world is going to value shock as a new value. Maybe in the same why our entertainment is based upon reality shows that exploit shocking values of our humanity."

ec: Are BMW's design trends paralleling general trends in design? No. Is there anything that you're currently working on that could be examples of this trend or contrast with it?
TP: The RX8 is a dynamic blend of Mazda's history of sophisticated surfaces with well balanced proportions and strong sports cars appeal.

ec: Anything else significant that will add a new way of looking at BMW design?
TP: Looking at both BMW and Mercedes Benz leads me to believe the Germans have become the new cowboys in the global search for the newest design directions. Confident with no apologies and world class outstanding engineering performance.

Deborah Ford, Design Director Aqua Blues, a junior fashion forward clothing manufacturer; Girls and women's fashion designer 25 years in U.S. and Australia
I really like the look of the Z4. I like the large wheels, the sweeping line under the door, the curved windshield and I also like the fat cheeky bottom and the interior.

I'm not as fond of the 7 Series. It looks like a bit of a lumbering monster. It doesn't look as sleek as the previous model. It looks very short in the back end, but I know it has a huge trunk. The interior is gorgeous, very space-agey. It reminds me of the '50s revisited, but in the new millennium.

Ken Saward, Lead Designer, Mazda North America
I have always been inspired by competition cars especially some of the amazing race cars of the '70s and '80s especially those from Porsche and BMW. After graduating Art Center College, I began my career at Chrysler in Detroit before moving to Mazda in 1990. Working under Tom Matano, I had the opportunity to lead the design of the second-generation Miata and the MVX show car. Of the recent designs I admire are the Audi TT, no surprise there. In addition I've been really impressed and inspired by Renault and Nissan designs of late.

Both the Z4 and the 7 truly represent a revolution for BMW design. Both have elements that I think are fresh and fitting for their specific market. The Z4 is very dynamic and muscular, and looks like the kind of design the designer really had fun developing. It's a very passionate design. The 7 is really a well proportioned vehicle in side view. One subtle design flaw of the 7 Series is the location of the rear wheel in relation to the beltline plain view. In spite of its large 19-in. wheels the rear tire is buried under the sheet metal and makes the car look heavy and bulky in the front and rear view. So for me the profile, is really the best view of the car.

I see an evolution in design from the X Coupe Concept. Anytime a vehicle is introduced that's a huge departure from what's expected there is naturally going to be dissenters. Regardless of whether you like or dislike the direction BMW design is heading, you have to give them credit for trying something different. The designers definitely made a statement.

I think it's important to look at each design in contest, perhaps when we are able to view the entire vehicle line up from the 3 to the 7 Series, the overall design strategy will come more sharply into focus.

BMW Speaks
Q&A with Chris Bangle, BMW Design Chief
Interview by Sherri L.Collins

ec: Applying evolution theory to BMW design's current direction, do you think the new 7 Series and Z4 adheres to punctuated equilibrium (stasis followed by rapid change) or gradualism (a slow, gradual process of change)?
CB: While the 7 Series, as a member of the core family of BMW sport luxury sedans, is the type of "large step" that BMW traditionally offsets with more gradual change (not even really stasis), this analogy to biological evolution is harder to apply in the case of the BMW Z4. Roadsters never seem to undergo gradual evolutionary steps despite sharing similar proportional characteristics with the classic sports cars. The BMW Z4 is in many ways very unique, very new, and it remains to be seen if it allows itself to be "evolved".

ec: Are there other areas in design (such as architecture, product design, fashion, art, etc.) that you use for inspiration? If yes, how do you incorporate these into BMW's design philosophy?
CB: All that makes up life and our world should be inspiring! The "Butterfly Effect" meteorologists talk about is alive and well in design (this is the concept that a chain of reactions caused by a butterfly flapping its wings in China results in a rainbow over Paris). The greatest inspiration, the heart and soul of BMW Design, is the history and legacy of our brands. How to integrate this into the BMW design philosophy? Keeping a ready store of visual references that can enhance brand design and, at the same time, help both solve design problems and feed the "creative fire" that burns in the designers' hearts and minds!

ec: Are there design trends in the above mentioned areas that mirror/reflect BMW's design philosophy? If not, why do you think BMW is different from the rest?
CB: All the creative cultural phenomenons seem to progress in "pulses" that generate names and descriptions for whatever phase is at hand. No artist or "design" is an "island" in that sense (perhaps, however, they lead in an archipelago). What you can learn from other "pulses" is mostly that the world is not so much different in basic design acceptance as it is "in different time zones." Some areas are quicker to accept a new dynamic than others. If we stand out, perhaps we just got to the next "time zone" first.

ec: Of the current crop of architects, artists and designers, whose work do you appreciate most? And, historically, which artists/designers stand out as the best of the best?
CB: I have an aversion to naming names, if only because I have such a bad memory for them and will surely leave out the important ones. Is it enough to say that modern architecture deserves as much study as that of the past? That a great airplane design may be influential without knowing who did it? One risk I find when people orient themselves by the designer's name rather than the work is that the context of appreciating a design missing.... No matter how dramatic a BMW sport wagon is in a picture catalog, it is nothing compared to experiencing it live on the road.

ec: I know that discussing future product is forbidden, but if you looked ahead 20 or so years, where would BMW design be in relation to where it is now? In relation to its competitors?
CB: In 20 years I hope BMW Design maintains the visual spirit it has now and has gone on to discover new meanings for the cars and motorcycles that proudly wear its blue-white propeller. I hope that BMW design continues to set the benchmark and remains the place designers dream to work.

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