• Dec 22, 2009
There's little question Chris Bangle is one of the greatest designers of his generation. His cars were rarely pretty, but their influence resonated around the automotive world like a pipe bomb in an echo chamber. Much like cutting edge graphic design is born inside art school graduate schools years before it's ready for massive public consumption, Bangle's Bimmers were ahead of their time. And they changed nearly everything. Controversial? Of course, but that's how the public digests new design. Skittishly at first, before becoming so used to the flavor that it's hardly noticed anymore.

Case in point: The Toyota Camry, probably the most conservative car in the world, and one that attempts to appeal to as great a cross-section of buyers as possible, uses the rear end (a.k.a. Bangle Bustle or in the parlance of our times, Bangle Butt) from the 2002 BMW E65 7 Series. Again, you don't have to like Chris Bangle's work, but to deny his influence is to be willfully ignorant. This past February, Mr. Bangle retired from both BMW and the car industry as a whole. And to our knowledge he's been laying pretty low. That is until Britain's Car caught up with him at his design studio/vineyard in northern Italy.

How's he doing? Well, he seems to be the big art school nerd he was before he was able to retire to the Italian country side. In other words, he talks about a car's inherent "carness," as well as stuff like, "It is about creating a different type of relationship between design, design's outcome, the product and the people who use and enjoy it." A big however, however, is in order because we get treated to a more critical, dare we say, unrestrained side of Chris Bangle.

"I feel incredibly motivated to find out how design can overturn this horror of a world," Bangle tells Car. That's one way of taking design to the next level. Bangle also lays some wood into the current state of car design. "You can always argue that the generation before didn't have the constraints that we have, but that's crap." As you can see, it's a fun read. As for the big question – whether or not Chris Bangle will once again design cars after his non-compete clause expires in March of next year, let's just say... maybe.

[Source: Car]


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  • 33 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      While I also found the '02 7-series and what followed a joke, BMW had record-selling years there... either no accounting for taste, or each car came with custom beer goggles.

      Still, it's hard to argue against commercial success.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think you meant "most infamous" instead of "greatest." His designs were copied as a result of the worries, mostly of the Japanese who obsessively follow and attempt to systematically better the Germans (see Nissan's obsession with Porsche of late,) that their designs would fall behind the times if they didn't copy what they saw. Bangle's legacy is nothing more than a generation of mostly ugly cars - the designs got a little better over the years but I'm sure I wasn't the only BMW fanatic who cracked some bubbly when he resigned.
      • 5 Years Ago
      it's always "bmws are ugly, audis are beautiful" here at autoblog.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That's because it's true. I used to think BMWs were the best looking German cars until Bangle. Now it's Audi.
        • 5 Years Ago
        you're right, bangle did mess it up. But audis are boring. Nothing unique about their styling.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The only reason Bangle's designs were copied (by Toyota, for example) was because he designed BMWs. It doesn't matter whether the car looks good or bad, it matters what emblem is on its hood. You don't see Toyota copycatting Cadillac or Volvo -- and why would they?

      Frankly I think Bangle's work was pretentious; design so steeped in conceptual posturing that it didn't matter if it actually ended up looking like a resolved automobile. He succeeded at making BMWs look distinctive and daring, but that can be accomplished without making them look like a bad acid trip.

      Counterpoints: Audi A4, A5, A8. Volvo C30, S80. Mercedes-Benz S-Class, CLS-Class. All elegant and well-resolved examples of automotive design.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Back with a bullet.


      Snipers, are you listening?
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Will he 'resurface" after March 2010?"

      I see what you did there.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Johnny: you're wrong, and you're probably deliberately being wrong to generate page views for the article, which makes it all the more frustrating to comment.

      It is fair to say that there is little question that he was one of the most influential of the generation, but not that he was the greatest designer. In fact, there is probably more question about him being the "greatest" designer of the generation than any designer of any generation. Look at any blog posting or any review that mentions Bangle and you will see his so-called greatness called into question in every single one. How do you get away with calling that a lack of questioning?

      Influence, in the form of adoption, does not equal greatness by any stretch of the imagination. Want some diverse examples?

      Soap operas
      Negative political campaigning
      McDonald's
      Leg warmers
      Sexism
      Tyranny

      All of the above were either widely adopted or were influential. I think you'd find a lot of questioning if you started calling any of them "great".

      Bangle's trend setting ranks somewhere below leg warmers on my list. Sure, his butt allows an increase in trunk size, but it destroys the continuity of the lines on the car. His so-called flame surfacing resulted in the ugliest headlights imaginable.


      • 5 Years Ago
      The pre-Bangle 7 series was hot.
      Still is the best looking 7 series of the past 3 generations including the current one.

      The upcoming 5 series is looking like BMW is finally getting back on track to making good looking cars again.
      • 5 Years Ago
      did bmw sales go down with bangle? i don't think so.
      he didn't get to lead designer at BMW for his looks.
      BMW make few mistakes if any at all. trash him and
      BMW all you want, but he kept them fresh while honda
      and toyota were busy knocking bmw designs off. he inherited
      his reins at a difficult time and i believe did a great job.
      now the aztek was just plain awful and no bmw should
      be brought up in the same sentance. i doubt bangle wants
      to move off of the vineyard to design cars but if he does,
      i'm confident he'll do some great work to move another
      auto company forward. for those of you who like pre-bangle
      beauties - there are plenty around for you to buy and restore.
      salute to bangle.
        • 5 Years Ago
        BMWs are still BMWs even if Bangle lead the design of the ugly exterior. Thus they will still continue to sell well. Only car nerds like us worry about this kind of stuff. Regular people don't care, or like that Bangle BMWs don't look like traditional 'boring' BMWs.
      • 5 Years Ago
      i for one, and maybe the only one, love almost all of bangle's bmw bodies, if u will. They were and still are futuristic and aerodynamic looking beasts. I love the huge yet elegant e60 as much as a love the phat classic e34. I duno why yall are so obsessed with audi's continuance of blandness(new A8). If anything, bmw has to rework their interior designs. And now you love the new non-bangle designed 5 series mess right? open your eyes and let them finally cherish bangle's eye candy. the suvs sucked btw.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think time has been kind to Bangle's BMW designs. Today they do not look nearly as extreme. I think his designs were ahead of their time and they still look fresh today.

      However, it's very difficult to understand the design of something like the X6. I don't know how much Bangle was involved in this (it's lines seem to be much softer). But to me it looks like a child's plush toy caricature of a 3-series coupe.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Why do people find it necessary to apologize for this guy by substituting "controversial" for "ugly". Sometimes when people don't like something, it's for reasons other than it being a new look.

      When you downgrade the Aztek to "controversial" then you can give all other designers a pass on the same principles.

      And since I'm already being a jerk here, countryside is one word, not two.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Because ugly is subjective and not universal for the bimmers, but it is true it caused a lot of controversy. On the other hand, the fact that the Aztek is ugly is a universal opinion. Hence ugly, not controversial.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Beauty is a personal interpretation - both on the inside and outside Bangle's designs were like no other and began a series of wanna be look-alikes e.g., Lexus LS sedan, S-Class, Camry, Hyundai Genesis. Whether you like it or not, other companies have "slightly" modified his design and "tried" to make it their own.
        • 5 Years Ago
        i agree. i still think this guy has some footage of bmw exec and the top execs at the major auto sites, no one will just say his work is as awful as it is.

        i also think the same thing happened with the aztek design, no one stood up and said, "that thing looks like a baboon's arse"
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