With its roots in the industrial design world, Designworks has over the course of more than forty years established itself as a world-class independent design consultancy that drives innovation. It is owned by BMW Group and is part of the company’s toolbox: an inspiring, thought-provoking studio that splits its workload between BMW Group and external clients. Here, its president Holger Hampf reflects on the studio’s ongoing influence – as well as its role in the future of the ever-changing industry of transportation and mobility.
1. What would you say are the key values of Designworks today, forty years after the studio launched?
Holger Hampf: The most important thing is that we stayed committed to the original plan of Designworks operating as a profit centre with a split business model to the BMW Group. Working with external clients brings outside knowledge to the group, opens our horizon and means we do not only orientate towards automotive design.
I think it is more important than ever to understand global trends and global changes at a greater scale while also being very familiar with the transformations happening in the automotive industry. That is something our external clients and partners value as well.
2. How important is this cross-section of different industries you work with?
Holger Hampf: It’s very important. We are seeing people leading an increasingly digital life, and connectivity is key. What matters to people is having a seamless experience between their professional and their personal life. The automotive industry is still very relevant but it is becoming more of a mobility provider. In order to do so, we have to understand the spaces and places outside of the car too.
Designworks has delivered some very successful work to many different industries in the past – healthcare, sports and consumer electronics – but we are currently in the process of focusing more on mobility-relevant topics. This is really a sweet spot of Designworks and being part of BMW Group is greatly validating our work and point of view. In the future we will be doing a lot more in this area.
3. So what are the next trends? What is the future of mobility and what is Designworks’ role in it?
Holger Hampf: The world is moving from an object-centric view to a user-centric view. In the future, the car will connect with a much larger ecosystem of mobility and transportation and still plays a central role in it. But this ecosystem is growing and becoming more complex all the time: People expect to seamlessly use the car to get from a suburban area to the city and then take a train or a bike for the last mile. We want to help make these connections.
4. Designworks has studios in California, Munich and Shanghai. How important is this world-view?
Holger Hampf: Very. We opened our Los Angeles studio in 1972, our Munich office in 2000 and set up our third space in Shanghai in 2006. These three locations of Designworks are all strategic picks.
California has such a strong car and innovation culture. It has always been a very important place to gain insights on customer desires and needs. China is becoming a very strong market for BMW, one which is essential to understand from the inside as well.
The headquarters in Los Angeles and our studio in Shanghai both play a vital role informing the BMW Group about trends in these markets. The Munich studio at the same time is tapping into European design culture and serves as a strategic bridge to BMW in our global network. All three studios together give us a very broad perspective.
5. What is your mission as president of Designworks?
Holger Hampf: Quite simply, to be provocative in a positive way. My goal at Designworks is to address the effects of climate change, a growing population and urban density, and to offer a positive outlook and new solutions.
Design is a forward-thinking and visionary discipline. At Designworks, we have to react to some of the challenges out there and face them with positive energy. We are operating with a solution-oriented attitude.