COVID-19's effects are still being felt as the BMW design studio relocates to a far smaller office space.
Most people don't know this, but there are two design departments at BMW. The first and most important is Bimmer's internal design department, headed by design director Adrian van Hooydonk of BMW i7 fame (or infamy?). But BMW also has a subsidiary called Designworks, which is the Germans' innovation studio.
In short, if you want to send a rude letter about the BMW XM and its odd design, that letter should be addressed to Van Hooydonk and not Designworks' new studio in Santa Monica, California. Designworks has been based in Newbury Park since 1988, but it has now moved to a smaller studio to cut down on its environmental footprint.
Automotive News recently received a tour of the new 16,000-square-foot facility from van Hooydonk, who gave a simple explanation of why the company scaled down from its 70,000 ft2 facility.
"Why go on the 101 [LA's notoriously congested highway] at a certain time?" Van Hooydonk asked. "We're not going to force people to do that. But I believe that with all the stuff we put in here - and coming out of the whole COVID home-office period of roughly three years - I think people will want to get together here."
Designworks has 65 employees and BMW is encouraging them to come in and use the studio three days a week. The studio also doesn't do large-scale clay models, so it doesn't require much space. The studio also tends to work on projects far smaller than cars and boats, like the BMW-branded gaming chair.
"Basically, our design work is done on the computer," said Van Hooydonk.
"If we want something milled, we can do that with outside companies," said the design boss. "The space is still just large enough to put a car model in and to look at that if you want to do a check. But the ways of working that we have now are far more connected with Munich. Far more digital. We felt that the footprint of the studio needed to reflect that."
Earlier this year, BMW celebrated 50 years of Designworks. The consulting agency for design and innovation was instrumental in the design development of the X model range, including the extremely popular BMW X5, and it played a driving role in the design concept for the BMW i electric brand. It is also behind many of the BMW Group's visionary concept vehicles, such as the GINA Light Visionary Model.
Designworks also has a studio in Munich and another in Shanghai, but there has been no indication that either of these will follow the American arm's lead and move to a smaller space with more time spent at home.