Drew Smith: ethnographer, strategist and host of Rising Minds

CreativeMornings London Interviews: Chris Bangle of Chris Bangle Associates


This month sees CreativeMornings London presented by one of the greats of automotive design.

Chris Bangle didn’t just radically alter the way we automotive designers think about package, proportion and surface (the aesthetic and structural skin of the car) and how consumers respond to it. He also masterfully wielded the transformative power of creative thinking in the business context.

In so doing, he helped irrevocably alter the course, aesthetically and strategically, of what was probably the car industry’s most conservative manufacturer, BMW Group.

Upon leaving BMW in 2009 he became the go-to consultant for companies, both automotive and otherwise, wanting to “do a BMW” and set up Chris Bangle Associates to service them. Operating out of an enchanting hill-top estate in the Piemonte region of Italy, he’s currently a creative brains trust for Korean technology giant Samsung. He also continues to push the thinking around future mobility and automotive design with MIT, Scuola Politecnica di Design and the Singaporean Design Council.

Having previously enjoyed Chris holding forth, both over the breakfast table and in front of a theatre of 500, attendees of CreativeMornings London in September are in for a real treat. In the mean time, we’ve presented him with our usual questions to get him (and you) warmed up. You can also read a review of his keynote at Umea University here and see his TED talk here.


Chris Bangle will be appearing at CreativeMornings London on Tuesday September 6th at Buro Happold. For more information and to reserve tickets, please go to the CreativeMornings London Eventbrite page.

Where do you go when you need to concentrate?

In the kitchen, when my wife is not around!  

Is it about what you know or who you know?

Start with WHY you know something, progress thru HOW and WHAT you know. “Who”s pop up now and then at all levels like many enablers.  

What’s been the most pivotal point in your life thus far?

Meeting and marrying my wife Catherine 26 years ago.  

Do you think there’s enough discourse between disciplines?

I am not so keen on the idea of “disciplines”… Particularly among the “non-professional” occupations like design. Architecture likes to think of itself as all-“inclusive” (one supposes any architect should be able to create anything) and so they love to discuss anything, whereas Car Design is “exclusive”; it is not open to ideas in ways you would assume dialogue promotes.  

Can you teach innovation?

Yeah, it is sort of like Sex Education. Lots of lessons-learned to pass on but no substitute for going behind closed doors and doing it. Innovating, I mean.  

Dollar or Yuan?  

 I’ll accept both.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

For all I know I’m “living” one now. Certainly there is a post car-biz life, despite rumors to the contrary.  

Negative or positive freedom?

What is “negative-freedom”? Free to do nothing or not free at all? I am sorta lost on this question.   

Ideal holiday?

“ideal” implies too much money I’ll never have to use in places I’d need a better body to get to with too many women I am not married to. As such I tend not to put much thought into those things, at least regarding myself. like to paint and sculpt on vacations, so if it is possible to leave work behind (“vacate”, I think is the root word, no?) But I am making art and Catherine is happy with the place then things are fine.   

Can you draw?

Yes, in my fashion.  

Can you draw us a wave?

Sure, what’s it worth to you?  

Individual or state (or both)?

Both, obviously.

Favourite LP?

“LP”? How last century. Tom Waits “Nighthawks at the Diner”, if I must.  

Last book read?

“The Outliers” by M Gladwell  

The best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

  Its a tossup between two. The first was “Go to Hell” (by this I mean the place no one wanted to go work at. I went there and it was great; remember the quote about preferring to rule in hell rather than serve…) The other was “Why not try doing it the way you want to for a change?”…I had to be reminded to not only act in the movie of my life, but script and direct it too.  

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be where you are?

Not every door needs to be the front door, and not every one opens from your side. But they can all be opened, if only to find the other doors awaiting you on the other side.

CreativeMornings is a monthly speaker series and morning gathering of creative types. Each event includes a 15-20 minute lecture, followed by a 20 minute group discussion. The gathering begins at 8:30am with the topic presentation starting at 9:00am and everyone taking off for work at 10am. CreativeMornings are free of charge and is made possible this month by Buro Happold and Sense Worldwide. There are currently 8 chapters, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Zurich, London, Vancouver and Berlin.


Category: CreativeMornings/London

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One Response

  1. Massimo says:

    good warm up…

    maybe parafrasi of why, how, what…

    WHY (are we going to do it) ?
    HOW (are we going to do it) ?
    WHAT (are we going to do it) ?

    it a concept that should be re-taught to 99.9% of car makers.

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© Andrew Philip Artois Smith and DownsideUpDesign, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrew/Drew Smith and DownsideUpDesign with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.