- Chris Bangle
BiographyThe fame of American designer Chris Bangle (1956) is associated with the long period of automobile design (1981-2009), in which he designed numerous models for Opel, Fiat, and BMW characterized by innovation and an ongoing process of revisiting the language of modern automobile design.
Over the last several years, with his firm Chris Bangle Associates (with headquarters in Clavesana, in the province of Cuneo, Italy), he has worked outside the automotive sector, primarily in design management consultancy for products and companies.
Bangle attended the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California, graduating with a degree in Science and a Master of Science degree in Industrial Design at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
As mentioned, his fame is inextricably tied to automobile design, a sector in which he was one of the major influencers who marked the contemporary era of automobile design, “perhaps the most innovative and transgressive” (G. Milano), as a result of the many designs that sparked widespread discussion and that turned out, at least early on, to be controversial in the eyes of critics and enthusiasts of more traditional styles.
Bangle entered the automobile sector in the early ‘80s at Opel. For the German automaker, as a designer Bangle created, among other things, the interior “of the Opel Junior concept car, awarded for its originality at the Frankfurt Motor Show.”
He began to make a name for himself internationally in 1985, when he went to work with Fiat and Alfa Romeo. At Fiat’s Centro Stile, Bangle worked under the guidance of Ermanno Cressoni, and then became lead exterior designer and subsequently Director of the Centro Stile.
The models of this period include the Fiat Coupé and the Alfa Romeo 145. In particular, the Coupé was the only vehicle under the Fiat brand designed by Chris Bangle that was destined for series production.
When he moved to BMW in 1992, Bangle was named the group’s Chief of Design (the first American to achieve this position), with the task to bring the design of BMW, Mini Cooper, and Rolls Royce into the twenty-first century.
His mission to “strategize emotion” through design reinvigorated a traditionally conservative brand, modernizing the classic design of the BMW with daring sculptural lines, a far cry from homogeneous automobile design.
His bold designs helped make BMW the world leader in the sales of high-end cars, thanks to the projects of the BMW 1 Series, BMW 6 Series, the SUVs X3, X5 and X6, and the sports cars Z3, Z4 and Z8. He also left his signature and that of his team on the new Mini range, Rolls-Royce models, and a number of innovative motorcycle concepts.
There was no lack of controversy around Bangle, due to his “distortion” of the traditional style of the automaker, in particular for two models, the BMW 7 Series and 5 Series. But the market proved the designer right, seeing a considerable increase in sales, acquiring legions of new fans and forcing rivals to follow suit, emulating his distinctive style.
“With the 3 Series, differently from the models mentioned above, Bangle used a lighter hand”, as the design was less intrusive than the initial model of 1998. His highly innovative designs include the GINA Light Visionary Concept of 2008, an experimental concept car that substituted the static metal or fiberglass covering with a fabric “skin” that can change the shape and aerodynamics of the car, with the aim to adapt to the stylistic demands of each buyer.
During his time at BMW, Bangle was also instrumental in starting the company’s consultancy subsidiary DesignworksUSA, a global design agency for leading international brands in a wide array of industries.
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