[YesAuto designer interview] In the past, the word luxury was often inseparable from high prices, good performance, excellent design, and comfortable experience in the automotive industry, but it was never an objective quantifiable one. index of. Everyone has their own understanding and preference for luxury. So, what should the luxury of the new era, or the luxury of the electrification era, look like? Is it a further improvement in performance, design, and experience? Or is there no way out? At the 2021 Shanghai International Auto Show just past, we met with Mr. Li Tianyuan, the designer of the BMW Group, to hear how he, as the chief exterior designer of BMW iX, views this epoch-making product.
For BMW, the start of electric vehicles is the 2013 BMW i3. As one of the pioneering models of the i-series brand (the other is the BMW i8), the i3 represents a brand-new way of understanding BMW’s approach to electrification in the era of the budding new energy.
Although in terms of sales, the BMW i3 has only sold more than 160,000 units, which cannot be regarded as a phenomenal product. But it does open up a whole new field for the i-series models and enhance the popularity of BMW electric vehicles. With such a significant model taking the lead, the development of subsequent models will become very subtle. It is a very challenging thing for Li Tianyuan, who is the chief designer of BMW iX exterior.
Mr. Li Tianyuan's design career started at Great Wall Huaguan and later worked at PSA China Design Center. Joining the BMW Group was already in 2012. At that time, he was mainly working at BMW Designworks. Since joining the BMW i/M department in 2016, he began to get in touch with the BMW iX project.
Although designers are leading the aesthetic trend, consumers' preference for aesthetics in turn is also affecting the design of OEMs. For example, the longer and longer kidney grilles on BMW models in recent years are the result of the interaction between designers and consumers.
In the past, car companies exposed some functional configurations as much as possible in order to create a “sense of technology”, but now BMW wants to hide this “sense of technology” on the iX, and an innovative concept they follow is named ” Shy Tech” invisible innovation technology.
Well, even if the sensor is removed, the panel itself still has many interesting features. For example, considering that there may be scratches caused by splashes of stones when driving, BMW used a coating called polyurethane for iX. This coating material has a certain self-healing ability, which can repair the scratches on the surface after standing for 24 hours or heating for 5 minutes.
This three-dimensional effect is not the kind of “fake 3D” effect that deceives the vision, but a real three-dimensional pattern. The designers chose laser engraving on the back, which is more technically difficult, to make the front look and feel smooth and flat, but to highlight the internal three-dimensional structure and create a strong sensory impact.
The biggest contribution of LED technology to car lights is that it can greatly reduce the size of the lighting system under the premise of ensuring the illuminance. Therefore, on the BMW iX, we also saw the narrowest headlights in the entire series of BMW models. Of course, if you don’t mind paying more for the lighting system, BMW’s laser headlight kit is also optional.
Think about it carefully, whether it is a fuel car or an electric car, consumers now basically have only one need to open the front cabin cover-add glass washer fluid. In addition to any problems with the vehicle, most users cannot repair or solve it by themselves. If everyone is not allowed to open the front cabin cover, there seems to be no inconvenience.
To say that this design is unique, it also has a source. The front cabin cover of the BMW i3 uses a design without an opening and closing mechanism, and it is difficult for ordinary users to open it by themselves. If you have to open it, you need to take away the entire front cabin cover.
The cabin cover cannot be opened, so naturally there is no “front trunk”. This design, which is used as a product selling point by many new car companies, seems to be very interesting, but after the actual experience, you will find that it is not so “practical”. The front trunk of an electric car on the market usually does not have a handle or an electric opening and closing function, let alone an induction opening. It doesn't matter if it is inconvenient to open. When it is closed, you often rub your hands against dust, and then you will find two huge fingerprints on the front of the cabin cover. In terms of space regularity and size, the front trunk is usually relatively small, and is only suitable for placing some rarely used “small” objects.
The design of luxury brand models usually pays attention to the user's elegance and decency. If you get your hands dirty because the front compartment is turned on and off, or handprints appear on the front of the car, this is obviously not the scene that BMW wants. Therefore, the BMW designers simply “blocked” the front trunk, which is a simple and neat approach.
When discussing the body of a car, we often like to look at the proportions of the body and the direction of the lines. In fact, for a long time in the past, the more angular and sharp the body design, the easier it is to impress consumers. But Li Tianyuan told me that they wanted to do something different with the BMW iX.
In my understanding, what Li Tianyuan described is more like the line in the film “Creed” directed by Nolan. “Don't try to understand it, feel it.”
Of course, if a car is round in all places, it will certainly not be so good-looking. Therefore, in the position of the wheel eyebrows, the designer team gave iX a “cut.”
As an i-series model, the BMW iX has another very important element inherited from the BMW i3, which is the suspended roof design.
In the trunk part, it also draws on the overall open design of the BMW i3. This is very different from other fuel SUV's “cutting” styles of taillights. We guess this is also to avoid excessive “fragmentation” from appearing on the vehicle.
In the communication with Li Tianyuan, he repeatedly mentioned that for the design process of the BMW iX, they adopted the “inside and outside” approach for the first time. “In the traditional design process, the exterior and interior design are carried out simultaneously, because the two are basically independent of each other. But for the BMW iX, we first start from the inside, because we hope that this car is not the same Simple means of transportation, but an extension of living space.”
“We found a BMW X5 and sat in the car together thinking about what should be subtracted and what should be multiplied. Subtraction is to remove some unnecessary functions, while multiplication is to merge some functions into one place to reduce The number of buttons does not lose the integrity of the function.” They named this design concept “Loft on Wheels”, which is the living room on wheels.
The BMW iX's central control screen and instrument screen are connected as a whole, with a certain curved surface effect, and are fixed on the instrument panel by a bracket. This sense of ceremony is like a large LCD TV in the living room. “
The emotions that automobile products bring to users are usually dynamic and passionate; while the emotions conveyed by the family are relaxed and comfortable. How to balance these two completely different emotions? Li Tianyuan told me that their method was to start with the interior materials of the vehicle.
In home decoration, in addition to leather and cloth materials, wood materials are also a natural material that consumers are keen on. So this time the control panel of the new iDrive system uses raw wood materials.
BMW iX supports a variety of interactive methods such as touch, voice and gestures, but considering the sense of decoration, the control knob of iDrive is still retained. From my conversation with Li Tianyuan, I can probably understand that he thinks the knob made of crystal is like a handicraft placed in the living room, which is a reflection of a sense of luxury.
Looking at the inside of the car door, many friends may be surprised that this diagonal dividing line seems a bit abrupt. In fact, it does not exist on the door as a separate design element.
Unfortunately, in a scene like an auto show, the communication time between us and Mr. Li Tianyuan is very short, and it is difficult to dig out all the highlights of the BMW iX design at one time. I hope to have the opportunity to have a more in-depth discussion with BMW designers in the future.
From smart phones to today's smart cars, design has always been the cornerstone of consumers' buying psychology. In the current market competition environment, if we still use the way of designing traditional cars to shape electric car products, the final result is likely to be abandoned by the times. So how should designers innovate? How to innovate? I think that through this article, we can at least get a preliminary understanding of BMW's understanding of new-age products. As for whether this understanding is correct, I am afraid that the market and consumers still need to vote with their feet. (Picture/Text Car Home Yang Peng)