A mini space exclusive interview: chiefs of design on the new mini
"I think it's a wonderful challenge to design a car." - Anders Warming, Head of MINI Design
Having debuted at Plant Oxford before setting off on an epic world tour through three world capitals, The New MINI. The New Original. proved it knows how to make an entrance. MINI Space stole a few minutes with Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President BMW Group Design and Anders Warming Head of MINI Design, to get the low-down on picking a palette, Britishness and what goes into creating that iconic MINI face. Get the full, exclusive Q&A below.
MINI Space (MS): MINI has made a name for itself as a car its drivers can fully personalise. We're curious how you maintain the balance of making MINI at once for so many people and personalities, and yet so universally iconic.
Anders Warming - Head of MINI Design (AW): Well, the issue of customising is exactly that personal relationship that people have with a car. Of course it is a means of transportation, but you can choose it in the colour that really fits your lifestyle, and you can choose the kind of materials that also fit your lifestyle. I think the strength is that we have an array of variants in the car so we make sure that we can have the right colour, fitting the right interior. You can have a very lively colour combination or you can have a very subdued maybe black-on-black combination and you still have the same level of high quality design either way.
MS: So, given the variety of colour combinations, how did you arrive at Volcanic Orange and Blazing Red to introduce The New MINI?
AW: Well actually both of those colours were developed with one specific target - to add the very intense colour to the palette. We have a lot of very valuable darker colours but we needed these two to really stand out, and the orange colour really has a reference to a heritage of racing - not MINI per se - but the feeling of racing a car, and it's a new colour to the line. The Blazing Red is a unique red that has a sparkle in it, so in the right lighting it gives you not just the red colour, but also the shape as it changes between light and shadow.
Adrian van Hooydonk - Senior Vice President BMW Group Design (AvH): [MINI is] a car for people that enjoy life and like to show it. So among all car brands I think MINI's job is to offer more colour than any other brand.
MS: A lot of people say that MINI has a face, literally - that it looks human, almost with a happy expression. How do you arrive there in the design process? Is that something that's even thought about consciously?
AW: That's a very important issue. Every car has a face but I think MINI has this personal relationship based on a couple of very elementary graphics. The round front headlights are a MINI heritage element that we have been developing over the years, but especially now with the headlight having LED technology inside of it - [it's] something even more special. On the one hand it's a reference to the past, but also it's a clear reference to the technology that goes inside of a headlight. The shape of the grille is also very important to us, so all-in-all the grille and front headlights makes up for a MINI iconic face.
MS: Speaking of the shape of the grille, we know that there were quite a few design restrictions this time around - for example, US pedestrian law dictates that the bonnet has to be a bit longer. Were there any other restrictions you encountered in designing The New MINI?
AW: I wouldn't say ‘restrictions.' I think the thing is when you design a car you have actually thousands of parameters you have to work around; ergonomics, acoustics, aerodynamics, how the car sits on its wheels, the balance of the car - all these factors go into proportioning a car and it goes beyond the crash impact as well. All of that is one big composition of elements and that is the true challenge of car design. That being said, at the end of the day there has to be a beautiful car that sits well on its wheels and that's our main goal.
MS: And how does each of you tap into Britishness in recreating the iconic MINI?
AvH: Well I think London as a city encapsulates what British design stands for. There is still Saville Row, and there is also some very modern fashion design happening here at the same time. So Britain deals with its history I think very well, and at the same time allows very new things to happen. For us that is a source of inspiration for every new generation of MINI and that's exactly what we are trying to do with the MINI brand. Of course you will be able to trace back MINI's history, but in each new generation - now the third generation - of new MINI, we will add some innovative elements that will make the car very recognisable and modern as the latest version of the brand.
MS: MINI drivers have existed since the 50s. How do you think that they're changing in this decade?
AvH: Somehow I don't think that they have changed, and that to me is a strong point of the MINI brand. The original MINI appealed to people young and old, across gender, across generations, across society you would say. The Queen drove one, Enzo Ferrari drove one, Twiggy drove one, and I think that's still the case. Even with the New MINI I think that the appeal is universal and that's what we like to move forward with, I think the New MINI does that as well.