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Published: 2010-06-24

Celebrated car designer believes in Umeå Arts Campus

NEWS Chris Bangle, perhaps the world’s most well-known automobile designer, is impressed with the Umeå Institute of Design and is highly anticipating the plans for the new Umeå Arts Campus.“It is a unique venture that will result in a real energy boost,” says the former Chief of Design for BMW.

Photo caption, from left to right: Linda Bresäter (student at the master's programme in interaction design, Chris Bangle, Anna Valtonen (rector at the Institute of Design) and Tapio Alakörkkö (head of the Institute of Design). Photo: Peder Fällefors

This is not the first time he has travelled to northern Sweden. For one that works in the automotive industry, it’s a given to visit Arjeplog, where nearly all the global auto-makers test their vehicles for wintry conditions. However, it’s the first time he’s visited the Umeå Institute of Design at Umeå University, although he has met some of its graduate students around the world on several occasions. At a motor show in Geneve, Switzerland, he met Demian Horst, the programme director for the master’s programme in transportation design. This is what brought him to Umeå in early June for the UID Design Talks conference and student degree exhibition.

Intensity, focus and youthfulness

Chris Bangle is fascinated by the northern sun that never seems to stop shining, and the special atmosphere that exists at the Umeå Institute of Design.
“Here, there is intensity, focus and youthfulness,” he says and alludes to Anna Valtonen, the new rector of Umeå Institute Design, who is a mere 36 years old. I am impressed by the Institute and the treatment I have received from the leadership. The investment in Umeå Arts Campus is very exciting and I believe that it will lead to an interesting cross-fertilization between Umeå Institute of Design, Umeå School of Architecture and Umeå Academy of Arts.

Considered to be controversial

Chris Bangle is known as the designer that has had the most influence on the auto industry. His list of merits is a long one, and he has been responsible for the design of BWM, Mini Cooper and Rolls Royce motor cars for the new millennium. He is considered to be controversial and is not afraid to go against tradition. When asked about what he is currently working on, he takes out his mobile phone from his pocket. The screen displays a large, white villa that is surrounded by a vineyard. He points out that he does not live in Tuscany, but in northern Italy. He relocated there after leaving BWM Group and now heads his own design company, Chris Bangle Associates.
“The intention is for us to invite designers from all over the world to come. They will be able to stay here and work in the studio we are building,” he explains.

Design for sharing

He has many thoughts about the characteristics that make up a good designer. He speaks about enthusiasm and curiosity; being interested in everything. “The important thing is to have a wide scope. You need to be ten miles wide and two inches deep,” says Chris Bangle. Something that is currently of interest to him is design for sharing. During a time when the earth’s resources should be sufficient for more people, we also need to change our mindset.
“The internet is based on sharing with each other, but this idea has not yet reached the physical world and physical meetings between people. Is a car basically a giant moving trunk? What will happen when we design cars that we should share with others? Where will we put our things?

Tools for creativity

Chris Bangle takes the stairs up from the bottom floor after looking at the degree projects of students in the bachelor’s degree programme in industrial design. On the first floor, he encounters the projects by students in the master’s degree programmes in transportation design, interaction design and advanced product design. Linda Bresäter, a new graduate of the interaction design programme, has in her work, created a tool that makes it easier to faciliate exciting ideas. She calls it the Tree and the idea is that it will promote creativity in large organizations such as Umeå Municipality, which was the collaborative partner for her degree project. With the help of a simple guide, the ideas become presentations that are accessible to others. Chris Bangle examines her poster of the Tree filled with good ideas on small notes that represent the tree’s leaves. “I would love to work together with the students from Umeå Institute of Design in the future,” he says.
Suddenly, he hangs up his own idea leaf on the poster. He places it up and down, as an encouragement for new and different ideas.