Design matters: Eyes on stylish cars

2012-08-09 19:34

Top car designers Peter Schreyer and Chris Bangle bring big changes

The following is the fifth in a series of articles on design prepared in anticipation of the Herald Design Forum on Sept. 19-21. ― Ed.


The monotone roads of Seoul have been getting some touches of color in the past few years. Yes, black, gray and silver still make up the majority of car colors, but vivid shades and stripes of colors such as mint blue, baby yellow and red are being spotted more often than before.

Sales of the BMW mini, well-known for its bubbly exterior and eye-catching stripes in a variety of colors, increased by 11.83 percent in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year, according to BMW Korea. The German carmaker has been topping South Korea’s imported car market since 2009. 
BMW Mini Coupe (BMW Korea)

Japanese carmaker Nissan also rolled out the colorful Cube series last year with colors like White Pearl, Bitter Chocolate and Scarlet Red. As for U.S. brand Chevrolet’s Spark, the best-selling colors are also catchy: Monaco Pink and Sapporo White.

The pretty colors, adorned with cute and chic designs, appeal to the design-conscious consumers, who have grown in size to become a big hand in the market.

“For me, design comes first. Popular cars made in Korea seem to be too old in style. I like the vintage feel of European car designs, and Ray and Soul seem to have reached about half the level of stylishness of imported cars. Recently, Fiat’s Cinquecento caught my eyes,” said Nam So-hyun, a 27-year-old office worker who is looking into buying her first car.

Investing in car designs brings out more than expected. 
Kia Motors K5. (Kia Motors)
Peter Schreyer. (Kia Motors)

The best example is South Korean carmaker Kia Motors, which saw dramatic changes after investing in design.

It recruited Peter Schreyer, the acclaimed former Audi/Volkswagen designer considered one of the world’s top three car designers along with Chris Bangle and Walter de Silva, as the Chief Design Officer in 2006, who awakened the importance of design for the company.

The Kia family’s tiger-like nose grille and the innovative designs of the box car Soul and popular sedan K5 were all created at the tip of his fingers. The brand also began to put more emphasis on color, introducing pastel-toned Milky Beige and Aqua Mint, especially on compact cars like Soul and Ray.

Reborn with a chic, stylish image, the carmaker’s sales soared. It sold about 254 million cars in the global market last year, which was an 81.6 percent increase compared to 2008. In the first half of this year, the company already sold nearly 140 million cars.

Moreover, the carmaker’s designs are sweeping international awards, including world’s three top design awards ― iF, reddot and IDEA.

Recently, Kia Motors brought home three awards from the 2012 Automotive Brand Contest hosted by the German Design Council. Its new model c’eed targeting Europe won the exterior category as well as the honorary special mention for exceptional innovation in the interior category; and another model, the Kia GT, a rear-wheel drive sports sedan, won the concept award.

Acclaimed carmakers are now expanding their realms.

Chris Bangle, for example, has been working with Samsung Electronics as a design consultant since last year after redesigning BMW in 2009. He is designing the South Korean company’s home appliances.

Bangle, who was the first American to become the chief of design for the German carmaker, was acclaimed for updating the designs of the BMW, Mini Cooper and Rolls Royce during the 17 years he spent in the company.

Choi Joong-yeol, head of Samsung Electronics’ home appliances design department said last month that a full line-up of Bangle-designed Samsung home appliances including washing machines, refrigerators and ovens will be completed as early as 2014 or 2015.

“What Bangle always emphasized while working with us was to think of designs that can be technically realized. His philosophies are much imbued in the ongoing designs,” said Choi.

By Park Min-young (claire@heraldcorp.com)
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