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New Designworks studio in Shanghai: Inspiration for new design ideas from China, for China – and the world

Official opening during West Bund Art & Design Fair Shanghai

The BMW Group’s Designworks innovation studio has a new location in the West Bund district of China’s economic hub of Shanghai. In West Bund, the city’s flourishing arts, culture and business district, the design team has their finger on the pulse, enabling them to develop new design ideas for both the BMW Group and other clients.

Studio opening accompanied by Art & Design talk with Cao Fei and Jessica Zhang.

The official inauguration of the new studio will take place during the West Bund Art & Design Fair Shanghai, which runs from 9-12 November 2023. As a long-standing partner, BMW Group will present the talk “Art & Design: Co-Creation x Technology”. Participants will include multimedia artist Cao Fei, director of the Today Art Museum Beijing, Jessica Zhang, and head of Designworks, Holger Hampf. During the panel discussion, emerging talents Liu Xin and Fei Jun will also present their BMW inspired collaboration evolving around hyper-emotive technology experiences.

The BMW Group talk is part of the official West Bund Art & Design debate series and will take place on Friday, 10 November 2023, from 5-6 p.m. in the West Bund Dome.

Impactful collaboration and global idea-sharing at R&D centre

At the new site in West Bund, which is surrounded by countless cultural institutions, about 50 creatives find an exceptionally creative working environment. At the same time, they are in constant contact with the BMW Group design team at corporate headquarters and the other Designworks studios in Munich and Los Angeles. “With the Designworks studio in Shanghai, we are turning the eyes and ears of the BMW Group towards Asia,” said Adrian van Hooydonk, head of BMW Group Design. “Here, we can create ground-breaking innovations that are not only important for the Chinese market, but also benefit products in the global market as a whole.” The aim is to create human-centred design innovations to meet the specific needs of customers in China and across the wider Asian region. The new Designworks studio is an integral part of the BMW Group’s Research and Development Centre in Shanghai. Pooling design and development expertise at one location speeds up and improves interdisciplinary exchange throughout the entire product creation process: from the early phases of design, all the way to production.

Insights into culture, tradition and customer wants in China.

Through Designworks Shanghai, the BMW Group gains valuable knowledge of the country’s culture and tradition. The studio provides assessments of the latest social, design-relevant phenomena and people’s changing needs, with regard to aesthetics, lifestyle and technology. “The market for car design in China has been growing disproportionately and at a breathtaking pace for several years. We are positioning ourselves to reflect this: Our Designworks team in Asia has also developed rapidly over the past ten years,” said Holger Hampf, head of Designworks. “Together with the studios in Munich and Los Angeles, Designworks is in an ideal position to constantly inspire the BMW Group and our external clients with innovative new ideas,” Hampf continued.

Design innovations for China and the BMW Group worldwide.

The influence of the design studio in China is also recognisable in the model variant of the new BMW 5 Series Sedan developed exclusively for the Chinese market. For the first time, the new BMW 5 Series for China not only comes with a longer wheelbase, creating a more spacious rear compartment, but also with proportions that are specifically designed with Chinese customers in mind. Its profile is reminiscent of a Gran Coupé. Exclusive design elements also give the vehicle a luxurious, thoroughly modern character and a strong presence. Key design elements will also be developed locally at Designworks for the future models of the NEUE KLASSE in China.

The question of how future customers define premium quality is of particular significance to the BMW Group. The “Designworkers” are gaining specific insights into the Asian region and translating them into concrete product ideas. In the field of colour and material design, the team is combining traditional craftsmanship with visionary materials to create a new and sustainable interpretation of quality at the highest level. For example, in cooperation with BMW Group Design and local Chinese tech startups, Designworks is reinterpreting traditional Chinese handicrafts such as ZhangRong velvet, Song brocade and lacquer with contemporary aesthetics for possible use in series production. Sustainable processes paired with natural and recycled materials are creating a new sense of wellbeing due to novel optical and haptic impressions.

Creative output from Designworks Shanghai is also valuable for the BMW Group’s digital experience: from visualisation of BMW IPA (Intelligent Personal Assistant), to the creation of the all new MINI digital companion, “SPIKE” and special Festival Modes– artistic animations played on the Control Display of current BMW models to celebrate special occasions.

Inspiration through cross-industry partnerships.

As at other Designworks locations, the creative minds at the Shanghai studio do not work exclusively for the BMW Group and its brands. They are also commissioned, in parallel, by a large number of clients from other industries. This gives Designworks a unique outside-in perspective that enables it to enrich BMW Group design time and again with inspiring and innovative design ideas.

In collaboration with CRRC, the world’s largest rolling stock manufacturer, the Designworks team in Shanghai designed both the exterior and interior of a new generation of high-speed trains. Designworks also recently developed the future positioning and product design for Chinese e-bike manufacturer Yadea. For luxury kitchen manufacturer Fotile, the team created an end-to-end customer experience for their smart-home household appliances.


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