step into the secrecy at designworks' los angeles studio

step into the secrecy at designworks' los angeles studio

often mysterious yet always innovative, designworks has been a subsidy of BMW since 1995, although originally being founded in 1972. the creative consultancy is internationally renowned for its instrumental involvement in birthing the sports activity vehicle and the brand’s 5 series. however, it is actually run autonomously, meaning almost half their projects are with external companies – just take a look at US paralympic team racing wheelchairs, shell’s ‘oasis hydrogen dispenser and, most recently, EVA’s new business class seats. the agency has also developed many prestigious designers for the BMW group with adrian van hooydonk (VP of BMW group design), oliver heilmer (MINI head of design) and, currently, holger hampf all serving as directors.


stepping into the secrecy, designboom visited their office in los angeles during the launch of the BMW ‘vision iNEXT‘.

all images courtesy of designworks



the uniqueness of designworks is that they always work on a balanced directive of internal and external projects. they are not a consultancy to design for BMW; they help the brand learn more from different fields and thus extend their boundaries of design. as such, their external clients comprise a very strategic mix ranging from start-ups to global giants. each one follows their focuses – car culture, lifestyle and entertainment – and core beliefs – future, premium and mobility. each one, however, is also selected on what unique learning qualities they present and that, eventually, filters into BMW.



the way in which the creative consultancy adapts to so many different fields and clients rather than just mobility, starts with researching a broad agenda of ‘imagining the future’. this not-so-small task is started with another not-so-small process called ‘360 next’. this process starts with a couple months of research being refined into five most inspiring things at present – not limited to just the design world. the team pays close attention to these five ideas whilst talking to experts who are interested, knowledgeable or creating within the topics. the data collected does not influence any one design, especially a car, but filters into the design teams at a broader level instead.



exploring the design studios, you can immediately see how the research influences their work. different materials and technologies – none less apparent than ‘shy tech’ – are driving form language. modelling and manufacturing also plays a huge part of their creative process though. traditional clay modelling is still used whilst rapid prototyping and even virtual reality are used to quickly yet realistically create experiences. the latter technology enables the studio to share, work collaboratively and gain insights from their colleagues in munich and shanghai.



experiences drive creations at designworks; experiences help them shape the future. filtering in from their leading, in-depth research, their designing and manufacturing both aim to provoke prospective, premium feelings. although their work does not directly influence one single project, it is clear to see how influential their development was to the BMW ‘vision iNEXT’. it leads the way for future mobility experiences, just like designworks.






  • Did you hear anything about the plans on in Munich to close Designworks and take all the work back in house?

    Fabien says:

have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

comments policy
designboom's comment policy guidelines
generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

- please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
- please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
- please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
- please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
- please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
(there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
the best 100-200 entries too.)

a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

design news

keep up with our daily and weekly stories
502,560 subscribers
- see sample
- see sample