Who’d be BMW Group design director Adrian van Hooydonk, a man consistently accused of popping “all-new” designs out of jelly moulds and somehow simultaneously wrecking decades of heritage with more flamboyant, less cohesive designs, gaping grilles and all?
It’s worth saying now that van Hooydonk has always been one of the most eloquent and accessible designers in the industry. There will, I suspect, be a slew of comments below ignoring the challenges of his and his colleagues' job, but there’s no question that the need to stare into a crystal ball is being exacerbated more than ever by the changing technological outlook. If the job is hard today, it’ll only get harder tomorrow.
“I like social media and I use it,” he says, “but as you scroll through the comments you start to see that it becomes ever-more critical. That makes my job hard - we analyse the commentary in a very fact-based way, but of course you don’t know who these people are - who is actually behind the comments.
“In that regard I find customer clinics more useful. We get owners of all cars - Audis, Mercedes’, whatever - and then we can start to correlate the data from social media with real people, and then against the media analysis. Only then does a real picture start to add up. We’ll do the first clinic three years before a car is launched often, then just before.
“But even then we have to apply a filter - a filter that we are trying to envisage what people will want in ten year’s time. The cars we are designing today will not go on sale until 2023 at the earliest - some in 2029. To some degree you are left working on gut instinct.”