A Facelift in Automotive Design

By Adam Wendel, Industrial Designer, Creative Development

Automotive design is the ultimate tool of self-expression and emotion. Automobiles evoke strong, positive emotions such as love, attachment, dominance, and happiness. Each automobile’s design attributes acquire a unique personality and visual identity. Research has shown that there is a subliminal power of design, such as face-recognizing portions of our brain, which influences our perception of art, visual experiences, and even automobiles. For example, car fronts, can communicate youth, status, a specific age, or power. Automotive designers pay strict attention to the car-face analogy from concept sketch to production.


In a hyper-competitive automotive industry, technological, engineering, governmental and safety parameters often restrict design however, throughout history technology and innovation has assisted in the creation of new designs that derail the previous parameters. These innovation disrupters have the ability to propel design into uncharted territories.

Aside from performance and cosmetic changes, the automobile has relatively remained true to its core components since the Model-T (Engine, Wheels, Lights, Windshield, Brakes, ect.). Adding or subtracting these core components enables designers to re-define and explore entirely new design languages, ultimately facilitating the designer to consistently rethink the original design intent, ensuing in a continuous cycle of transformation.

BMW group recently announced the development of the laser light; further expanding it’s lead in innovative light technology. The i-Series sub-brand of BMW is the first to experiment with the new technology. This is part of BMW’s strategy for sustainable and considered design. The laser light opens the door for a chain reaction of distinct new design possibilities in the automotive industry.

BMW’s emergence of the laser light presents new possibilities for the face of the automobile. Laser lighting is radically different than sunlight, and also the various types of artificial lighting in common uses today. Laser lighting is monochromatic, which generates light waves that all have the same length. This results in near-parallel beams with intensity a thousand times greater than conventional LEDs. Laser headlights emit less than half the energy consumption of LED headlights making it strongly oriented towards sustainability. Integrating the light source onto different areas of the vehicle exterior is theoretically possible. Re-thinking the positioning, size, surface area, and overall styling is now an area of opportunity for design. The increased strength of the light provides unique opportunities for new material selections, placement, or even the question of needing a dedicated space for the light in the first place.

This thinking ties closely into BMW’s previous exploration through the GINA concept. The GINA presented a virtually seamless outer skin made of a textile fabric that stretches across a moveable substructure. Functions were only offered if and when they are actually required. Removing the element of a headlight provides new design opportunities. Concentrating on the essential core element aesthetics and styling will start to retain the purity and simplicity of automobiles, thus evoking completely new emotions and a paradigm shift of our perception of the automobile.

BMW Gina
GINA Concept

The innovation of the Laser Light by BMW leapfrogs its competition and enables designers to explore endless emotional and visual possibilities of the future.

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