Say the name, BMW, and you’re likely to have an image of a sleek German car come to mind, whether a compact 3-Series, luxurious 7-er, or perhaps a big X5 Sport Activity Vehicle. But there’s another side to the company, one tucked into the hills outside Los Angeles, where BMW designers are busy at work styling everything from sunglasses to laptop computers.
Established by design legend Chuck Pelly, back in 1972, DesignworksUSA was acquired by the Bavarian automaker in 1995, and has served not only as a source of revenue but also a training ground for some of BMW’s best and brightest designers, including Adrian van Hooydonk, now the corporation’s top style-meister.
A little more than a month from now, Designworks will get a new boss, Laurenz Schaffer, who’d been working at a Munich subsidiary of the design consulting operation for the last nine years.
The 42-year-old stylist has worked not only in Munich, but also in Stuttgart and San Francisco, over the last two decades. He’ll be taking over an operation with 135 design specialists and support teams, at an operation that has worked with clients as diverse as Siemens, Starbucks, Sony and Microsoft. Designworks has helped sculpt yachts, designed interiors for business jets, and crafted mobile phones. Reflecting the increasingly digital nature of the world, the BMW subsidiary has also developed graphic displays for Microsoft and Hewlett Packard, among others.