I’m studying up on the automotive industry and recently came across a video interview with BMW Group’s former chief of Design. His name is Chris Bangle and I see that he’s quite a controversial figure in the automotive design world. You can view the interview for yourself if you’d like (even if you have no interest in automotive design, this one is a bit of an interesting watch).
He has some thought-provoking words on automotive design. The one that struck me most is his view of the relationship between Marketing and Design. Bangle’s gist (and this is my interpretation): you have to keep the two disciplines separate. Closer to his own words: If you want to keep the design unique and fresh, you isolate it.
He says: “The marketing guys, these guys you have to keep a little bit at bay because their first reaction is: ‘No, no, no, no, no, no, no.’ You can’t create life under an atmosphere of no.”
I find fascinating this whole notion of a divide between Design and Marketing.
But, is a sharp divide between the two disciplines in the best interests of a brand?
As Brian Ling says over at his Design Sojourn blog, doesn’t Design and Marketing go hand in hand?
I say yes. The conversation needs to flow both ways. A brand lives and dies on its ability to consistently meet expectations. How can you achieve this, however, if one function is isolated from the other with little collaboration?
I value design freedom, but not if it strays away from meeting the needs of the user. That’s not to say Design is less user-focused and must be checked by Marketing… but Design and Marketing’s viewpoints may differ and those differences need to be addressed and reconciled. Each has a role in identifying unmet needs. Each has a role in interpreting how design options meet those needs and how those same options may be perceived by users.
Design and Marketing need to work together; they can’t and shouldn’t work apart. Do I believe Design should have some freedom to unearth possibilities and create life as Bangle says? Yes. But that same freedom comes with a responsibility to ensure the final art form serves the brand and its target audiences. This responsibility is best met with a closer cross-functional collaboration.
I just have to get some automotive designers and marketers together to discuss this one… and how hard could this be after all? I live in the automotive hub of Greater Detroit!