MINI: design DNA

Automotive Design 26 Mar 2012
MINI: design DNA

An official overview of the design principles and philosophy adopted by MINI, with a summary of the distinctive styling cues of the brand and a gallery of images including new sketches and photos.

The information reported below – selected from two recent official articles – give an in-depth overview of  MINI’s core values in terms of design and aesthetics, and summarize the trademark styling elements.

MINI Roadster Design Sketch MINI Coupe Design Sketch

From the official Press Release:

Prototype Mini project drawing by Alec Issigonis,MINI design is the evolutionary continuation of the legendary formal language that defined the classic Mini of 1959.

As such, it embodies automotive history that is very much alive. With his classic Mini, Sir Alec Issigonis designed a revolutionary small car that offered the largest possible interior on the smallest possible footprint, transposing the design maxim “form follows function” to automotive construction.

To this day it remains one of the key design principles underpinning the MINI brand – one which not only thrives on its heritage but interprets it anew on a daily basis.

MINI model line-upSince the relaunch in 2001 under the umbrella of the BMW Group, the persuasive design of this premium small-car brand has been largely rooted in its unmistakable, style-setting, ever-inspiring formal language.

The MINI design philosophy ensures that the hallmark brand features are regularly revised in keeping with the times, while simultaneously preserving the essential MINI character.

The systematic expansion of the model family bears witness to the capacity of MINI design to breathe new life into the brand’s fundamental values.

Principles of MINI design

MINI - Design SketchOne of the foremost principles of design is expressed in the well-known maxim form follows function. In the case of MINI, for example, the spatial concept is unique in its segment, while the transversely mounted engine ranks as a revolutionary idea with which Sir Alec Issigonis made significant waves in the motoring industry at the time.

On the outside, the principle of dynamic orientation generates a forward thrust with the window contours opening out towards the front, while at the same time dynamically showcasing the car’s sporty character even in stationary mode.

Resting powerfully on its tires, the MINI reinforces this sportiness further.

MINI - Design Sketch Known as “stance on the wheels”, this principle places the four wheels at the extreme corners of the car body, lending the MINI its typical go-kart handling coupled with the appropriate look.

The vehicle body “cascades” towards the road surface with increasing mass, resulting in improved roadholding.

MINI design is based on a clear formal language that is defined by the play of lines, seams, circles and ellipses.

The human body archetype principle sees MINI unite all three archetypes of the human body: the engaging cuteness of a child, the striking, muscular shoulders of a man, and the flowing, soft forms of a woman.

It imbues the design of a MINI with an emotionally charged, three-dimensional form.

MINI - Design Sketch The typical, iconic face of the MINI with its hexagonal radiator grille and round headlights recessed into the bonnet makes for a friendly and open appearance, its proportions and appealing expression accentuating this positive impression.

The broad stance and powerful shoulders evoke safety, while gently flowing forms sculpt the body. The play with parallel lines, curves and muscles is style-defining for MINI and can be found in both the exterior and the interior design.

Iconic cues such as the front headlights, hexagonal radiator grille and elliptical door handles are further accentuated by chrome surrounds.

These jewellery icons highlight the key importance of these elements and point to the heritage of the brand.
Under the premise of order vs. complexity, MINI allows the option of uniting many functions within one component.

MINI - Interior design sketch MINI - Color and Trim Design

A striking and characteristic example of this is the central instrument in the car, the so-called Centre Speedo, which houses not only the analogue speed display but all entertainment and navigation functions as well in a single form.

Interior design

MINI - Interior Design Sketch

MINI continues its play with basic geometric forms inside the car as well. The interior design of a MINI is sporty and masculine in character, further reinforced by a dynamic cockpit ambience.

Eye-catching accents are created by elliptical forms reflecting the language of the exterior circular elements within the cabin as well.

Round air vents on the outer edges of the dashboard lend the front area a broader look, emphasize its horizontality and allow an elegant transition to the door trim. The Centre Speedo is mounted in the middle.

MINI - Interior Design Sketch The raised, central position of these elements makes for ergonomically optimal use, with all operating elements transparently structured.

The hallmark MINI toggle switches are not only integrated in the centre stack, but optionally also in the roof liner, further intensifying the cockpit character of the interior.

In the rear, the wide track grants more legroom while additional door ellipses enhance the sense of space. Integrated in the ellipses are the circular door openers, along with the loudspeaker grille and the door pocket with the floating armrest.

Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President BMW Group Design, on the quintessence of MINI Design: “MINI stands for originality and intelligence within the smallest possible space.

MINI - Design Sketch “MINI has a strong heritage as a sub-compact car and style icon. MINI today is a cult, a way of life, and more contemporary than ever. We will continue to successfully develop the essence of MINI in the future as well.”

“MINI will remain a very authentic brand. For us, authenticity is a paramount issue and will in the future be expressed more strongly through lightweight construction and enhanced efficiency as well.

MINI is a compact and intelligent premium small car and, in its entirety, simply irresistible,” states Anders Warming, Head of MINI Design.


MINI design iconic elements

Over the years, the styling of MINI cars has produced a host of design icons which have become synonymous with the brand as a whole and, in some cases, signature features of individual models. Collectively, these iconic elements have helped shape the identity of the brand and its cars.

MINI Design - front end MINI Design - wedge shape

Front end

Dominated by the elliptical headlights set into its bonnet, the face of the MINI is extremely distinctive. The contemporary interpretation of the classic hexagonal radiator grille plays its part in defining the car’s eye-catching appearance. Other distinguishing features of the car’s face include a pair of “beauty spots” in the form of circular foglamps.

Wedge shape

A shoulderline rising from front to rear and windows tapering towards the rear produce the hallmark MINI dynamic wedge shape.

MINI Design - Roof resting on top MINI Design - Side scuttle

Roof resting on top

MINI - Clay modelingThe design of the greenhouse – the glazed section of the passenger compartment – creates the impression of a band of glass wrapped around the car. The high-gloss black A, B and C-pillars are integrated into the glass surfaces.

The contrast between the color of the greenhouse and roof creates the impression of a “floating” roof resting on top of the greenhouse.

Side scuttle

This design cue can trace its roots back to the very beginning; it follows the line of the welding seam sloping down the front side panel of the classic Mini.

MINI Design - Chromed door handles MINI Design - Vertically stacked rear lights

Chromed door handles

The chromed door handles of the classic Mini have since been revisited repeatedly, ensuring iconic status. Like a handshake, opening the door of a MINI represents the initial physical introduction between the car and its driver.

Vertically stacked rear lights

The unmistakable, vertically stacked rear lights represent another nostalgic nod to the classic Mini. They are bordered by an elegant chrome surround sealed against the body without any direct connection to joins and seams.

MINI Design - Stance on the wheels MINI Design - interior circular elements

Stance on the wheels

The go-kart handling for which MINI is famed is the product of having its wheels mounted at each corner of the car – similarly to a go-kart. The mass-increasing “cascading” effect of the body as it heads down towards the wheels gives the car its essential roadholding.

Circular elements

The interior of the car also references the classic Mini to create its air of authenticity. The clear structure of the controls is a typically MINI feature. Elliptical forms transplanting the style of the circular exterior elements inside the car add further distinctive touches.

MINI Design - Toggle switches MINI Design - Jewelry-like details

Toggle switches

Controls like the distinctive toggle switches add an extra flourish to the centre stack and even the roof liner.

Jewelry icons

An array of chrome highlights and beautifully worked details are integrated like gems into the design of the car.

(Source: MINI)


Image Gallery

MINI: design DNA - Image 13
MINI: design DNA - Image 22
MINI: design DNA - Image 26
MINI: design DNA - Image 27
MINI: design DNA - Image 23
MINI: design DNA - Image 9
MINI: design DNA - Image 7
MINI: design DNA - Image 17
MINI: design DNA - Image 2

Related Stories

MINI Cooper Design Contest by IAAD: the winners

MINI Cooper Design Contest by IAAD: the winners

IAAD – the Italian University for Design is pleased to announce the winners of scholarships for the Bachelor Degree in “Transportation Design”.
The restyled MINI Clubman

The restyled MINI Clubman

At the Shanghai Auto Show MINI has presented the restyled Clubman featuring a front end with renewed grille and lights.

“GM’s Marvelous Motorama” at Petersen Automotive Museum celebrates Dream Cars from the 1950s

The Petersen Automotive Museum will celebrate “Dream Cars” from the 1950s with the exhibit “GM's Marvelous Motorama: Dream Cars From the Joe Bortz Collection,” which will open on March 16, 2024.


Leave a Comment

  1. Fernando Cardenas

    De locos

    (via Facebook)
  2. MagnusSux

    A very mature design language. Magnus Aspegren from BMW DesignworksUSA should study this article carefully so he can take credit for it without doing any work. This is what he usually does anyway!

  3. Car Body Design

    ChrisX says
    Just ask Magnus Aspegren some slightly challenging questions on design and he won’t be able to answer decently. It is amazing how a lazy guy with so little vision can become director in BMW DesignworksUSA. Says something about that company. He claims credit for all the aircraft interiors but in reality did not design anything.
    He is good as a spelling checker though, a very expensive one…

    (via Facebook)


Get all the updates with our weekly newsletter!

Find a Car

Scroll To Top
Scroll To Bottom