BMW i design DNA

BMW i design DNA

An official document that gives an overview on the design philosophy of the BMW “i” sub-brand, driven by the “next premium” motto and by the use of advanced materials and technologies.

First introduced in 2011, the i3 and i8 Concept Cars have also marked the launch of the BMW i sub-brand, aimed at creating a distinctive identity for a line-up of upcoming models powered by alternative drive systems and specifically conceived for use in the city.

BMW i 3 Concept - Design Sketch BMW i 3 Concept - Design Sketch

The BMW i designers, led by Benoit Jacob, have developed a distinctive design language which displays strong links with the parent brand while providing a unique identity, which underlines the innovative onboard technologies.

BMW i 8 Concept - Design Sketch BMW i 8 Concept - Design Sketch

Among these is the LifeDrive architecture – a platform geared to electric mobility and driven by the use of advanced materials.

Below we report the details from the official BMW’s document.

From the official Press Release:

The “next premium” claim

BMW i3 and 8 Concept Cars“Clean”, “clever” and “premium” are three key words in BMW i design. BMW i cars take the idea of premium to the next level to meet the demands of the future: “next premium” defines comfort, functionality and aesthetics beyond the usual perceptions of higher standards.

Preserving resources was a key consideration in the development of materials, for example.

The design of the interior puts renewable and naturally treated raw materials on open display for the first time.

The new LifeDrive architecture gave the designers the freedom to introduce a clean-sheet design for the interior.

The result is a contemporary, pared-down aesthetic which reduces weight without the need to compromise on functionality. The design of the exterior uses a stimulating design language to communicate this new approach.

BMW i8 Concept Transparency and the use of contrasting colors bring the cars’ lightweight design to the attention of the observer. The extremely clean, minimalist surfaces have been conceived to lend visual impact to the sub-brand’s all-embracing sustainability concept.

“We take our responsibility very seriously when it comes to the mobility of the future and the future of our society,” says Benoit Jacob, Head of BMW i Design, with reference to the BMW i sub-brand.

“We are in no doubt of the need to take a fresh view of things going forward. That’s why, at BMW i, we’ve been asking ourselves a host of questions which challenge many of the things we currently take for granted. Every design element in the creative process was subjected to three fundamental questions: Does it meet our definition of premium? How clean is it? How clever is it? And those questions provoked some revolutionary responses. Suffice to say, rarely has the future promised so much.”

Design features from parent brand BMW

BMW i3 Concept BMW i references its parent brand BMW clearly through the use of design themes such as precision, lightness and clean modernity.

Picking up on hallmark BMW design features allows BMW i design to maintain a clear connection to its parent brand.

However, BMW i also takes a whole new look at various stylistic elements.

A three-dimensional blue ring has been added to the outside of the BMW badge for the BMW i logo.

The front-end of the BMW i features a new interpretation of the classic kidney grille and horizontally sectioned headlights which look familiar from BMW models.

Model-specific design features

LifeDrive architecture.

The purpose-built basic construction of the BMW i models – the LifeDrive architecture – represents their single most defining feature. Within this concept, the carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) Life module houses the passenger compartment, while the Drive module brings together all the operational driving functions.

BMW i8 Concept BMW i8 Concept - LifeDrive Architecture

This distinctive two-way split is also reflected in the design of the cars. The modules are partly covered by plastic side panels, but remain clearly distinguishable. Expressive surfaces and precise lines form a harmonious transition between the two.

BMW i3 Concept BMW i3 Concept - LifeDrive Architecture

This overlap and interlocking of surfaces and lines – “layering” in BMW i speak – marks out the exterior and interior design of the vehicles. This striking interplay highlights the linking together of the individual structures and their arrangement within the framework of the LifeDrive architecture.


BMW i8 ConceptThe aerodynamically optimized “stream flow” represents one of the most striking design themes of BMW i.

Two horizontal lines converge from above and below – like streaks of air in the wind tunnel – into a dynamic C-pillar sweep.

These lines are expressed in different ways depending on the model.

Among the other aerodynamically significant features which double up as hallmark elements of BMW i design are large and relatively narrow wheels, as well as aerodynamic elements such as AirCurtains (which channel the air flow around the wheel arches) and the aeroflaps behind the front wheels.

Lightweight design and efficiency

BMW i design uses lightness and efficiency to give the sub-brand’s innovative drive technology a fitting showcase.

BMW i8 Concept InteriorThese central values are expressed in the design of the vehicles through large transparent surfaces and a light-bathed interior, a powerful stance and aerodynamic additions such as contact surfaces, spoiler lips and elements allowing air through-flow.

This high degree of transparency imbues the cars with an airy feel, while the generously-sized glass surfaces give an optimum view outside.

The impressive swathes of exposed CFRP reflect the lightness and efficiency of both vehicles.

As a central element of efficient mobility, aerodynamics play a key role in reducing fuel consumption. The design of the BMW i vehicles uses numerous aerodynamic measures to reduce the cars’ drag substantially, increasing their efficiency – and therefore their range when running on electric power alone.

BMW i8 Concept Rear Light BMW i3 Concept

Rear lights

BMW i introduces a fresh interpretation of the familiar BMW rear light design. The intricately-worked U-shaped rear lights use state-of-the-art LED technology and are designed for maximum efficiency, in terms of both their space requirement and energy usage.

Their distinctive looks also ensure the BMW i vehicles are clearly identifiable during the hours of darkness.

Black band

Another distinctive design feature is best viewed from above; a black band rises out of the bonnet just behind the kidney grille and continues over the roof to the rear, creating a visual link between the different sections of the car.

(Source: BMW)

Image Gallery

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  1. 4/6/2012

    Incredible step ahead done by BMW Design. Young people like me, who are future costumers of premium brands, are now interested in different things like energy efficiency, cost of use, value, technology… and only BMW is researching in real new solutions to find this future market. Congatulations BMW!

    • Cloverleaf

      Yeah, too bad in the real world..—report

    • Richard

      Young people value good-looking things and are also not BLIND! The i3 is very ugly, especially considering what you could buy with that kind of money.
      The i8 will be fine because it is aimed at the top 1% rich. But the i3 will never reach its 100,000 cars per year target. I am sure consumer testing has already told BMW that!

      • RAL

        I agree. But there is always a beginning and its fine for me that these brands research and run risks (in terms of money investment) to make a better world. Or should is it better to do nothing?
        Congs to BMW for the eco-ideas (although I dont like these e-designs)

  2. SSeb

    The ideas behind BMW-i are great! However, BMW DesignworksUSA failed to translate them into a desirable design for the i3. Benoit came in way too late to significantly influence the package and basic concept of the i3. BMW DesignworksUSA should be held accountable for not doing their job…

  3. superwoo

    ‘i’!? is this car line an Apple sub-brand? Could a creative giant not have come up with anything better? Is this a sign of things to come? Whats next a BMWii?:))
    Whats more the overview in the article is disappointing, mostly about ‘stylistic cues. What about user interfaces, design features that make the car more user friendly? What about the user experience beyond just looking at the styling elements? Is design not also about improving the function? Every brand and their Grandma seems to focus on Aerodynamic innovation these days, even sport shoe companies. Whats new BMW?
    The BMW DNA used to be “Freude am Fahren”, “the joy of driving” and seems to be becoming “the joy of seeing”. Am I missing something? Do people still drive, or do they just look at their cars?
    I think BMW have mastered the styling part for quite a few years now..I’m not sure the “ipod” sub-brand can add any greater styling innovation than BMW already does.


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