In partnership with AllBright, BMW’s Head of Sustainable Design explains how she is leading the company in pioneering towards a more responsible future for travel – and why this is so crucially important.
INTRODUCING A CHANGEMAKER.
Discover the future of mobility with BMW i, which offers models with both all-electric engines and plug-in hybrids. Together, these two options allow drivers to find their perfect electric driving solution, whether it’s for everyday adventures or hitting the open road.
Of course, a game-changing car cannot be conceived without a game-changing designer. Here Daniela Bohlinger, the Head of Sustainable Design at BMW, explains her experiences of being a female changemaker pioneering towards a more responsible future for travel.
PLEASE CAN YOU GIVE US A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF YOUR CAREER SO FAR?
I grew up in a rural environment, playing outside with the treasures I found in nature. This meant I started being creative with my natural surroundings from an early age. I was brought up very modestly, but I didn’t miss out on anything.
Straight after high school, I undertook an apprenticeship as a goldsmith; not just because I chose to, but because my family told me, ‘you will always keep this kind of education, in case everything else fails’. During my apprenticeship, I realised that everything that is unused on metals or stones is treasured. I had to be really careful about where all the ‘rubbish’ was going. When you understand how to reuse everything, there is no longer such a thing as ‘waste’.
But it wasn’t my dream to stay working in this field for too long; I wanted to become an industrial designer. This career path wasn´t a given as I didn’t have the required grades for studying in the field. But with a clear dream and focus, I worked hard on my portfolio and was accepted at the university of my dreams.
During my years of education, I was confronted with the consequences of my actions again. Designing products also means that somebody has to produce them, and working in Manila in the Philippines was an eye opener for me. Working with a lot of natural materials made this experience very unique; however, the wastewater from the bleaching and dying processes was being released into the ocean. Everybody was accepting this for the sake of prosperity and growth.
So, summing up my experiences and morals that make me appreciate my environment and the impact my projects have, I have to remember the wise words of Kant: "Act only according to the maxim by which you can at the same time want it to become a general law". After studying internationally, working in different fields and also finding my peace back home, I have now been working for BMW Design for 19 years. Having starting as a Color and Trim Designer, I am now Head of Sustainable Design for the BMW Group.
WHAT DOES YOUR ROLE AS HEAD OF SUSTAINABLE DESIGN AT BMW INVOLVE? WHAT HAVE BEEN THE HIGHLIGHTS SO FAR?
When I suggested the role of “sustainable design” to our Board of Design, they sent me back three times within two years to sharpen my profile of what I wanted to achieve. I had the task of making sustainable design decisions measurable. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been easy to implement this topic into the organisation. Design cannot be measured or the output quantified, other than in relation to others. At that time (2015), the focus was on user-centered design, and environmental design had not yet been spoken about.
I was also asked to translate numbers and goals coming from the environmental department into design, which involved translating Co2 into form and materials.
My role hasn’t changed so far, but I am now an active member of the decisions that are made in the company, and I have a better understanding of what consequences these decisions could have. I develop and guide the sustainability roadmap for all brands (BMW, MINI, RR, Motorcycles). At last, my colleagues are now designing with the end in mind, and they even have an intrinsic motivation. I always hoped that I’d be able to tell them what to do without having to explain why first, and then how to do it. Now they start a project using their own experience and knowledge.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE OF DESIGNING THE BMW i3 – HOW DID YOU KEEP SUSTAINABILITY AT THE FRONT OF MIND HERE? WHAT SUSTAINABLE FEATURES DOES THE CAR HAVE?
From a designer’s perspective, my highlight so far was the development of the i3 starting on white canvas. This all-new, purpose-driven design had no limits and sustainability was at the forefront of all goals. Money wasn’t the first topic of discussion. Instead, we looked at the percentage of recycled content, the Co2 footprint, and the supply chains. We learned so much from asking the right questions.
This didn’t just happen internally; our suppliers also saw this paradigm shift happening. Nobody was talking about this topic so deeply in 2009. So, we had to inspire not just ourselves, but also everyone around us.