The luxury class is an exact science overseen by seasoned experts – like Susanne Kraus and Patrick Bober. As members of the BMW Value Development Team they have spent the past years deliberating and planning the interior of the new BMW 8 Series Convertible in a top-secret project. Now, at last, they are ready to present the results.
Finally, Susanne Kraus and Patrick Bober can speak openly. The BMW 8 Series Convertible has been launched, bringing to light the secret project the two have spent the last years working on. “It is an overwhelming feeling to see the results,” says Susanne Kraus, a member of the BMW Value Development Team and the person responsible for the convergence of design and technical implementation.
“It is something we are exceptionally proud of.” In the Project House at the BMW Research & Innovation Center, she is delighted to be allowed to speak openly about the project at long last. “We have become used to not revealing even a word,” she says, “and now there is so much to say.”
The 36-year-old expert for surfaces, materials and colours started working in Interior Development in 2011. Susanne Kraus enjoys her work in the Value Development Team. “We tend to be more rational, more structured,” she explains, “and that is why it is incredibly refreshing and inspiring for me to experience the creative processes of the designers and to work with them to find the best solutions. Design is not the same as free art; design is always based on a range of parameters that have been considered and defined in advance by a group of experts.”
Patrick Bober, 42, is a design expert for materials and colours. Eleven years ago, when he joined the BMW Design Development team, he helped to establish the interdisciplinary Value Development Team and is now the point of contact for design. He loves working as part of a team at the BMW Project House in Munich, where representatives from development, sales, finance, purchasing and production come together to pool their skills.
“The designers at BMW deal with highly sensitive information on a daily basis, and that is why we work in a high-security area with controlled access. As a designer it’s an exciting change to be working in the Project House. Thinking outside the box and getting to know other fields, working methods and goals is incredibly inspiring.”
Patrick Bober remembers lively discussions when the BMW 8 Series Convertible project was in its infancy: “At the beginning, we spent a lot of time deciding just how distinctive and visible the luxury in this ultimate driving machine should be. Finding the right balance was the key challenge in this project.” Susanne Kraus adds that a driver-centric approach was another major topic during the design process for the BMW 8 Series Convertible “We talked about every single detail and looked at how the colour combinations and the colour concepts interacted.”
The designers focused on the areas that are particularly visible when getting into the car and sitting in the driver's seat: A contrasting seam was added to the leather-covered interior door panels, the centre console was contoured with coloured lights, the perforated leather seats feature exclusive stitching and the contour of the cover for the soft-top was emphasized with decorative stitching.
"A convertible should look equally impressive closed and open,” says Patrick Bober. “This goal for the BMW 8 Series Convertible posed a couple of challenges in the ‘refinement’ stage, which is the final polish in terms of quality and workmanship.” For instance, after reviewing their results, the designers modified the cover to streamline it and optimized the visible roof kinematics. The team lavished a lot of attention on the windshield and the cabin, for instance using “SRT” leather (Sun Reflective Technology) to reduce the heating effect and maintain a pleasant seat temperature even in hot, bright sunlight.
The Swarovski crystal glass controls, which are optional extras for the BMW 8 Series Convertible, were a completely new development. Making them is an elaborate process: “We sat with the designers responsible for the controls and worked until we had the best, technically feasible solution,” says Patrick Bober. “We discussed the polish, technical solutions for the numeral 8 inside the crystal and any implementation risks that needed to be addressed. Good design should not only communicate the brand values, but it should also be long-lasting and, ideally, iconic.”
Everyone involved in the design process is responsible for compliance with the high BMW quality standards: “If one person has overlooked something, you can be sure that two others will have spotted it,” says Susanne Kraus. “We are all fully committed team workers. There is no going it alone here. Only the strongest ideas that convince everyone on the team are implemented.”
A climate of appreciation and transparency is essential for this approach. “This lets you move forward with an idea that may not be quite mature, but which has the potential to be something really big,” explains Patrick Bober. Frequently, he has not only been able to win over colleagues in vehicle development to his design ideas, but has also got them to share his enthusiasm: “This acts as fantastic momentum to propel the team through the demanding task of implementation.”
Asked what their biggest passions are, the answers reveal just how closely the two value experts identify with their work. In her free time, Susanne Kraus loves seeking inspiration, for instance at art exhibitions. “I am particularly interested in contemporary and urban art. I enjoy looking at the different combinations of materials and colours, how and where they are used and what emotions they trigger,” she says. With her professional background as a master painter, paint and varnish technician and with a degree in media design, Susanne Kraus has always been fascinated by the balance between creativity and technical precision.
Patrick Bober particularly enjoys discussing ideas with his design colleagues, even if they may not always agree. “It’s a matter of mutual inspiration, of picking up someone else’s ball and running with it. Sometimes, though, things can get quite heated, but I believe that this is also a legitimate way of achieving the best possible results,” he says. “Additionally, visiting suppliers can also be a source of inspiration. They often work under considerable pressure on their own ideas and developments, and occasionally a visit can turn up an opportunity to integrate an innovation in one of our projects.”
The day at the Project House is gradually drawing to a close. In the windowless presentation room photographer Robert Brembeck is looking at the pictures of Susanne Kraus and Patrick Bober he took with his Leica SL professional camera. Brembeck’s work is also all about achieving a fine balance between honed technical precision, perfect craftsmanship and exceptional creativity. It also involves teamwork: His next step will be to sit down with BMW to select the best photos for publication.
Meanwhile, in the background the sports seats, material and surface samples that the Value Development Team brought along for this interview are being packed up, as are the sketches of the interior of the BMW 8 Series Convertible which marked the start of the project a few years ago.
Susanne Kraus and Patrick Bober are already focused on the future – on a vehicle that is slated for launch in a few years’ time. So can they tell us about it? No, it’s top secret – for the time being, at least.
Click here to discover more about the BMW 8 Series Convertible.