Vivid imagination and hardest tests.

Say it with flowers! The world’s leading floral designers, the creative florists at Belgian ‘Team Ost’, matched flowers to three stylish body colours for the BMW 7 Series. BMW Colour Designer Karin Fischer loved the results. She explains what role emotion, poetry and free association play when it comes to developing new shades for BMW.

Floral presentation of the THE 7 body colour Bernina Grey Amber Effect

They’re famous for flooding the lavish wedding locations of Middle Eastern royalty with hundreds of thousands of white calla lilies, building floral sculptures in Japanese luxury hotels or transforming private gardens into enchanting, poetic landscapes. Daniel and Nele Ost, a Belgian father-and-daughter team, are generally acclaimed as the world’s leading floral designers, and where they go, beauty, design and sublime craftsmanship come together to create stunning results – not just for major international commissions, but also on a much smaller scale.

For the floral presentation of the three THE 7 body colours Imperial Blue Brilliant Effect metallic, Royal Burgundy Red Brilliant Effect metallic and Bernina Grey Amber Effect, the focus was on the depth of the colours and the effects. To highlight the paint and the surface, Team Ost arranged tiny, delicate flowers and plants on the coated panels and used close-up photography.

Floral presentation of the THE 7 body colour Royal Burgundy Brilliant Effect

On the burgundy-red BMW paint, a blossom of the Chocolate Cosmos exudes a delicate scent of dark chocolate, while the rounded, sensuous shape of the flower highlights the warmth of this elegant shade. This plant is very special: it does not propagate through pollen but through tubers, and exists only in the cultivated form, as it is extinct in the wild.

The imperial blue paint is highlighted by a Vanda Nitaya orchid, a rare plant that grows in a variety of shades including – unusually – a palette of vibrant blues, ranging from Tweed Blue to the deep violet of Black Onyx. The floral designers picked this flower because of its luxurious character. The dark bloom emphasizes the integrity and exceptional quality of the paint colour, and through the contrast also adds a modern, emotional touch.

Imperial blue paint is highlighted by a Vanda Nitaya orchid

The Edelweiß on the Bernina Grey Amber Effect – a new colour developed especially for THE 7 – plays with light and shade, mirroring the effect particles in the coating. This flower, which is strictly protected, thrives in the Alps at altitudes between 1800 and 3000 meters and also in Bavaria, the home of the brand. Specially cultivated variants are available for use in floristry.

These ephemeral works of floral art hold a whole host of associations and hidden meanings, all of which appeal directly to the emotions. And the more you know, the more meaning they have

BMW colour palettes


Associations also play an important role in colour development in the BMW Colour & Trim design department. The process of picking shades starts with the image of the respective car and the all-important question of which colours could be a good match for it. Using targeted research, surveys, market and trend research results, the colour designers whittle down the field and arrive at their first proposals. A basic concept is derived from these and presented in a mood board with a collage of different photos and materials. The working title of the colour is also created at this point. The name is an important conduit for conveying associations when the designer has pitch the colour to the various decision-making bodies.

“This is the creative process,” says BMW colour designer Karin Fischer who is working at Colour & Trim. “Of course, this stage of the work is the one that we designers enjoy most.” But the bigger and more complex part of the process is the technical development. The next step is the supplier, who will examine the mood board, mix the initial colour samples and check feasibility. The colour variants the supplier submits are variations of coating colours from light to dark with so-called flops – special metallic particles that change the basic colour into a second colour in certain lights. “This is where we sometimes hit a wall – quite simply because BMW has such incredibly high quality standards,” says Karin Fischer. “Some colour ranges and effect pigments aren’t as easy to combine as expected, the layers must not exceed a certain thickness and the effects must be exactly as we want them to be. Every new body colour must withstand laboratory tests for solar radiation, daily wear, heat and cold.”

Karin Fischer

The 32-year-old colour designer, who graduated with a design degree from Georg-Simon-Ohm University in Nuremberg in 2011 and has worked for BMW for eight years now, then works with the supplier to refine the colour variants. This is a process that calls for very careful and lengthy communication. “People sometimes laugh at colour designers because our descriptions can be very flowery,” she says. “But it is the best way to convey emotions. There are some things you can only hint at with words, and that is why the combination of poetic flower arrangements and elegant coating colours is such a good one. The two inhabit the same universe.”

“We know which colours work best in particular regions from our global sales teams,” says Karin Fischer. The new BMW 7 Series is a classic product for Asia and the Middle East. “Elegant, warm colours are particularly popular here. The use of effect pigments in these colours conveys a sense of value and wealth. Amongst the most popular colours are Cashmere Silver Metallic and Bernina Grey Amber Effect Metallic. But also shades of black, like our Azurite Black Metallic, which adds colour to the black and looks very elegant.”

Karin Fischer at work

The American market favors very modern, monolithic colours: “Donington Gray Metallic plays an important role here – or the Carbon Black Metallic from the M sports package, a black with a very sporty blue tint. Another popular choice is Aventurine Red II Metallic, which is a full-bodied, metal-enriched red, signaling high value in the dynamic, sporty sense of high performance.”

The European market tends to swing to more classic colours. Here, THE 7 is primarily used for transport services. “This is why shades of white and black rank right at the top, along with other classic colours such as Tanzanite Blue Metallic from the Individual Program,” says Karin Fischer.

The making of the flowers

It takes roughly one year before a new colour has gone through all the development hoops and is ready to be taken into the BMW portfolio. Around halftime, the colour variants have been condensed down to a shade that is ready for presentation: the colour range, brightness and flop of the new tone have been chosen. Then the colour is applied to a larger area for the first time; the colour designer has several large panels with edges and molded corners painted in the new shade. “This is immensely important,” says Karin Fischer. “You can hold these samples up against the car and gain a sense of whether the emotion is still there.” During this phase the colour is constantly being tweaked and optimized, and is presented to several executive panels.

Shortly before the final board decision on whether the colour should be included in the BMW portfolio, a sample car is painted in the new tone. “Often, when we see the result, we get that ‘wow!’ feeling which tells you that you’ve nailed it and that the colour is perfect,” says Karin Fischer. This sample vehicle is then presented to the executive board – and is usually the main argument in favor of the shade. The colour designer calls it the “selling point.”

Royal Burgundy Brilliant Effect close-up

Finally, the BMW naming department checks the working name of the new colour. Only few survive this process, as their significance in all markets, cultures and religions is stringently vetted and compared with the colour names of rivals. “If a working name does actually end up as the list name, it’s a source of immense pride for the colour designer,” says Karin Fischer. Only one of her own name creations has made it into the catalogues so far: Snapper Rocks Blue from the current BMW 4 Series. “But that was a long time ago,” says Karin Fischer. “We’re always three to five years ahead of the market launch with our design work. But if I do succeed in claiming a final name again, then I’m really going to celebrate – with a bouquet of flowers that expresses the mood of my colour.”

Find out more about the BMW 7 Series here.

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