In depth view on car design position by Domagoj Dukec, one of world top designers. 36y old Croatian holds position of BMW Group Design Manager. 1989 Pforzheim graduate previously worked for Volkswagen and Citroën where came by personal invitation from, Jean-Pierre Ploué Citroën Design Director. Dukec accepted offer and become one of the key people that created new Citroën aesthetic by Citroën C4 coupé, C5 Airscape, C5 (Mark II), Hypnos and GQ Concept. Since 2010 works for BMW and already is credited for concept Vision ConnectedDrive.
How did you decide to become car designer?
I always enjoyed drawing and have developed sensibility. As a man I was interested in car design so I’ve entered transportation design at Pforzheim University with Volkswagen scholarship.Your first job was at Volkswagen.
After graduation I worked for three years at Volkswagen Group advanced design Studio (Design Centre Europe) in Sitges, Spain. We designed for all brands they have including Lamborghini and Bugatti.
Afterwards you moved to Citroën.
Jean-Pierre Ploué was my colleague at Sitges. When he became chief designer at Citroën, he invited me to join him. Ploué is a real star and because of him I joined Citroën. When he told me that appreciates my work I couldn’t say no. He hired me to supervise exterior design. That skill I learned at Volkswagen which has education on that. Vast of Citroën designers are French, they are very creative but inexperienced in creation of objects. They don’t have feeling how idea will look once car is made. In design, beside idea it’s important to have feeling for proportions and harmony. To develop that feeling you must have a lot of experience and today it’s hard to get opportunity to learn. There is a constant pressure to work faster. Nobody will give time to young man to explore different ideas. My role in Citroën was to ensure quality of design, not to let car look cheap.
I guess you enjoy your work?
Of course, it’s not hard job. On the other hand I never worked anything else so perhaps I don’t appreciate it enough. When I tell people what I do, they’re always amazed. Perhaps I’m not even aware how good this job is. I’m creative one hour per day. You cannot force yourself for more. Rest of the day I read, visit museums, enjoy city… Sometimes we prepare presentation or do clay modelling so I have to work whole day.
When you have new idea, what is your first step?
I sketch on paper. I don’t do computer modelling except Photoshop. In that way I don’t waste paper.
How Citroën C5 Mark II was created?
C5 class is dominated by Germans. It’s a three volume car because management insisted on that and for Citroën two volumes are characteristic. It was difficult to create car with that volume that will be recognised as Citroën. We had to make elegant car with good proportions and soft lines. For instance it was easier to create C6 because volume is typical for Citroën. On C5 every element is functional which is rare quality. Just compare it with Audi where shapes often don’t have function. You cannot just draw a car out of your head and say we’ll produce it. Car has to meet market needs and demands, marketing goals and thousand of other factors.Why did you left Citroën?
There are many reasons. For last twelve years I lived abroad and I just wanted to get back to Germany where I was born. Second, in Citroën I reached my top so I could only repeat myself which I didn’t want to do. I just decided to move on and find new challenge. Also, in Citroën I reached top design position, afterwards I could only become manager which means that I would just be running from one meeting to other instead of actually designing. I wanted to continue my career through design positions like director of exterior design or studio director and those positions don’t exist in Citroën.Now you have such position?
Yes, I’m Team leader which mean that I manage designers but also design myself and that is the best way to earn respect. Joji Nagashima, who is also a Team Leader, designed E90 but not as manager yet by wining a competition that entered on equal base with lower ranked designers. He simply had the best design proposal.Among all brands, why did you choose BMW?
I always wanted to design RWD cars and explore new possibilities in term of proportions. Until now I worked for Group Volkswagen and Citroën that produce FWD cars. Beside, it’s not same if you design Dacia or Bentley. For me job is the same, perhaps it’s even harder to design cheap car, but who is better designer in eye of public, designer of Bugatti or Škoda? I could continue designing nice Citroën’s but they would be Citroën’s only. I want to design car with top mechanics.Than it’s ironical that you design FWD cars, again.
In BMW I’m responsible for all FWD design because of my 13 year experience with that powertrain. Adrian (van Hooydonk) and majority of the team spent whole career in BMW designing RWD cars. That is another culture of design that they don’t change. I helped them to shorten long nose and teach them similar tricks how to give FWD car sportier look. Just when I left Citroën, they started to work on RWD as applied on Metropolis concept.Nevertheless your first BMW project is Vision ConnectedDrive.
I’m glad that my first project at BMW is so typical for this brand. BMW Vision ConnectedDrive is roadster with classical proportions. This is very emotional project for me because in this design I’ve implemented my vision of BMW. Exterior Designer is Juliane Blasi. BMW expects from his designers to be fully independent. They give you a briefing and ask you for final result only. All decisions in design process are yours, nobody tells you anything, and you have full responsibility. In the beginning I make presentation of my ideas, get feedback from superiors and project starts.What is design structure in BMW?
Different than in Citroën: Adrian is on top, next is Karim (Habib), BMW cars Design director, and below is Joji Nagashima and myself. We are team leaders. Four of us must manage all BMW design projects. I was in charge for BMW Vision EfficientDynamics and will be responsible for next concept car. I’m in charge for all new projects. Previous to my arrival Joji (Nagashima) was in charge but he just reached physical limit and couldn’t handle new projects. We design all cars - concept and product, big and small.What are main differences between BMW and Citroën?
Citroën design is provocative and therefore innovation is important. Citroën need that because it has different culture than BMW. Peugeot is more similar to BMW. For BMW dynamics and strong character are important. BMW didn’t always have the most beautiful cars, but they were always dynamic. BMW, as a premium brand, must not go into ornament design, but must find a way to express dynamics. This is why Vision ConnectedDrive is important.Than tell us more on Vision ConnectedDrive.
We wanted to give a face to ConnectedDrive programme. This car has nothing to do with production, but it is the essence of BMW identity. We wanted to showcase what BMW mean to us. Car is very simple, like old 5 series was simple. It didn’t need big wheels to get noticed because it had very good proportions. Everything was right on its place. Its style doesn’t have to be loud because surfaces are extremely important and they give the main impression. We think that BMW is a proud brand and it doesn’t have to make total styling as Korean brands or Citroën have to. Brand image is just totally different. In past Chris Bangle provoked, but that was done only to get brand attention, now when Adrian is in charge, style is calming down and Vision ConnectedDrive is part of that trend. We wanted to show strong and dynamic exterior but without exaggeration. ConnectedDrive for BMW is what TT was for Audi - programmatic embodiment of core brand values. ConnectedDrive stands strong on wheels, has “shark nose”, “four eyes”, “kidney grille”… minimum of BMW identity elements. We don’t need more to get recognised. BMW is role model for many brands, in future it can get even prouder.It seems like that BMW has recently lost design plot. Last three concepts are totally different - Gina, Vision DynamicEfficiency and Vision ConnectedDrive.
I disagree. BMW has more faces and that is legitimate. In the future there will be three BMW sub-brands. On one side there is “i” as efficiency brand and on the other dynamic “M” brand. Whiteness of DynamicEfficiency announced ecological efficiency and aero-dynamical elements dynamic spirit that is already embodied in 1M. Purpose of DynamicEfficiency is to present vision of different limousine - more ecological and a bit less aggressive. ConnectedDrive intention is to showcase technology implemented in every BMW. Colour is not so loud and design is minimalist. We want to keep focus on technology and not design.M is top specification label like AMG for Mercedes. Will M in future have different body like DS at Citroën has? Is M1 announcement of that?
I don’t know anything about it. Fact is that M has its own design boss, Pierre Leclercq, which means there will be more attention on design.Was it easy to move change Paris for Munich?
Are you kidding? I had enough of Paris and French way of life. For me Munich has higher quality of life than Paris. Alps, lakes, excellent food, good climate, culture and BMW - Munich has it all. The most important is that now I’m only 498 kilometres from Croatian seaside. Adrian appreciates me, I was given responsibility and it’s easy for me to identify with brand. All I need now is to find wife, get married and I’ll have everything.
Citroën C4 (Mark I):
Citroën C5 Airlounge:
Citroën C5 (Mark II):