Musings of an Aussie design strategist gone North

BMW Project-i: Paradigm shifting for rich folk


Car magazine is carrying a story regarding the development of the Project-i vehicles, BMW’s oft talked about but as yet unseen foray into the future of urban transportation.

That BMW is putting it’s weight behind such a programme is laudable. As I’ve often remarked on these pages, a radical shift in thinking regarding how we move about our urban centres will be vital to the return to good health of the automotive industry. It’s just a little galling that BMW is sticking to the notion that these vehicles must be “premium”.

Dr. Ulrich Kranz, the leader of Project-i, even goes so far as to say “They will not be Tata Nano rivals – no way! We can and will only build premium cars”. Wanting to distance his project from any associations with the tiny tot from India is understandable, having seen just how rudimentary it is (Euro facelift notwithstanding), but to stick to the concept that BMW will “…only build premium cars” seems a little short sighted.

Car also cites Shanghai and Mexico City, among others, as targets for the vehicles. Last time I checked Mexico City and Shanghai were flush with the cheapest wheels available, Beetles and bicycles respectively. These are not markets ripe for the introduction of premium urban mobility. They just need urban mobility full stop.

It’s been regularly discussed in the motoring press over the past year or two, and I see fit to bring it up again here: BMW is sitting on the perfect brand for reaching down out of their ivory tower and providing intelligent mobility for the masses. It’s called Isetta.


Sure, it may not be terribly well known by name outside of Europe and groupings of predominantly old men who worship at the alter of slow, smelly and insane microcars of the mid-20th century. But nobody knew of Lexus when it launched, and it has done a passable job of establishing a presence for itself, answering a question nobody asked.

Crucially, Isetta has the all-important story behind it: it produced highly efficient, intelligent cars that intended to mobilise the masses. And as I’ve mentioned previously, having a great story is half the battle in getting people to fall in love with a new product.

Story aside, if BMW managed to nail a suite of solutions to urban mobility, no body would give a damn what it was called and whether it was “premium” or not. Our predicament is far more serious than that.

You can counter that the big changes in technology always start at the top of the market and work their way down (I remember when my first iPod cost €400 and held 500 more songs than the Shuffle that launched this week for €75. The thought of using it as a tie-clip was also a non-starter…). I honestly feel, however, that should we not work towards far-ranging, cross-market changes to the car industry, our recovery is going to be even more painful and protracted than we’re currently predicting.

According to Kranz it will be 2015 before we see the first fruit of his Project-i labour. From where I stand, we have until 2015 to convince him to spread the love.

[Source: Car Magazine][Images: Wiki Commons]


Filed under: Apple, Branding, Car, Design Strategy, Premium, Technology, , , ,

Auto-saving for iWork (or for anything for that matter)


So I’m an Apple user (and a passionate, sometimes envangelical one at that) but I’m not beyond overlooking the niggles that crop up every now and then.

Up until now my biggest gripe (and it is a HUGE one) is that the otherwise lovely iWork apps have not autosaved. This struck me as crazy, especially as I learnt it the hard way by losing 4 hours of work on a presentation.

EverSave, found via SwissMiss, has come to the rescue though! It’s a handy app that automagically saves your work as you go in any or all of your applications. Check it out: Eversave

swissmiss: Automatically Save Your Work on Your Mac On Any Application.

Filed under: Apple, Things I like, , ,

Objectified: Industrial Design Receiving the Honour it Deserves

I’m amused at the number of times I have to explain to people what industrial design is. Those same people are amazed in return when they realise that most of the “stuff” they interact with on a daily basis that isn’t a building or nature (and sometimes even the buildings too) is the result of some kind of industrial design process.

In recognition of the profound changes that industrial design has effected on our lives, Gary Hustwit has created Objectified. The movie takes a look at  the remarkable minds and processes behind the creation of some of the most iconic products of the the 20th and 21st century. With a participant list that reads like a coffee table design book: Chris Bangle (BMW), Tim Brown (IDEO), Naoto Fukasawa, Jonathan Ive (Apple), Dieter Rams, Karim Rashid…the list goes on, it will present, I hope, a wonderfully diverse collection of views about design. Even our own Marc Newson gets a look in!

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this movie! Check out the site.

P.S Who knew Jonny Ive was so handsome!?

Objectified: A Documentary Film by Gary Hustwit.

Filed under: Apple, Design, Philosophy, Things I like, , , , ,

Photos with Character: CameraBag for the iPhone

With the death of Polaroid (or is it a resurection we’re about to see?) there’s been a hole in the market for cheap, evocative, instant image makers. Tomy’s Xiao is close but a price of $us370 and Japan-only availability ensures it gets no cigar.

SwissMiss, however, has alerted me to this new app for the iPhone that allows you to add that sometimes indefinable thing, character, to your happy snaps, something that used to have to be achieved with patience and Photoshop plug-ins. CameraBag is available now from the App Store.

swissmiss: CameraBag for the iPhone.

Filed under: Apple, Applications, Design, Photography, Things I like, , , ,

About DownsideUpDesign

I'm Drew Smith and I'm a freelance design strategist and journalist for the automotive industry. DownsideUpDesign is a place for me to collect stuff that I like, often love and sometimes hate for safe keeping. Get in touch at downsideupdesigner (at) me (dot) com or tweet me (@drewpasmith) to rant, contribute or collaborate!

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© Andrew Philip Artois Smith and DownsideUpDesign, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrew/Drew Smith and DownsideUpDesign with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.