How to draw cars, with Adrian Van Hooydonk

The Canadian folks at spent some time recently with BMW’s Chief Designer, Adrian Van Hooydonk. The Dutch-born Van Hooydonk joined BMW in 1992 as a designer. In the year 2000 he went to California to work for the BMW Group subsidiary Designworks USA. He was Director of the internationally renowned design agency from 2001 to 2004. Then, under Chris Bangle, ex-BMW Group’s Head of Design, Van Hooydonk became Head of the Brand Design Studio for BMW Automobiles.

After Bangle’s abrupt departure in 2009, BMW AG named Van Hooydonk the BMW Design Director and a new era began for the Bavarian automaker.

Known to express some of his ideas during interview through a piece of paper and pen, Van Hooydonk makes no exception this time and gives the Sympatico’s journalist a quick drawing lesson. Let’s have a look at an excerpt of this interview:

On choosing the right tools
“I leave the designers free to choose their own tools. And over time you develop your own style and your favourite tools. It’s all about coming up with good ideas, and I don’t want to tell the designers what to think, and how to think it, and how to sketch it. They should come up with good ideas. That’s what matters most.”

On flow
“To do a design you can’t just sit there and think it all up in your head and sketch it. It’s not like that, like a mathematical problem that you have to work out in your head and then you write down the solution. It is something that you have to get into this state of… yeah, some call it flow or whatever, where you have all the things in your head that you want to do or solve, but then you have to maybe almost forget about them and start sketching. And then it will come.”

On the most interesting phase of the design process
“The most interesting phase in a design program is when you go from 2D, from sketch, to the 3D. It comes alive.” He motions towards his sketch. “Here you are dealing with lines in two dimensions. That’s fairly easy. When you have that same line on the bonnet of a car, it curves this way, it curves that way in all directions. And then, it’s much harder to control that curve. You have to control the curve precisely because you want to have tension from every viewing angle. It should never have a wriggle or something like that, or it should never look saggy or you know, lazy.”

Read the full interview at


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