Chris Bangle: Know your metaphor (and love your dog)

Whether he’s upending conventional wisdom, taking potshots at management types or comparing his own profession to a dog, Chris Bangle has come to C2-MTL to shake people out of their assumptions.

The irreverent and provocative designer uses a lot of metaphors, and suggests that innovators think about their work in this way. “Figure out what kind of metaphor you’re working under,” he declares, “and know when you have to change it.”

As he explains, many established brands see themselves as a fortress. “Even though fortresses look really pretty on a postcard,” Bangle says, “fortresses have a way of becoming really irrelevant.” He proposes that an innovative brand should “change from a fortress to an army on the move.”

After transforming BMW with this approach, Bangle launched his own design firm. “I call it Chris Bangle Associates because I want everyone involved to feel that we have a stake in this, and also are part of the success of it,” he says.

Currently based in Italy, Bangle illustrates this philosophy with a local metaphor. “There’s an Italian expression, ‘The fox is pretty because he has a pretty tail.’” The tail in this case is the team around the designer. “It’s not just about you, the clever fox. It’s about the tail that makes you pretty. Look around you.”

Continuing with the animal imagery, Bangle says: “Designers are like dogs. Some people say ‘I want my dog to win awards.’ Some people want designers to help them see things they can’t see. And some people want to just hook them up to the sled.

“It’s the wrong reason,” he continues. “You want a dog because you love it. And if you don’t love designers, don’t hire them! Because they make a lot of merde, and you have to clean up after them. But if you love your designer, it can be beautiful.”