Director’s Commentary: Adrian van Hooydonk

Metacool directors commentary hooydonk

I really enjoyed listening to this interview of Adrian van Hooydonk by Tyler Brule of Monocle.  It's a wonderful Director's Commentary, because in it van Hooydonk explores many themes that are relevant far beyond the world of BMW.  Anyone engaged in the art and science of bringing cool stuff to life will get a lot out of this video.

Some of the high points for me were:

  • his thoughtful exploration of how the 2009 financial crisis will shape user behaviors in the future
  • his thinking on what it takes to design remarkable experiences, and his emphasis on the importance of having a strong point of view.  When he says that the BMW Gran Turismo is about "traveling in style", I really get what the car is all about.  By the way, the Gran Turismo has officially replaced the Honda Ridgeline as the focus of all my automotive fetishistic energy (but Honda, if you're listening, I'd still be very happy if you delivered a Ridgeline to my house one Saturday morning.  With a bow on top).
  • his clear focus on user experience as the wellspring of compelling designs.  This worldview, of course, is what Principle 3 is all about.

My favorite part of the interview comes near the end, as Brule and Hooydonk discuss what it is like to bring designs before the board of BMW for approval.  Here's an excerpt:

Design is an emotional thing.  So, as a designer, I will lean to one or the other design in the final stages, and I can't completely explain why.  But my responsibility is to advise the board on which design we should go with, and they don't even expect from me that I can explain it to the last millimeter.  In a way, there has to be trust between a board of management and the chief designer.

I could not agree more.  In my experience, trust in the informed intuition of talented designers is what separates the great brands from the also-rans.  Informed intuition is what allows designers to make good decisions regarding intangibles.  In the absence of trust in informed intuition, organizations are tempted to decode intangibles via metrics, surveys and other algorithmic devices, and all the poetry gets trampled.

Could trust be the killer app?