A Portrait of a MINI Designer: Marcus Syring

Writing for MotoringFile over the years has afforded us great opportunities to get to know the people behind the cars that we love. From Frank Stephanson to Gert Hildebrand and now Anders Warming we’ve always been impressed by the character of each and the dedication to the brand above personal interests. But perhaps no one has had a bigger impact and been ore dedicated to MINI in recent years than Marcus Syring.

Head of Exterior Design at MINI since 2002. Born in Westphalia in northwest Germany, he deems automotive design to be the toughest and yet also the most stimulating of the product design disciplines. As you can imagine his job as Head of Exterior Design MINI is full of variety. The interaction between his many different duties – ranging from creative input to dialogue-based work to managerial tasks – is as rewarding as it is complex. He puts the fascination of the whole design process down to the unique nature of each new job: guidelines and framework conditions that are in a constant state of flux, a sense of aesthetic perception that keeps evolving, plus the ever-changing desires of society and customers all combine to create an inimitable environment

Design as a vocation.

Marcus Syring opted for BMW Group Design as soon as he had completed his studies in product design at the University of Wuppertal, first joining the design specialists at BMW Motorsport GmbH BMW in 1991 before moving on to the Design Department of BMW Technik GmbH in 1997. Since the relaunch of the MINI brand under the aegis of the BMW Group in 2000 he has been part of the Exterior Design team at MINI. The avid thinker and tinkerer considers what he does to be a vocation. A pivotal moment came when a girlfriend made him see the potential of product design as a profession, and he immediately knew that was the only thing he really wanted to do. The designer describes the time he first laid eyes on a clay model during a work placement as a watershed moment for his career path. What’s more, it was the culmination of a childhood dream: even before he was old enough to go to school, Marcus Syring amused himself by using play dough to transform conventional notchback toy cars into design driven concepts.

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An eye for detail.

Recent models whose exterior design Marcus Syring was ultimately responsible for and which can be seen out on the road today include the MINI Coupé and the MINI Roadster. He refers to the BMW Z3 Coupé (and M Coupe) – already revered as a classic – and the MINI Clubman as career milestones.

A few years ago I had dinner with Markus just around the time that the two door Ferrari FF shooting-brake was released. The first thing I said to him that night was “you were right”. However knowing that I was trying to give him credit in beating Ferrari by 15 years to with the Z3 Coupe he immediately deflected the compliment and corrected me. “No we were right”.

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According to Marcus, good design can be measured by its functional perspectives in three different ways. Besides the physical technical function, encompassing aspects such as ergonomics and all types of technical demands, design must always fulfil an aesthetic function, too. And at the same time, good design also has to meet various requirements in terms of its symbolic function. At MINI this means, among other things, that a MINI instantly stands out as a premium car despite its stature.

Marcus sees himself as a commissioned artist in the classical sense. The creative scope he is granted by a brief that gives an exact description of what is required without specifying the solution is of crucial importance for his creative output. In Marcus Syring’s view, the characteristically unbiased approach at BMW Group Design is essential for achieving a successful result and for enabling all concerned to work together constructively. It’s an approach that chimes in exactly with the open-minded Marcus Syring and one that he endeavours to instil in his team.   On the personal side.

Besides architecture, fashion and product and consumer design, Marcus Syring finds art a great source of inspiration – though the artistic movement or genres are by no means the decisive factor. What is important is that the piece is able to captivate the observer with an emotive appeal expressed, for example, through its wealth of contrasts. He believes the works by architects Herzog & deMeuron are prime examples of this, as they are not confined by any notion of continually recurring formalism – rather, it is the very uniqueness of their edifices, tailored to their surroundings, purpose and client, that makes them stand out. In his free time, the designer enjoys visiting museums, reading and listening to music ranging from Jamie Cullum to Paul Weller. He keeps himself fit with jogging, swimming and yoga.   Marcus Syring lives in Munich, is married and has a young daughter.