The MINI Strip is a one-off concept created in conjunction with famed British Designer Paul Smith. While that may sound like a vanity project the sources tell us it’s far from that. Like any concept, there are many hints of design ideas and aesthetic choices that will heavily influence the next generation of MINIs – especially inside the car.
What the MINI Strip Tells Us About the Interior of the Next MINI
The MINI Strip’s shocking approach to design is led by the desire to be as minimal and sustainable as possible. Gone are the foams and plastics and in their place organic recycled materials that bring never before seen texture and warmth to an interior. And there’s simplification as well with a dramatically simplified components designed with manufacturing processes intended to produce less waste. All of these concepts are destined for the next generation MINI range to debut in 2023.
While the MINI Strip takes these concepts to extremes (there’s no infotainment screen for example), there is plenty here that directly point to the future of the brand. The elimination of leather, plastic and polyurethane foam is expected across the new MINI range as is a simplified design intended to reduce parts.
As much as anything it will be the shift in materials that will define this new approach to design. Where the ahead of its time BMW i3 brought plant-based dashboards, sustainably sourced wood and recycled plastic but still tried to adhere to typical automotive design patterns, the next generation MINI will go further. Door pulls from nylon cords? Perhaps. But more certain will be the liberal usage of recycled organic materials that look less like the dashboards and door cards we know and something entirely different.
And where the current MINI uses a design language full of swoops and curves, look for much simpler shapes and components in an effort to reduce waste in the production process.
The hints of this directional change have been there for some time. But there’s no better place to see it then in our recent conversation of MINI head of Design Oliver Heilmer. There he clearly lays out the thinking behind this shift and what he sees as the future of the brand.
For those worried about that overhang don’t be. It will be getting smaller. But more on that later.
We’ll leave you with a couple of his more telling statements…
MotoringFile: Where do you see inspiration in reducing elements and simplification?
Oliver Heilmer: Everything is getting more intense in terms of inspiration. I carry two phone with me and we all have so many devices. Yet you often feel like you need to calm down. Yes devices are becoming simpler (no button on an iPhone etc). But focusing on what’s important.. .this is a trend we see emerging. From one year to another it’s a wish of everyone.
In the furniture industry we already see this concept happening. But it’s not to leave things out but focusing on the details that remain.
We’re trying to reduce MINIs design exactly for that reason. The elements that are still there are important. And we need to pay much more attention on what matters in order to enhance what matters for the customer. It’s not a new idea. We’re always reflecting on the first Mini in 1959 and trying to analyze what the first Mini had and if that’s something we need to have in the future.
We look at what’s is ornamental and what do we need to take out? There’s still a need for differentiation between models… but on the other hand looking into each of those characters, we need to try to reduce things as much possible.
You see this in the LCI in the interior where we tried to reduce shut lines and eliminate small parts.
It’s often the past that inspires us. We actually looked at the 8 track player recently. They are so simple! There’s so much love in those details. It’s not necessarily in design perspective but functional perspective. They just work. It’s exactly what we are trying to achieve.
MF: What is essential and non-negotiable in terms of MINI design?
OH: We’ve looked at everything. We’ve even looked at … do we need round headlights? What if we got rid of everything? We’re constantly working with engineering, marketing and even customers when we think about the future. Within that process we’re coming conclusions on what elements are non negotiable. And since MINI isn’t one car, it’s not always one answer.
On the hatch there’s a lot of things I don’t want to touch because of how iconic it is. We’re adjusting those elements in the future but not eliminating them. In the Countryman there could be a different approach.
But it’s a process that starts with the 2021 refresh and something we’re working on now for the next generation MINI.