Have you ever wondered who in the world selected a certain colour to be chosen as a paint option on a car? Or who gave names such as Anti Establishment Mint* or Vanilla Shake** to paint colours for cars? Well we do know who in BMW does that now. 2013 saw Martina Starke appointed Head of Colour and Trim Design and Material Technology at BMW Design. As such, she is responsible for anything to do with colours and materials pertaining to the exterior and interior design of BMW Automobiles, BMW M Automobiles and BMW Individual – a brief that ranges from exterior paintwork colours and special finishes to the design of seat upholstery, customised door and steering wheel trims, all the way to decorative trim features. A qualified textile designer, she joined the BMW Group in 2001, since when she has been responsible, among other things, for colour and material design for the larger model series and for BMW Individual. She describes her job as having great appeal and particularly relishes the broad spectrum of tasks that come with it.
The fabric of a designer’s career.
Martina Starke began her training as an apprentice textile pattern designer, during which time her passion for materials and textiles was able to really flourish. This was followed by studies in textile design at Hanover University of Applied Sciences and Arts. Prior to joining BMW as a colour and material designer in 2001, she worked as a freelance textile designer specialising in interior carpeting and textiles. While she was still studying, a project Martina Starke worked on for the British interior design label Designer’s Guild gave her a taste of what it is like to work in an international team. It was here that she saw how a constuctive exchange of ideas can be used to the advantage of both her work and her personal development. Another formative influence during the early years of her apprenticeship was the world-renowned trend forecaster Lideweij Edelkoort, whose holistic view of design in general and materials in particular continues to have an impact on Martina Starke’s work today. Her positive, level-headed manner and her ability to bring different viewpoints to the table are qualities that are highly appreciated by her staff. She is always at pains to look at things from different angles, making her the archetypal open-minded team player. Whether she’s collaborating with big-name designers or working together with her team, Martina Starke finds this integrative approach to be an important asset for her work. And that work revolves around one constant: people.
Design is about understanding people
Besides special exterior paint finishes, there is one key aspect of automotive design that falls within Martina Starke’s remit: affective perception in the vehicle cabin. The design of a BMW automobile’s interior is a continuation of everything suggested by the exterior: sheer driving pleasure. As a result, a BMW is about far more than pure functionality for Martina Starke; it is only made complete by the emotions that are triggered when people come into contact with it. That is why Martina Starke focuses on two fundamental factors: the person and the material. She perceives design as a challenge to be resolved from the user’s standpoint: what is needed? What are the customer’s requirements? A deep understanding of people is the key here, since aesthetics alone cannot provide the answer. Material is the second intrinsic element in Martina Starke’s field of work: it is of overriding importance to her, as the materials used in a car form the primary means of contact with it – whether it be leather, wood or, more exclusive still, lambskin. A vehicle occupant’s sense of well-being is also influenced by his or her perception of the materials, so Martina Starke ultimately allows herself to be guided by their composition and properties in order to produce an authentic feel when styling an object.
On the personal side.
Martina Starke enjoys the luxury of being able to visit exhibitions. She is fascinated by the painting of contemporary artists such as Wolfgang Kessler and Tobias Vetter. Contemplating the works of Olafur Eliasson, Pipilotti Rist, Rosemarie Trockel or the legendary fabric books of Louise Bourgeois helps to give her a new perspective on things. Martina Starke also admires the creativeness of well-known designers like Partricia Urquiola, Stefan Sagmeister and Jonathan Ive. Works by architects such as Norman Foster or from the offices of Herzog & de Meuron likewise keep providing her with fresh impetus for her work. White is the dominant theme at home, where she blends design icons like the Arco lamp and La Chaise furniture with family heirlooms and modern accessories. Martina Starke lives in Munich and is married with one daughter.
* Anti Establishment Mint was a colour which Ford named a paint option in 1970
** Vanilla Shake is a colour option available on the KIA Soul