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The modern-day Mini was designed by Frank Stevenson, who has shared some insight into his design process via a Youtube video.
Redesigning a classic icon comes with a lot of pressure of delivering a product that appeals not only to the purists but also to the new generation that is set to become the target customer for the car. Such a task was given to automotive designer Frank Stephens who was at BMW when It acquired the Mini brand and were aiming to bring the Mini into the 21st century.
The Mini had previously not been changed or updated for 40 years in terms of visuals, and still retained the iconic design Sir Alex Issigonis had penned down on the back of a paper napkin. The design for the original Mini went on to become the modern template for a small car and would be adopted and copied by many manufacturers globally.
Hence, it was a big task for Frank to reimagine this pop culture classic car icon. The first big challenge for Frank was to keep the character of the original car so that people could identify it as a Mini in one glance. Small touches like leaning back the headlamps to improve aerodynamics as well as using modern manufacturing processes and technology, like the greater use of more curved surfaces, helped bring the entire Mini look into the modern age. Some other challenges faced were the crash safety norms and the manufacturing cost, which designers usually have to factor in while creating the overall template for the product.
The overall design of the car retained the stance of the classic car, with the low wide stance and the now legendary concept of the floating roof, copied by many other manufacturers (like the Swift, for instance).
All of these small design details have been highlighted in Stevenson's YouTube video where he chronicles the entire design process that he went through to create the new modern Mini.
Frank Stevenson has gone on to design many other cars post his Mini re-design project for BMW, now his portfolio of designs include the Maserati MC 12, Ferrari F430, McLaren 12C and even another little icon, the Fiat 500!
There is a great documentary about Frank Stephenson called Chasing Perfect that documents the designer's entire automotive journey.