Route to success paved with passion. A portrait of Edgar Heinrich.
Munich. Born in Freising near Munich, Edgar Heinrich took over as Head of BMW Motorrad Design in June 2012. The industrial designer oversees all aspects of design for all BMW Group motorcycles and rider accessories. As a passionate biker himself, Heinrich aspires to create the perfect symbiosis of rider and machine with every new model. To that end, he tailors the proportions of each motorcycle, the selection of materials, and the arrangement and design of technical details precisely to the requirements of the relevant segment and the individual riding experience.
Education and career: passion is a continuum.
Heinrich developed a passion for drawing and designing aspects of technical mobility at an early age. His design interest centred on motorcycles and large commercial vehicles, and during his school years he could be found working on sketches of, among other things, self-created “rally tanks”, Formula One-inspired vehicles with caterpillar tracks and machines with legs, known as “walkers”. It wasn’t only the design of vehicles that fascinated him, but the engineering behind them. As a 15-year-old he enjoyed rebuilding cars and engines with his brother, and at 17 he started motorcycle riding lessons. By that time he already owned his first motorcycle, a Suzuki T250.
After leaving school, he studied architecture in Rosenheim, where he refined his drawing techniques. However, while on a trip to Munich he discovered the city’s college of industrial design – and promptly decided to change tack with his studies. Edgar Heinrich joined BMW Motorrad in 1985, fresh from graduating in industrial design. But his route to the company had once again followed an unconventional path. Heinrich was seeking a sponsor who would provide him with motorcycle parts for his diploma project. In contrast to his fellow students, whose projects involved designing miniature models of various products, Heinrich decided to create a life-size motorcycle, which he designed, welded and assembled himself in his parents’ garage. His project was a success, BMW Motorrad not only giving him access to materials but inviting him to present his motorcycle design personally to Klaus Volker Gevert, then head of the design department. Shortly afterwards, he was handed a freelance contract and a year later he joined the BMW Motorrad design team on a permanent basis. The passionate draughtsman and craftsman has remained loyal to BMW ever since – with the exception of a brief period at Bajaj Auto Ltd. in Pune, India from 2009 to 2012. Indeed, he has spent almost his entire working life at BMW – graduating from junior designer to senior designer in 1992 and rising from the Head of Vehicle Design Motorcycles (2005) to assume overall responsibility for design in 2012.
His philosophy: form follows emotion.
For Edgar Heinrich, riding motorcycles represents more than merely a form of mobility; beyond the actual experience of riding, it reflects a personal lifestyle. The focal point of a motorcycle design is therefore the rider. Heinrich places particular importance on experiencing every new design on an emotional level as well, which is why, in addition to viewing it from all angles, he also tests it out with regard to the seating position, posture and overall feel. Another key consideration in Heinrich’s eyes is the development of the appropriate rider accessories for each segment.
Unlike a car, a motorcycle is made up of numerous visible technical details. That is why the engineers and designers at BMW Motorrad work together from the outset of a new bike design project. On the part of the designers, it demands an extremely sound understanding and detailed knowledge of how the motorcycle works. Heinrich focuses special attention on the authentic visualisation of product characteristics, in the conviction that technical and aesthetic aspects should blend together into a single composition. Everything from the smallest screw to the size of the fuel tank plays a part in establishing a coherent overall impression. Among the many models to have been created under his watch are the BMW R 1100 S sports boxer, the BMW K 1200 R naked bike and the iconic BMW R 1200 GS travel enduro. The development of various HP models and rally motorcycles alongside the regular line-up has represented a particular challenge.
His working method: teamwork, based on experience.
Edgar Heinrich learned his trade from the ground up at BMW Motorrad Design. From his own experience he is familiar with the working processes and challenges the design team have to tackle, knows how much time he needs to schedule for each task and how the design briefs need to be formulated. This embedded level of basic understanding provides the foundation for the smooth working partnership between him and his approximately 30-strong team. Heinrich is a firm believer in face-to-face conversations in the workplace. He can identify straightaway if a sketch is heading in the desired direction or is straying too far from the brief, and that allows him to guide his team with ideas and input during the design creation process. His major passion lies in creating the initial form and arranging and selecting the materials for the individual technical details. Heinrich is not only an expert in his specialist area, but also a masterly strategist who maintains a keen eye on instilling the perfect harmony of emotion, technical innovation, brand promise and aesthetic appeal in every design.
Edgar Heinrich describes motorcycles as “the biggest accessory you can wear”, since the choice of motorcycle says a great deal about its rider. When he sets off on holiday, a motorcycle is his preferred choice of transport. On his travels he likes to explore the differences between cultures, most notably between motorcycle cultures. Heinrich particularly enjoys riding in Italy, which he feels offers the perfect combination of exciting roads, good weather, fine food and cultural treasures around almost every corner. The architecture of Italian churches and the glories of Renaissance painting hold a particular fascination over him. He usually takes GS Enduro bikes on his tours and generally enjoys anything with “winter tyres” – i.e. enduros, scramblers, trial bikes, rally bikes and machines built for crossing deserts. His passion also stretches to rebuilding motorcycles; he has built up a collection of 16 mostly customized or vintage bikes that he has restored himself. Edgar Heinrich would be happiest living in an oversized garage, so that he could make fresh coffee and change the oil on a bike in a single movement. He lives near Munich with his wife and three children.