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BMW’s sustainability leader in design, Daniela Bohlinger, joins UID

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Daniela Bohlinger, Head of 'Sustainability in Design' at the BMW Group, is joining UID as an adjunct professor for 2021-2022. Daniela aims to give staff and students the opportunity to further explore and develop sustainable solutions across all design programmes.

Text: Jens Persson / Top image: Fritz Beck

"For me, UID is one of the best design schools in the world. I think the school offers students an amazing 'starter kit'. And while students at UID already are very aware of issues of sustainability, I hope to further embed holistic sustainable approaches into the curriculum, working with both staff and students. I can't wait to start working in such an open and inspiring environment, feeding of the creativity and energy from all these talented people", says Daniela Bohlinger.

Daniela Bohlinger brings with her a wealth of experience from the heart of the BMW Group in Munich where she has been driving sustainable change for almost 13 years. Naturally, spearheading the topic of sustainability within a global car brand has presented its challenges along the way. 

"Still today, I am sometimes critical towards certain cars that we make. For me, some of them are still using too many materials and the architecture is too big to be holistically sustainable. From a personal point of view, I think my big shift at BMW was when I understood that we are going in a direction where we simply used too many recourses. For a whiIe there, I was considering leaving to make more of an impact somewhere else. But then 'Project i", BMW's plug-in electric vehicles, came along and I realized I could actually make more of a difference from the inside", says Daniela Bohlinger. 

The lessons of a goldsmith

Daniela's perspective on sustainability has been with her long before she became a designer, one might say for generations. Growing up in the mountainous area of southern Bavaria the lifestyle was one of handcraft, old school frugality and resource preservation. It was ecological farming long before it was a buzz word.

Her first taste of working life was an apprenticeship as a goldsmith. Here, her relationship towards sustainability was further cemented. Working as a goldsmith she would learn how to keep everything, to value every last piece of waste. It instilled in her an awareness towards the responsible use of resources.

Birgit BittermanDaniela Bohlinger's upbringing in the rural parts of the mountainous southern Bavaria has shaped her view on sustainability. Photo: Birgit Bitterman

"I believe designers should become more aware of what they actually do and what kind of impact they have when they design a product or a service. A lot of times designers create something just for the sake of doing something cool. But I believe you have a big responsibility as a designer to ask yourself whether there is a real need for the thing that you are making. In the end, it's all about raising your own level of consciousness as a designer", says Daniela Bohlinger.

From fly cars to fly-fishing

Working 60-hour weeks at BMW in Munich, Daniela is looking forward to swapping her regular workdays filled with PowerPoints, CO2 calculations and technical reports with creative sessions together with staff and students at the UID premises. However, lively workshops in Post-it covered design studios is not the only thing luring her to Umeå. It's also the many rivers and creeks around Västerbotten.

"I'll be packing my rods! I'm a passionate fly-fisher and there are a lot of great spots around Umeå. I've already been to some of them", says Daniela Bohlinger.