I'm not an industrial/automotive designer, but I've been a software and interface designer for many years, so I have some thoughts on this.
Originally Posted by jimshaw
The end result in many fields represents a compromise, collaboration or battle between designer and engineer. Take my field for example, then look at Microsoft. At its core, Microsoft is a software engineering company that engineers solutions to problems, then brings in designers to wrap graphic veneers around their engineering solutions. Apple, on the other hand, is more of a design company that envisions or designs solutions, then brings in the software and product engineers to implement those designs. They're two very different philosophies and approaches to solving similar problems, and both have their advantages and disadvantages.
I know nothing about the inner workings at BMW, but it's readily apparent that BMW is an engineering company where the designers are subordinate to the engineers ‘«Ų not the other way around. Coincidentally, Germany's prewar Bauhaus school was also the primary originator of modern design theory. Nearly everything in modern design, from typefaces to architecture have been heavily influenced by the Bauhaus philosophy of form following function. In other words, the way things work should dictate the way they look.
There's typically an uneasy working relationship between designer and engineer. The designer regards the engineer as having no taste or sense of style, while the engineer regards the designer as a nuisance. Fortunately, the thing that keeps them together is the need for each others skills. Without the designer, BMW bikes would have all the pizzazz and user comfort of an old Soviet tractor, and despite their engineering and durability, the bikes wouldn't sell. But without the BMW engineers, the fancy-looking bike prototypes could never be built and probably wouldn't run if they were built.
I have no idea what's caused the personnel changes in BMW Motorad's design team. I do hope, however, that this change won't result in a lesser or more subordinate role for innovative design at BMW. Their motorcycles were finally seeming to achieve the right balance between engineering and design, and it would be a shame to see this change.