The all new, custom-made, one-off MINI STRIP celebrated its world premiere in London last week, after two of Britain’s most sustainable brands collaborated on the futuristic automotive design. MINI and Paul Smith first announced their collaboration plans in November 2020, and since then the two iconic British brands have been sharing creative thoughts on a sustainable design process. Guided by the overarching theme of ‘Simplicity, Transparency and Sustainability’, the all new vehicle shines the spotlight on an innovative approach toward the issue of sustainability within automotive manufacturing.
About The MINI STRIP:
The one of a kind MINI STRIP showcases inspirational ideas for the potential ways to increase sustainability within automotive design. As the name suggests, the collaborative design process began by completely stripping down a three-door MINI Cooper SE and reducing it to its structural essence. Elements that the designer viewed as absolutely necessary were then defined, implemented and put into place… with sustainability taking a front seat, of course.
“For me, the MINI STRIP shows in an impressive way that MINI and Paul Smith share the same bold way of thinking about the future in terms of innovation and design – and together we create more. Paul asked essential questions right at the start of the design process with his non-automotive and therefore fresh perspective. We are proud to have developed such a strong character statement together.”– Oliver Heilmer, Head of MINI Design
Inspiration & Perspective:
MINI has always been a receptive brand toward views from beyond its universe; they help the brand to sharpen its view of itself and of how it approaches challenges. As a designer with a passion for bicycles, books and much more, Paul Smith asked questions that provided fresh motivation to explore far beyond the obvious.
“I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to rethink the iconic MINI… I know and love the existing car, but by respecting the past and looking to the future we have created something very special. I feel very privileged that the MINI team have given me the confidence and freedom to think laterally about the approach to the design of the car. Together I think we have created something truly unique, by going back to basics, reducing things down and stripping the car.”– Paul Smith
The Construction Process:
The all new MINI STRIP features a high-class design with numerous clever touches that enrich the exterior of the three-door MINI Cooper SE with a totally unique and exclusive aesthetic. Deliberate design details have been left consciously intact on the MINI STRIP to Raw materials are a very deliberate part of the design and clearly identify the car as a functional object and robust companion for everyday life. The car’s body has been left in an unfinished state with no coloured paint applied, but instead just a thin film of transparent paint to protect against corrosion and grinding marks from the factory can be found on the car’s galvanised steel panels.
The intentional “rough-hewn” effect was also dubbed “the perfect imperfection” by designer Paul Smith. MINI calls it a ‘twinkle in the eye’ and Paul Smith calls it a ‘classic with a twist’, both are referring to unexpected details that add attention and awe to the MINI STRIP, such as the thought out high-contrast colour accents. Opening the car doors reveals the hidden signature Paul Smith stripes in a vivid composition of five colours. The charging flap also adds a splash of neon green when opened, while the engraved drawing of an electric plug on the flap is Paul Smith’s original work.
Sections of the familiar MINI black band are 3D-printed from recycled plastic, and their basic material qualities have been left exposed, like the metal panels. Paul Smith provided the inspiration for the visible screws in the add on parts, which show how simple dismantling the vehicle would be and how easily the vehicle could be reincorporated into a raw-material cycle at the end of its service life.
The functional and distinctive front and rear apron inserts were manufactured in a 3D printing process, this design detail resulted in a striking and unique texture. The blanked-off radiator grille of the MINI STRIP and its wheel covers help to reduce drag in hallmark electric car fashion and increase its theoretical range. The grille trim and aerodynamic covers on the wheels are made from recycled Perspex, saving both weight and resources. Recycled Perspex is also used for the large panoramic roof that allows the driver’s and passenger’s eyes to view the large and bare structure of the interior.
The ‘Simplicity and Transparency’ motto extends to the interior of the MINI STRIP, with all trim parts having been purposefully omitted (with the exception of the dashboard, topper pad and parcel shelf), turning the body shell into the dominant visual feature of the car’s cabin. Paul Smith requested that it be coloured blue to give the interior an aesthetic appeal that is bare, yet “dressed” at the same time.
Taking its cue from MINI design’s traditional use of circular interior elements, the geometry has been simplified with a far more graphical interpretation. There is no classical centre instrument, leaving the driver’s smartphone to take centre stage, it is placed where the centre display would normally be, connecting automatically to the car and becoming the media control centre. The only physical controls inside are located down in the centre stack, where the toggle switches for the power windows and the start/stop function can be found.
Alongside the minimalist geometric design inside the MINI STRIP, the use of recycled, environmentally friendly materials also supports the car’s sustainability credentials. The car’s interior is completely free of both leather and chrome, and the completely mono-material design for the seat coverings means they are completely recyclable. The floor mats are made from recycled rubber and their terrazzo-like pattern is a by-product of the recycling and manufacturing process.
This positively showcases the multi-coloured integral elements enjoying a second life as part of this material. The MINI STRIP’s dashboard topper pad, door shoulders and parcel shelf also display simplified geometry and are made from recycled cork, which doesn’t contain any synthetic binding agents and is recyclable. With its pleasing firmness combined with a soft feel, cork could provide a substitute for foamed plastics in the future. Due to cork’s recyclability and its status as a renewable and raw material that actually “fixes” carbon dioxide during its production process, there is potential here for reducing greenhouse gases. Another positive side effect of knitted fabric and cork is that they are both open-pore materials that further enhance interior acoustics within automotive vehicles.
Minimalist Functions & Design Details:
The steering wheel, another focal point of the interior, has been reduced to the most essential functions. Three aluminium spokes connect the rim to the steering wheel’s impact absorber, whose mesh covering makes it possible to see the airbag behind it. The door panels are made from the same mesh material that covers the airbag and their structure is visible behind mesh panels, that are held within a frame. The transparency of the knitted mesh changes according on the angle of view, this adds further dimension to the interior’s overall appearance.
The pull handles are made from wound climbing rope and, together with the matching seat belts, liven up the interior with their bright orange finish. Like the pull handles, the door openers in milled aluminium, are found in the cork door shoulders and provide a classy finishing touch for the door area. The exposed airbag unit in the roof pillar has the same effect as the visible cable, deliberately drawing attention to functions that are normally concealed during the manufacturing period and create an aesthetically agreeable effect.
Sparking Ideas For A Sustainable Future:
The MINI STRIP completely embodies the ‘simplicity, transparency and sustainability’ theme through every aspect and design detail set by the British brands. The collaboration has enabled the MINI STRIP to translate MINI’s Creative Use of Space philosophy into a radical and fundamental redesign of a renowned model. The MINI STRIP provides optimism and assurance in the sustainable design abilities of automotive vehicles within the future, and can provide a catalyst for more sustainable resources to be used in automotive design and manufacturing.