James: Can you tell us a little about your background and how long you have been working at Trek? Was it your intention to become a bicycle designer when you went to school for Industrial Design?
Chad: I have been at Trek for 5.7years. Prior to Trek I had interned at Sram, worked at HP and Insight Product Development and freelanced in the Chicago area. I have worked on consumer research, electronics, business, medical, POP, sporting goods, furniture products in either a staff or freelance design role.
James: Do you work on variety of products at Trek? I guess a better way to ask that question is, do all of the designers at Trek work on all different types of bikes, or is the design department somewhat separated into product categories (road bike designers, mountain bike designers, urban bike designers, accessory designers etc.)?
Chad: There is the opportunity to work a huge range of products at Trek. Many people don’t know that our team develops products for Trek as well as Gary Fisher, LeMond, Klein, Bontrager, Villiger, and Diamant. We do everything from tools to bikes, pumps, components, bags, helmets, shoes, trailers, and anything related to the bicycle. For a long time we fought being dedicated to specific brands but over time that just sort of happened mostly based on personal interest. Currently we are more focused on User category with at least one lead designer in charge of design tasks for a category. This still allows us the opportunity to work a wide range of products while developing intimate knowledge of our users and the micro cultures that exist within each category. Likewise if you get bored with an area there is always the opportunity to work on something outside of your normal category responsibilities. Other than that, how well you like and work with the specific product manager plays a role. We have a lot of PM’s and the longer you work at Trek the more you naturally gravitate towards certain PM’s.
You were one of the designers of the Fisher Simple City urban bike that was shown Eurobike, right? Nice work; can you tell me who else was involved in that project?
Chad: Gary Fisher of course! I was the lead ID resource on the Simple City. Our engineer for frame design was Sri Madhaven. Our component engineer is world famous Frankie. Pavement Product Manager is Chad Price and Graphic design is Eric Lynn. Everyone listed above did the bike. From a brainstorming level Chris Carlson (fisher mtb designer), Mike Hammond (beyond rock star ID), Aaron Mock (fisher product manager, Damon Rinard, Paul Andrews (ACG) and the rest of the ID team were involved. Plus Lupe, Jarod and Mark proto’d the samples you saw at the shows. Our proto team is the best there is or ever was!
Chad: The biggest influence on the design was Gary. Gary had been talking to ChadP about city/shopping bikes for a long time. He does all of his shopping by bike and wanted to develop a bike with great style and great utility. We met with Gary at his house and brainstormed the bike and talked about his view and use of utility bikes. Basically we sat around (he had a foot injury) and sketched and looked at his bikes and talked about what the bike wanted to be or needed to be. As a designer Gary is a visionary and his knowledge of the history of bicycle use is an asset to draw from. When we get in some functional, preproduction protos, we plan to get him on them and start the refinement process. Beyond that I cannot stress how wonderful Gary is but I can say that when he shows up in waterloo and sits behind you while you pump CAD it can be a bit intimidating (right Ned?).
James: Without giving away any Trek secrets, what do you think will be the biggest design trend in the bicycle industry going forward?
Chad: First a note about advocacy. Most people don’t know that Trek has been involved at a national level for a very long time. Our leadership has been involved in local and national politics fighting for cycling and developing programs that create safe environments for people to ride. That said, Advocacy is probably the most important thing the bicycle industry can do going forward. Whether that be safe routes, IMBA, BikesBelong or your local advocacy group. If you love bicycles, get involved! (and I am not talking about just doing a critical mass ride which in my opinion is bad for cycling but that is another topic altogether).
James: One last question; hypothetically speaking, would you be offended if someone were to post a picture of you in a costume (for the sake of discussion let’s just say a Mr. Incredible costume) on the internet for all to see? Seriously, it looks like you Trek ID people have a great time at work. What would you say is the best thing about working in the design department at Trek?
Chad: Our team is tight. Everyone here hangs out together. We are really a family…I know it sounds corny but it is true. We all really respect each other. This is rare when you are talking a department with 13 distinct personalities. Even more rare when you consider that we are just one department within in Trek that hangs out and feels the close-knit vibe. It is common for a lot of trek people, regardless of department, to spend a lot of time together outside of work having fun together. I don’t know if other industries have that sort of connection. Overall I get to work with a lot of really talented individuals with a very diverse set of experiences. It is nice to work at a place with passionate, fun people. You know you work someplace great when people who choose to leave, for whatever reason, cry or get teary-eyed.