The first time someone called me a designer, I couldn’t have been older than thirteen.
Growing up, every kid in my neighborhood had a bike. My friends and I would buy and sell parts, make our own prices and trade with other kids in our neighborhood. In junior high, I started to modify the bikes.
Now, when I say modify, I’m talking about radical, serious alteration. I was cutting the frames, adjusting the suspension, changing the vehicle’s overall geometry. We even made our own link-style suspension. Keep in mind that when I was growing up, there was no such thing as a BMX bike on the market. My friends and I basically made what we needed out of standard bicycles. Of course our construction methods were unsophisticated, but our enthusiasm overcame our lack of skill.
When I was about thirteen, I was working on my most advanced design to date. It was a bike that would include raised ground clearance of the pedals by three inches. The only problem was, I couldn’t weld. So, I brought the bike frame to our local auto-body shop and asked if they could make the modifications.
When I picked up the bike a couple of days later, the mechanic greeted me by calling out “Hey, it’s the little designer who brought in the bike the other day!” They had perfectly reconfigured the frame to my specifications – and my design worked!
You could say that I had a love affair with bikes, with vehicles, with the idea of momentum. You could say I was obsessed.
I learned the art of modifying bikes through trial and error. This graduated into modifying motorcycles, which then led to restoring vintage cars. During this time, I took it upon myself to learn about design as an ethos – and what the title “designer” really meant.
Now is probably a good time to mention that ArtCenter College of Design has been in my family since I was little. My mother taught there and was a career counselor for many years. My brother Armand attended the school to study advertising, and I joined the transportation design degree program a couple of years later.
When I was in high school, I took Saturday figure drawing classes at ArtCenter. Even today, I remember the nervous sensation of being in that classroom and sharing my work with a group of complete strangers. That’s ArtCenter in a nutshell, though – always putting you on the spot. It was the kind of visceral thrill that builds your confidence and inspires you to push forward.
One of the lasting pleasures of my time at ArtCenter was forming substantial relationships with people who shared similar goals. All of a sudden, I found myself surrounded by students who literally hailed from all over the globe. Seeing how people from other cultures solved problems was a formative part of my artistic development. Together, we created a kind of collective momentum, one that propelled us each toward our respective destinies, even if we never stopped working as a group.
I truly believe the collective momentum of artists – the culture of art – is intrinsic to the progress of civilization and has to be nourished. We must always persist not only in moving forward as creatives, but also in forging a new dialogue that future generations may build on.
I guess that thirteen-year-old already knew what was important. After all, he set the course of my life in industrial design.
BS 85 Transportation Design
GK Design International