Designing a motorcycle

Chetaan Shedjale is senior industrial designer at Harley-Davidson, who has designed Harley’s hugely successful Street 750, as also the recently-launched Street Rod 750. From Solapur in Maharashtra, Shedjale works out of the Harley-Davidson global headquarters in Milwaukee, USA. Before this, he studied design in Italy, and interned under the well known motorcycle designer, the late Massimo Tamburini

25 Apr 2018 | By PrintWeek India

Designing bikes
Motorcycle design is a part of industrial design, but it’s a niche subject where forms and proportions are dealt between two wheels. As a designer, you put your emotions in a product which becomes a desire for the user to possess.
To begin with, the basic understanding of the forms of proportion is critical in motorcycle design. In India, we have a lot of industrial design courses which can help you in motorcycle design. But personally, I feel you are born with certain skills. 
In designing a car, you still have a larger base to work on. But when you consider a motorcycle, there isn’t a lot of surface to work.
For example, in a scooter, there are front and back panels, then you have a seat and two sides. So you need to have a cockpit which has to be very visually communicative, but at the same time fit into a motorcycle. The challenges are different. Learning these is more or less a case study. For anyone inclined to take this as a career option, I would recommend them to go through the market, see what exists in the market and study them. When you sketch, your drawing should communicate with others. This is what I learned from my mentors. 
Design goals
The thumb rules of designing a particular product for a certain region like Europe and for a global design are different. Then comes the marketing research, your own research and your conversations with people. People usually tend to tell you about how they want certain things. So, these are design goals, which are distilled in single words like agile, etc. For example, someone will say I want more power, meaning they are looking for an increased engine capacity. So, there are major milestones that we have to take into consideration while designing.
Stages of a design 
As these words are distilled, sketches start to get into a form of a motorcycle. Sometimes, ergonomics come into play even before you start designing. For example, if we are considering the South East Asia market, the average height of the population is around 5.5 feet. These are the goals that we need to understand.
From sketch, it goes to the clay modelling process. This is the best place to connect with the design you have created. Then comes prototypes, which are mark-ups of the actual design, where we use 3D-printed parts. And then comes the engineering aspect of the mark-up which tells a long list of things which one cannot do. The challenge of the designer starts here and from here, the design is modified. 
Then comes the process of validation, where all the ergonomic aspects are checked and re-checked. There are a lot of phases into the making the first prototype. For example, in a Harley bike, the lighting can be a signature one but it has to be validated by the rules and regulations of 110 countries where the company operates. 
I have done seven projects for Harley Davidson until now, and have seen the journey of a sketch to actual product which is a dream come true.

These interviews appeared on Audiogyan, an Indian podcast hosted by Kedar Nimkar. So far, the podcast has 64 posts and more than 65,000 listens. You can listen to the full version of the podcast at