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Industrial designers riding innovation to the hilt

28 May, 2012

Two Queensland University of Technology (QUT) industrial design lecturers and entrepreneurs have designed and built a number of motorcycles so refined they have attracted the interest of one of Brisbane's foremost art galleries.

Leo Yip and Steve Barry, owners of Ellaspede Custom Motorcycles & Apparel, have redesigned, redefined and rebuilt a 1971 Honda CB350 and a 1998 Honda XR600 into the machines currently on display at Artisan's Gallery in Fortitude Valley.

Utilising their industrial design skills, Yip said he and Barry apply the design process to their motorcycles.

"We take in donor motorcycles, redesign them through sketching out the form as well as hand carving foam shapes to achieve the ideal balance between aesthetics, usability and performance," he said.

"We'll hand make fuel tanks, mudguards, seats and reverse engineer many other parts to make the bikes more aesthetically pleasing," he said.

"While major manufacturers have to standardise parts in order to cover the user needs and road laws of a range of countries, we're not restricted by any such need to generalise.

"Because our bikes are custom made we can build them specifically to the taste and needs of riders/enthusiasts and the requirements of Queensland Transport, other Australian state/territory authorities or even for someone overseas."

Yip said industrial design was a fascinating profession because by its very nature it was at the forefront of innovation.

"The 'design process' can be applied to all products and systems so you will find industrial designers working in varying market niches," he said.

"Once you've earned your degree you can't just rest on your laurels as new materials are being developed all the time.

"Designers need to be on top of these innovations so they can determine what new products/systems these materials/processes can spawn and as a recent graduate there is still much to learn.

"Industrial design will always be evolving and being an industrial designer is not just a job, it's a lifestyle choice. I eat, live, breathe industrial design."

He said lecturing/tutoring at QUT enabled both he and his business partner to nurture the next generation of industrial designers and ensure they understand that design involves lifelong learning.

While the pair started out building bikes for themselves, since their brand's official launch in April 2012, their designs have won favour with five bikes in the build process and a further five in the consultation stage.

In addition to Ellaspede, Yip and Barry run an in-house industrial design business Heluva where they design a broad range of products from automotive accessories to exercise equipment for people permanently or temporarily confined to wheelchairs.

"We'll consider any design where we think an opportunity or need exists," Yip said.

By running their own business they are able to determine what projects they want to work on and give free reign to their creativity.

"We don't have to rely on a client coming to us with a request; we don't need a client to be the catalyst for a project. Instead our work is self initiated," Yip said.

Both Ellaspede and Heluva are creative companies making up a part of the nation's creative sector, which is worth $31 billion annually and is growing twice as fast as sectors in the rest of the economy.

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c j scholar | Thursday, May 31, 2012, 1:57 PM
Great stuff! As a motor cyclist I'd like to see the pics.