Love at first sight Trek's Industrial Design Director reveals why looks matter

Love at first sight Trek's Industrial Design Director reveals why looks matter

On a Friday afternoon almost 20 years ago, I mentioned to a colleague that I wanted to buy an older Cadillac. He told me to check eBay, a new online marketplace for everything under the sun.

A few clicks later and there it was: a 1968 Cadillac Sedan DeVille. 8.4 litre V8. Silver pine green. This may not mean anything to you unless you’re a petrol head like me, but everyone can relate to the feeling of immediately falling in love with something. All rationality goes out the window.

So I figured out how to put in a bid, not fully understanding the implications of what I was doing, and within a couple of hours, it was mine. One problem: it was in Montana; I was in Wisconsin.

But at that moment, the car could have been on the moon and I wouldn’t have cared. I saw it, I loved it, I had to have it and nothing was going to stop me. This is all to say: aesthetics evoke emotions. I go back to that feeling a lot because it’s what I want someone to feel when they see our bikes. Love is the most powerful thing.

Love is a powerful emotion, and I want riders to love the way our bikes look.

Looks matter

What we own communicates something about us. When someone gets up, puts on a kit, and gets on their carbon bike, they don’t do that just for exercise. They’re living an experience they’ve selected, and telling the world about what they like and what matters to them. What we do is help curate that experience.

Love matters

We’ve had some great discussions on my team about whether we should we make things we love or things we think the customer will love. It’s a worthy question. But we keep going back this: if we don’t love it, we just aren’t finished yet. If we’re passionate about what we do and make things we love, everything else will take care of itself. It’s just like any work of art or a performance. If your heart’s in it, people can feel that. It’s so much easier to sell something you’re in love with.

When love is the standard, everything matters.

Honesty matters

You look around the room in our design reviews and you have hundreds of years of combined experience. If those people aren’t honest, they’re doing us all a disservice. When they tell you what they’re thinking, for better or for worse, they’re not telling you what it should be. They’re telling you it’s not finished yet.

Respect matters

Whether it’s a $500 bike or a $15,000 bike, it’s treated with the same respect. We have to love it. When love is the standard, everything matters. We committed to making the experience of riding every Trek bike a great one.


Design is at the forefront of everything we do, and we have experts in every category. We launch new product constantly and it’s all held to this incredibly high standard. What we’ve discovered is that loving what we make is the best way to ensure we’re learning, growing and making the best product.

About the Author: Steve Baumann

Steve Baumann is the Director of Product Design at Trek Bicycle. If it has speed, he's into it. When he's not in Waterloo, he's most likely to be found on the side of a hill or in the water with his family or cruising in his 1968 Cadillac Deville.