Q&A with outgoing design group leader, industry veteran – November 13, 2006

Outgoing Motorcycle Design Association President Glynn Kerr has specialized in motorcycle design for more than 20 years.
British-born and a graduate of Coventry University’s Transport Design course, he worked briefly for TVR Sports Cars in the United Kingdom before joining BMW Motorrad in 1984 and subsequently working as chief designer at Amsterdam-based Global Design (now GK Design Europe), the official styling studio for Yamaha’s European operations.
Now an independent consultant, Kerr has worked with a large majority of the world’s top motorcycle manufacturers — Ducati, Aprilia, Triumph, Honda, Harley-Davidson, KYMCO, Bajaj, Voxan and Kawasaki. At Kawasaki, his last projects were the Z1000 and ZX-10. At Ducati, he collaborated with Pierre Terblanche on a number of models, including the MHR, Multistrada, 999 and the Sport Classics.
A self-described recluse, Kerr has spent the past decade working from his studio in Villefranche de Lonchat, deep in the Bordeaux vineyards of southwest France. It’s a location he recently sold to prepare for a move to California.
Taking a break from packing, he talked with Powersports Business about his time as MDA president and his future plans. The conversation, as it appears, was edited for brevity and clarity.
PSB: What have you been up to, as far as your ventures in motorcycle design? You’ve mentioned India.
Kerr: I’ve been involved with Bajaj in India over a long period. This company is very much design-led, and we’re now producing some very exciting models in the smaller capacity sector. They have invested heavily in R&D this decade, and are amazingly open to new ideas. It’s great fun working with them — I fly out there four times a year.
PSB: You’re moving from Villefranche de Lonchat to Roseville, Calif. Why?
Kerr: The reason is part business, part private. Because my clients are widespread, my location is fairly irrelevant. I moved to rural France 10 years ago just because I liked the place. Nobody understood it at the time, but the atmosphere is very conducive to creative thinking. Change is refreshing though, and I’ve always enjoyed working in the States. So when the opportunity came up to open a place in California, I jumped at it.
PSB: As a designer who likes his personal space, why open an office?
Kerr: Until this year, I’ve mostly been working as an independent consultant. This requires very little in the way of facilities, as my clients usually prefer to use their own, especially now that everything has become computerized. In the past, there were some modelers I used to call in from time to time, and we built a few concept models, but lately everyone is going straight into rapid prototyping from CAD data, so there’s not much call for clay or foam mock-ups.
Even so, the business was always restricted to what I could work on personally, so the move to California coincides with an expansion of the operation. There’s been a lot of publicity recently, due to the MDA, my regular magazine column, which goes out in seven countries, and the odd TV appearance. There’s no way I can handle all the work alone these days, so last year I helped create Motovisions, in which I now hold the title of creative director. We have a network of designers in different locations, which allows us to pool talent and diverse cultural influences. Motovision’s managing director is Diane Morett, who has a background of 30 years as an information technology and business analyst consultant for Fortune 100 companies, including J.P. Morgan and Hewlett-Packard. Diane runs the administrative side of the business, leaving me free to concentrate on the design.
PSB: Tell me why you formed the Motorcycle Design Association.
Kerr: The MDA combines a variety of different resources for the bike design profession that were noticeably missing before. The first Designers’ Night was organized on press day of the 2000 Munich Intermot, and was just an informal gathering of personal contacts built up over my years in the industry. To my surprise, 66 designers showed up, representing a large cross section of the profession.
At first, designers from rival Japanese companies wouldn’t sit at the same table. But after a few beers, they were swapping stories and joking together. Something special happened that night, so when I was asked to organize a repeat performance at the 2001 Paris show, I decided to go one step further and combine a number of additional activities, which led to the creation of the Motorcycle Design Association.
Since then, we have instigated the annual Motorcycle Design Awards, recognized outstanding designers by presenting honorary memberships to personalities as diverse as Massimo Tamburini and Willie G. Davidson, and helped students make contact with potential employers. Most importantly, we have created a database of acknowledged motorcycle designers on our Web site www.motorcycledesign.com, which has helped manufacturers select and contact professional specialists with the appropriate experience.
The MDA was an unconquered mountain to climb. Now I’m moving on to new things and new challenges. Motovisions will take most of my time for the near future. And there’s always that book I keep threatening to write.

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