College for Creative Studies: Product Design
As one of three industrial designers at Cannondale, Erik Eagleman makes decisions that steer the direction of an entire company. Most of Cannondale’s newest products are based on the Stealth concept, a design that features superior engineering and a sleek, aerodynamic look.
“With the bike market growing and becoming more competitive in weight, geometry and ride quality, design has become more and more important to a brand’s differentiation,” said Eagleman. “The past design language for Cannondale was undefined and completely driven by engineering. Since engineering is what the brand is all about, we had to make sure it was a major part of the new direction but implemented in a different way.
“We looked to the F-22 stealth fighter and Lamborghini Reventon for inspiration because they are great engineering feats as well as kick-ass looking. This was the image we wanted for Cannondale.”
The tubes used on the Stealth illustrate this marriage of function and form.
Eagleman explained, “We thought triangular-tube cross sections would give the concept a stealthy look. But since round tubes are actually stronger, we used round cross-sections (optimized for stiffness) with curved facets that still create that stealthy look and provide strength.
“If you look on the top tube of the Stealth, you see highlights that give the illusion of triangular-tube shapes, yet, when you put your hand around the tube, you can feel its overall shape is round. We’re introducing an urban flat-bar road bike in full-carbon fiber at this year’s Eurobike tradeshow in September (2009) that features these same tube shapes.”
In addition to the Stealth concept, Eagleman has worked on several high-end road, mountain and urban bikes as well as bicycle accessories. These include the New Badboy (urban bike), New Carbon Quick (urban bike), Flash Alloy (Hardtail mountain bike), RZ 120 (120mm full-suspension mountain bike), Moto (carbon/alloy 160mm full-suspension bike), Synapse (full-carbon road frame), Slice Carbon (full-carbon Aero frame), Quick Alloy/Carbon (urban bike), Rize carbon, a series of pumps and the “Headwrench” (trail tool designed for the Left Fork).
“The projects always begin on a sketch pad—brainstorming a new idea or process with engineers,” said Eagleman. “As a company, we pride ourselves with starting this way and not just restyling the old product… My role is to execute the new frame to best fit our design strategy for the company and to work with the project managers and engineers to come up with the best solution for that market. This involves developing ‘proof of concepts’ that start out with sketching (digital or hand), presenting concepts to management and carrying out the design to ensure the end result matches the initial concept sign-off.”
"To this day, I still talk to other CCS grads I went to school with to critique each other and go over new designs. I am sure this interaction will continue through the rest of my career.
After sketching, Eagleman’s team makes full-size models of the design. Once everyone agrees on the direction, they create a rideable prototype (known in the industry as a test mule).
“Just as in the auto industry, test riding is critical to the outcome of our products,” Eagleman said. “A lot can change from this point. If the rideable prototype is correct and passes our internal testing requirements, we start production. As a designer it is also my job to present the new bike to our sales department and the media to explain our design direction.”
Prior to being hired at Cannondale, Eagleman worked at Rubbermaid and helped develop a garage organization system, including all the accessories and the redesign of the Rubbermaid “Tool Tower” (garden tool storage).
“Working at Rubbermaid was a great experience and taught me a lot about working in a corporate environment,” said Eagleman. “I landed this job directly out of school; it grew out of an internship I had the summer of my junior year. Rubbermaid offered me the job at the beginning of my senior year at CCS, and I had to take it.”
As a freshman, Eagleman had planned to major in transportation design. A few courses in product design changed his mind.
“I fit better in product design as I am a problem solver as well as a stylist,” said Eagleman. “My experiences at CCS are what made me the designer I am today. The faculty, such as Bill Robinson, Clyde Foles and Sung Paik, was great and taught me so much.
“What pushed me every day were friends and fellow students in ID (the industrial design department); I can’t stress enough the importance of having friendly competition. I am not competitive but having other students there, shooting for the same thing, pushes you to be better; everyone’s striving to impress each other, which causes you to rethink and revisit to make sure you made the right decisions. To this day, I still talk to other CCS grads I went to school with to critique each other and go over new designs. I am sure this interaction will continue through the rest of my career.”
Although he changed his career path, Eagleman still designs cars in his spare time.
“One of my passions is hot rod design,” said Eagleman. “I’ve had a life-long love of cars, and this is my way keeping connected to that. I first started helping with illustrations and visuals for customers who wanted a view of their hot rods before they were worked on. Now, I completely redesign and conceptualize with the builders to develop custom hot rods. I hope to some day work on a car that wins the Riddler award at the Autorama back in Detroit.”