Human-Centered Design

This human-centered design project was a sixteen-week design research project that I led with CCA graduate students for Roland Sands Design, a motorcycle safety gear company. Our brief was to use human centered design techniques to research and develop a product based on the needs and opportunities our research revealed.

"When I crash my bike the road gets hurt"

Designing around the American motorcyclists image as a rebel and a risk taker 


Our Goal

To research and develop a strategy to increase the number of riders who wear Roland Sands Design safety gear


The Outcome

The prototype for a new type of armor based on our insight that marginally reducing the safety of some gear can significantly increase its appeal.




Our client Roland Sands Design—a California based motorcycle apparel company—was eager to take advantage of the rapidly growing market for motorcycles and scooters in Asia and the United States. They were interested in any new growth in their area and put few constraints on our direction.

We began the project by immersing ourselves in motorcycle gear and culture in order to gain context and familiarize ourselves with the competitive market.

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Once we better understood the competitive market, we developed a research plan that involved long format interviews, intercepts at motorcycle hang outs, journey maps, dream questions, and motorcycle/gear tours.

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Bike tours were a great icebreaker when approaching motorcyclists on the street because chatting bikes is a part of the culture and they were accustomed to strangers approaching them for that reason. We found people were far more likely to engage with us and agree to formal interviews if we started with a simple bike tour. They were low pressure, with everyone’s attention focused on the bike as we built the comfort and rapport necessary for an interview.

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“For every ten jackets we sell, we maybe sell one pair of pants”
— Fred (31) 25 years riding
“If it’s designed really well, it’s going to be designed in a way that when the rider gets off the bike you can take those layers out. You can unzip parts of the jacket or the pants and remove them so that you can then walk around”
— Brian (46) 30 years riding
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A valuable insight that directed our work was that nearly every rider wanted better protective gear but felt that the existing options to increase safety conflicted with their image of the American motorcyclist as a rebel and a risk taker.


Clustering, journey maps, and quick follow up interviews helped us work through long interview transcripts and identify common needs and opportunities among riders. 

—Making motorcycle armor less protective can actually increase riders safety—



Our most actionable insight was that making armor less safe increased riders willingness to wear it. A rider who actually wears ½ leg armor is safer than one who refuses to wear full armored pants. Thanks to the input of our interviewees our final design broke with industry standards by focusing on aesthetics and ease of use rather than full coverage. The final product was well received and completely unlike anything on the market.

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