Art of Drive: Holographic Hammer Custom Motorcycle Design

An interview with graphic artist and designer Sylvain Berneron.

How long have you been designing motorcycles, who have you worked for and how did your design career start for you?

I have been riding and racing Motocross since I was eight years old, and I was drawing on the rainy weekends, so when the time came to choose a study direction, transportation design was a leading choice. After my education years, I started my design career with a six month internship at BMW Motorrad and it turned into a five year long job doing various tasks from making small parts and details through to working on the Concept Ninety last year.

How did the Holographic Hammer studio start?

I have always been doing sketches on the side for friends who wanted to see how some bike parts could look together, and at some point I decided to show some of this work online. That was the beginning of Holographic Hammer. After almost five years at BMW Motorrad, I decided to quit my job to develop HH and another big project that I have been dreaming about for years. We are opening a design and prototyping studio in September this year, so keep an eye on us as some interesting projects will come up for sure.

What is HH, is it a concept studio?

HH is not just teasing, it is a real industrial design process, but simplified and dedicated to private people or small companies.

Who and what do you cite as influences and motivations for your work?

I really admire John Britten’s work, not necessarily for his design but for the passion he put in his work. I truly respect people who dedicate their lives to something they love. I love motorcycles, it is to me the ultimate human body extension. It is like wearing wings really, and every time I ride my bikes, it gives me an extra shot of motivation to keep working hard to do the best I can.

Take us through the process of planning and working through a Holographic Hammer design.

We create all the sketches high resolution, respecting the given package and dimensions so the bikes can actually be built from the drawings and will look the same, this the real value of our work. At the end we can deliver the sketch with a grid on top, so the client can measure each part and build it accurately to the drawings that we deliver.

Our classic formula costs 350 Euros for four design proposals created in two sessions. This cost represents between 2-6% of the cost of a complete custom build, depending on its price tag of course. But we believe it is worth it as having a good design to start with will save you time, avoid remaking parts and then save money. In case you guys need more details about our process, feel free to drop us a line on our Facebook page (Holographically.Hammered) and we’ll be happy to collaborate with you on your custom project.

What equipment do you work with, and why does it suit you best?

I do all the sketches digitally in Photoshop, using the classic design setup of a computer and a Wacom Cintiq, which is a screen on which we sketch and render using an electronic pen.  I’d love to have more time for hand sketching but in 2014 you have to be fast and digital sketching is for sure faster for our process.

How do you feel your design style has changed and evolved over your career so far?

The older I get, the simpler are the things I like. I like a design when it has been done with a purpose, with ergonomic or technical reasons, when the form follows the function.

Tell us about some of your favourite projects that you have worked on.

Developing production bikes at BMW Motorrad was really a dream come true, it was what I worked hard all those years for. Then building my Suzuki Tzar with my best friend was a lot of fun for sure. Finally, I spent almost a year doing my diploma thesis on ‘The After Petroleum Motorcycle Era’. I learned a lot about the history while doing the research and the I did all the design process up to a full-size clay model.

How do you see your methods and style changing and developing in the future?

I have a plan for sure, but it is quite easy to say that I quit my job to do my own thing. Making it happen is another thing all together and a real challenge, so I prefer not to tell too much about it. Give it a few months, with time to get started and I’ll be able to tell you more about it.

What projects are you looking forward to working on next?

Our new shop in September will be amazing. A beautiful and quiet place in the forest, the dream place to work and live in. We’ll keep doing design consulting for the OEMs, and on the side we’ll build bikes under our own name. I simply can’t wait to get all this started.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in sketching and design?

A motorcycle is one of the hardest thing to draw, I believe, and the computer is not the right tool to start with. In my opinion, the best is to start with a good old pen and a white piece of paper to learn the basics like the tracing, coloring, lights and shadows. Then when you feel confident on paper you can switch to the screen to save time.

Tell us about one of your designs that has been transformed to a built motorcycle.

My personal bike is one of our projects that turned from a sketch into reality. I think a good and precise rendering is key to achieving a good custom build. In this particular case, it helped to buy the good parts right away, to have the dimensions for the custom swing arm and tail, set up the color codes for the paint job and make sure we welded things in the right place. In the end, the TZAR looks just like the sketch we had, and this is the challenge really, to keep 100% of a design while making it. We made it in 2011, and it went really well through the years and the multiple track days.

This article first appeared in Fuel Magazine issue 17.