Last month Trek issued an internal memo promising ‘Something Big is Coming’. This prompted all kinds of speculation about the launch of a new time trial bike or racing team. But the 'something big' has actually turned out to be an all-new design studio dubbed ‘Thing One’.
The American company have transformed an empty warehouse and manufacturing space at their headquarters in Wisconsin into a spacious area for their Creative Group – the people responsible for designing graphics for bikes and accessories, shop displays, websites, adverts and catalogues.
Some 55 designers will now occupy nearly 2,000 square metres (20,000ft2) of floor space – a five-fold increase on their old home.
“We were lumped in with all the marketers, we were lumped in with the product people, and industrial design also – they had a small area where they were lumped in with the gang,” said Trek Creative Group director Eric Lynn. “So we pulled industrial design and the creative group out and put them in a totally different environment. [There are] no cubes, high ceilings, old wood floors … it feels like a loft in a metropolitan area and has a very different feel now. It’s an inspiring space."
In addition to workspaces, Thing One will house a photo studio, retail merchandising areas, a fabrication shop and even a coffee bar to keep the creative juices flowing. In keeping with the company’s commitment to green development, Trek say Thing One will be powered completely by renewable energy from a “combination of wind and hydroelectric sources”.
“What we’ve announced isn’t a new product,” said Lynn. “It’s groundwork that will lead to a lot of new exciting things that people will go out and purchase or somehow be involved with. It’s an inspiring space… and [consumers can expect] better products and better branded materials out of the group.
"We’re putting a lot of energy into retail and retail design these days, and a lot of the thinking that’s gone into that has originated into defining a particular Trek aesthetic for the environment itself. Just like you can go into an Apple store and you would know immediately you’re in an Apple store, that’s what we’re defining for Trek right now and this space represents that.”
Lynn and Trek are also banking on the studio’s ability to attract more creative talent to its Waterloo, Wisconsin headquarters. "We’re attracting literally world-class talent, bringing in people from big agencies who want to be affiliated with our company,” said Lynn. “It’s almost like a recruiting tool: when we bring them in for an interview it’s like, ‘alright, these guys get it. This is a great environment that I would want to work in'.
“This is the Trek brand identifying that design is a huge part of our success and it’s a huge commitment to design. The quality of the staff, the investment in the facilities, it’s all just made a quantum leap and it’s Trek’s executive group recognising that this is a huge part of our success and they’re going to concentrate on making sure that we have the tools to be successful. It’s a sea change in how we approach design.”
From the sounds of it, Thing One will have far-reaching implications for all of the company’s future products and Lynn is certainly optimistic. “It’s a big moment for us," he said. "We’re seeing immediate results. It’s a big deal.”