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Productivity Secrets From Motorcycle Designer Ed Jacobs—And His Dog

“There are these magical moments that happen.”

Productivity Secrets From Motorcycle Designer Ed Jacobs—And His Dog
Ed Jacobs, industrial engineer (N.Y.C.’s Lowline park) and motorcycle designer [Photo: Jason Rodgers]

A client will usually come with an idea that they want, but without the idea of how to realize it. The Lowline [the world’s first underground park, proposed for the Lower East Side of Manhattan] originally started with these large slabs of bent, solid, un­seen, large-scale surfaces. [Design is] really about searching out the function of each component, being sensitive to what those components need to be in con­­­junction with each other, then allowing that expression to become the design.

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I start each day around 8. I jump right into either sketching or 3D modeling. [When I get stuck] I go for a walk with my dog, just to get out from behind the computer. Sometimes researching other areas will open up new possibilities. To design motorcycles, the last thing I do is look at other motorcycles. You should come up with ideas that push the ball farther down the field.

There are these magical moments that happen, where a clear passageway has opened up based on how these components speak to each other and it all starts to make sense. That feels really good, and you can breathe a sigh of relief that, okay, this is going to work.

Time he wakes up: “About 7 a.m.”

First thing he does: “Say hi to my dog. Chill out with him for a little while.”

Productivity tools: “Basic sketchbooks. I also use the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil for sketching–it’s an easy way to be able to keep a good record–and I’m a big user of 3D modeling programs, primarily SolidWorks.”

Dealing with the news: “When I’m still in bed, I usually do a quick click on the news on my phone. I spend a few minutes and go through everything that’s going on in the world. I try to [limit] browsing to the morning and evening.”

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Guilty pleasure: “I drink way too much coffee, but I’m not a drinker or a smoker so I don’t give myself a hard time about the coffee.”

Time he goes to bed: Between 1 and 2 a.m.