In the January issue of Snow Goer (“The Drift”) we featured an interview with Jacques Mayrand, BRP’s director of design and innovation. Here’s the full interview – enjoy!
One-on-One … Jacques Mayrand
Jacques Mayrand, 54, is director of design and innovation and Ski-Doo and Sea-Doo at BRP’s Design and Innovation Center in Valcourt, Quebec. He’s worked at BRP for the past eight years, helping establish the company’s design language, assist in the design of snowmobiles and personal watercraft, while keeping abreast of always-changing international consumer trends. Aside from a stint with Bombardier back in the mid 1990s, Mayrand has also served as an automotive designer at France’s Renault automaker. We sat down to ask him about the details of his job, where he gets his inspiration and what’s coming next.
Snow Goer: How would you describe your job?
Jacques Mayrand: Wow, okay, first of all, we’re a team. Even if BRP is a large company, for each product we have small cells of people that make sure we live the product [lifestyle]. We have a team of two designers, a CAD modeler and also clay modelers — not exactly the clay your kids use for playing, but it looks like it. My day-to-day is always having thought for the future. We also need to maintain our product. Let’s say there’s a part that breaks. The first thing is to say, okay, we can make it thicker. We also ask ourselves, don’t just make it thicker, can we improve the fit and finish of the product, can we increase the connection between the rider and the sled, can we make it more efficient? At every part, we always ask all of those questions.Where are we weak, where can we leapfrog everybody? That’s the day to day. And, to do this, we have different skills. Like I said, the modelers are guys that are carving shapes and extremely sensitive to shape – they are passionate about shapes.
SG: Did you have a personal role in designing the new REV XS and XM models?
JM: Oh for sure! My role as a designer [is to be] responsible for everything you see and touch, and ergonomics. I have the engineering team beside me, which are very good riders and very knowledgeable in terms of technique, they also have great input on ergonomics. They also have human reactions, emotive reactions to shapes and design and style. The marketing is the same way, touching the dealer network, talking with [magazines], having a bunch of qualitative data and quantitative data.
SG: What are you most proud of on the new chassis?
JM: In the past we were always designing a sled for one guy and trying to adapt it for the other one — the mountain guy and the flatland guy. I am proud that we succeeded to separate the two and answer the as best we could on the two sides. The other is, from the get-go, we made engineering and designers brainstorm together. Today, I cannot say where some ideas came from because it was a team. It’s a good sign that we are all working for the customer when that happens.
SG: What’s the key to a design that looks good as it ages?
JM: When you create products with a lot of decals to make it flash, in the short term it’s really efficient, but decals are trendy and they’re getting old really fast. We’re trying to do the product [so it’s eye-catching] just with the plastic parts. The decals are there just to spice it, but not to do the job, so it makes your products, three to four years later, still looking good. Think of the first XP product we put on the market in 2008 — they’re still looking contemporary and modern because they were not overloaded with the short-term, trendy stuff.
SG: How important is design as part of the perceived value of a sled?
JM: More and more, there’s high technology in our sleds. The E-TEC, that engine in many aspects is more advanced than the one you find in your car. Suspension, think of the T-motion. There’s a lot of technology today, so when you buy a sled we’re not anymore in the world when you buy a $10,000 product that you will throw away in three years. Now you’re buying a value and you want to keep that value for a while, so by the mindset of creating a real sustainable value, everything has to come together. The fit and finish should be at the same level as your motorcycle, so after five years it’s not a piece of crap, but a great value.
SG: Where do you get your inspiration for fresh, new ideas?
JM: Automotive design is very inspiring because the automotive design companies are hiring the best talent in the world. Every guy over there is a genius [and] you don’t find those guys easily on the street. The other one is architecture, which is always surprising. We look also at fashion shows, riding gear, helmets; all this brings us lots of inspiration. And the other inspiration is the talent of each and every member of the team. Each of these guys have their own imagery and we have a lot of processes to allow those guys to put that stuff on paper, to be influenced and pick inspiration from many areas and many types of mindset.
SG: At BRP, it seems like fashion/looks enter the process sooner than at competitors. How does the project team balance looks over function? Do you have to stand up to the rest of the project team to get the influence you want, or is that baked in from the start?
JM: We’re all equals, so there’s no way to sacrifice any aspect of riding. Of course, reliability and the drive will always be the first goal, but there’s many ways to execute an ultimate ride, and sometimes by imposing some design shape you may have to sacrifice the dynamics, but because we have that mindset of being creative engineers, we go back and find a new way to execute the same benefit and we’re both happy. SOmetimes they can’t and I have to compromise. Sometimes I can’t do a compromise and they have to live with my constraint, so you see the balance is really between the team and teh concern of delivering the best machine.
SG: It seems like the latest trend are moving beyond the blacks, silvers and yellow to more complex colors like the bright Polaris models or Ski-Doo’s recent yellow-orange sleds. What’s coming next?
JM: If I know it, I won’t tell you for sure, because the ability to foresee what’s coming up [next] is part of the competitive edge. This is one of the things we pay attention to, because the emotional connection with color is strong. The color connection makes you fall in love with your machine every time you put it on the trailer. We have a system to track trends, and we also are part of the Color Marketing Group, an American organization where we meet twice a year and debate what’s coming up in different disciplines. We are kind of following, but also being a trendsetter.
SG: It seems like tastes change pretty quickly.
JM: I have to balance it with what I said before. The more a sled is a big investment and you’re expecting from it a real value, at the same time you need to be excited to connect with it, but if it’s a trendy, short-term color it could decrease your value three years after, so to balance that is also one of the challenges.
SG: Can you give us a taste of where the snowmobile industry is heading?
JM: Because the industry is still shrinking, only the more and more the riders are pure enthusiasts, extremely passionate guys that have high, high expectations, I think we will go more on being specific to use, guy per guy. The mountain guy is different, depending on where they are, the altitude, the type of hill and slope they have in their area, they will need something specific from their sled. I think it will become more and more small niches of specific usage for every un-compromised type of user, instead of being a one-[size]-fits-all product like it was 5 or 10 years ago. If we go more and more specific, that will certainly drive the look of it.