Innovations in Mobility Design : the journey of e-pick to Epick.
The design room is an immersive experience inundating your senses with innovation. Sunlight pours in through floor-to-ceiling windows, revealing a panoramic view of the city outside. A sleek work table takes center stage, strewn with futuristic designs and drawing tools, and other sketches, blueprints, and prototypes line the walls. Dressed in sleek, modern attire, the team moves with fluid grace, discussing intricate details of their latest project as an ambient soundtrack plays in the background inspiring creativity with driving rhythms that occasionally prompt a foot tap or nod of the head. This is the heart of Industrial Design at the Studio — a place where creativity and inspiration flow freely, and every detail is crafted with care and precision.
“Are you ready to get started?” we ask. Heads pop up and smiles flash in excitement.
“Of course!”, “Sure!” they respond, with budding anticipation.
We are set to conduct an interview — to discover the journey this incredible team made on a unique project, Epick Bikes. We begin by commending the team on their great work, and with that, we launch into the first question.
Q1: “What is Epick Bikes?”
Deep sigh. A big grin.
A1: Epick Bikes is an ultimate game-changer in India’s micro-mobility scene. Their smart and practical vision to develop and deliver a sustainable and clean energy solution for daily commute by manufacturing affordable, reliable, and customer-centric electric bikes have established them the industry. The brand is truly set to change the way India commutes, one ride at a time.
Q2: Impressive. What can you tell us about our clients’ background?
A2: Picture this — in the early days of India, cycles were available for rent, just like you might rent, or ‘pick up’ a bike today. And that’s exactly how Epick started — as E-pick! Founded in Hyderabad, India, in the year 2016, the brand recognized the need for eco-friendly and affordable transportation in India’s bustling cities and started out as a rental mobility services company with a broader vision to bring innovative solutions on cleaner transportation that align with the Sustainable Development Goals to consumers directly. They made it a goal to design an electric bicycle that was not only sleek and functional but also featured a renewable battery — a true game-changer in the industry. Remarkably, their focus on customer satisfaction drove the brand to become pioneers in the electric bicycle market today.
Q3: They sound very interesting. How did they become clients of ours?
A3: When Epick Bikes approached our Industrial Design team, they wanted more than just a new look — they wanted a brand statement with their bike. As we delved into the project, we realized that the real challenge was creating a unique selling point for the brand, since the product was based on existing technology. We had to get creative to help Epick Bikes stand out in the crowded market of bikes, but we were up for the challenge!
Q4: We totally agree. Uncovering the elusive “sweet spot” is essential for any business to stand out in a competitive market. Can you share with us how the Industrial Design team discovered a core appeal for the clients?
A4: We were impressed with Epick Bikes’ commitment to exceptional customer service, but felt that their unique value propositions — like their impressive range on a single charge (more than 100 km at a go!), and comfortable seats for all genders — were not apparent to potential customers. That’s when we knew that our team could make a real difference. Our goal was to create a strong visual identity to set them apart from the competition, and with our team’s expertise, we were able to do just that and give Epick Bikes the magnetic appeal they deserved.
Q5: How did you approach the project from an Industrial Designer’s perspective? What was the first initiative you took?
A5: We knew we needed to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty, so we began with user research that helped us understand the needs and pain points of the target audience– using methods like interviews, vendor visits, and even talking to on-field experts to get an inside look at what really revs users’ engines. To target our 20–30-year-old audience, we visited colleges and gyms, and checked out our competitors’ showrooms. We used various methods such as Experience Mapping, Perception Study, and Synesthetic Exercises to understand their emotional attachment to bikes and even their moods while riding. Finally, we spoke to retailers who sell e-bikes directly to consumers for retail and aggregator research. This gave us the insider scoop on what customers really want, so we could create a design that really spoke to them.
Q6: It seems like you had a treasure trove of information to work with. So how did you condense such copious research into one clear design direction?
A6: It was like making sense of a picture from a huge pile of puzzle pieces. First, we dumped out everything we had collected — research, recordings, interviews — and then we started sorting and clustering them together. We played detective and started connecting the dots until patterns emerged. We then extracted keywords from those patterns, and insights began to surface. With that, we had the foundation we needed to start shaping something tangible. Turns out people don’t want to ride something that looks like a Frankenbike with parts just thrown together. And guess what? Most electric bike brands out there don’t design their bikes in-house. They just grab a frame from this dealer, a headlight from that store, and voila, you have a new bike brand. But perhaps a more critical insight we got was that people wanted a unibody design — elegant and seamless.
Our primary research also showed that Indian customers have a preference for renewable batteries. So we checked that off. We also discovered how people perceive bikes in general, taking color and silhouette into consideration. And so we studied different silhouettes and discovered that most of Epick’s competitors followed a certain triangular form, for functional reasons, which made differentiation challenging. But with so many bikes looking the same, we had to ask ourselves — could we design our bike in a different way to create a unique identity? Epick was already interested in exploring die casting as a manufacturing process, which would allow us to bypass the traditional method of cutting and welding tubes together. This opened up the possibility of a fresh, unique form for Epick Bikes!
Q7: Your journey from research to critical insights is impressive! It’s amazing to learn how you harvested so much valuable information from the research. So did you guys nail an alternative form design for Epick Bikes? What did the creative process look like?
A7: Funny, we actually stumbled on some articles bemoaning the fact that all bicycles look the same. And it’s true, the traditional two triangle system has been so successful that few have dared to move away from it. Our team decided to shake things up and explore a new manufacturing method to break away from the mold. The tricky thing was finding a way to design the bike differently without the option of manufacturing again with our now preferred method (which was a lower hanging fruit). But after some iterations, we landed on a unique structure and design that worked like a charm — no ugly welded-joint finishes in sight! It also completely eliminates the central element dividing the triangular trusses, creating a really sleek and distinctive look that seems to say, “Who says bikes have to be boring?” And even better, the “Epick” team was on board!
Q8: That sounds almost magical! Studio Carbon really values co-creation. Could you tell us more about how you incorporated this into the Epick Bikes project?
A8: Absolutely. We believe that involving the client in the design process is crucial for creating a successful product. So we didn’t just ask them to fill out a boring survey. No, no. In order to align with Epick Bikes on the project, we conducted a series of workshops with them. For one, they were presented with a graphic scenario– we asked them to imagine conversations they would overhear at a café about Epick Bikes, and write it all down.
Q9: Sounds like a pretty fun process, and a unique approach to design. I bet the team felt like they were part of a top-secret operation with that “eavesdropping” exercise. Now, we really want to know what other exercises you carried out with them!
A9: Oh, we had a blast coming up with different scenarios. One interesting exercise we conducted was: we had them imagine spotting the bike parked somewhere at a crowded traffic signal, and we asked them how people were reacting to the bike. This was to gauge what kind of reaction they would want their customers to have upon seeing the bike. We also had them discuss what they would feel themselves if they were there. There was also the “persona” exercise– we asked them to describe Epick Bikes as a person, and they really got into it. One of our favorites was the “transfiguration” exercise to get a sense of their aesthetics. And let’s not forget the classic “toast and roast” exercise, where we asked them what people would applaud and criticize about Epick Bikes if it were a person walking into a room.
To top it off, we gave them a range of tunes to choose from — soft melodies, all the way to heavy metal — and asked them to pick the type of music they preferred to listen to while riding. We also had them consider the weather and terrain they were riding in. Did they want smooth jazz on a sunny day? Or were they more of a heavy metal headbanger on a mountain trail? Through this, we uncovered the fear that electric bikes might get damaged in the rain. All of these exercises helped us get a better understanding of Epick Bikes’ values, preferred identity, and personality, which in turn influenced our design decisions.
Q10: Wow, you really went all out with these exercises! It’s great to see such creative and unconventional methods being used to understand the vision and values behind Epick Bikes. Would you tell us what you did next after gathering and synthesizing all the information?
A10: Of course! Once we identified the common themes and keywords, we started building a design philosophy around them. We wanted to create a bike that would stand out in the market and have its own unique design language. So we identified key attributes that the client wanted, such as an aggressive Black Panther character. However, we also determined that people wanted a bike that was bold and commanding but not flashy and attention-seeking, and we translated these insights into a design philosophy of “progressive minimalism” which would combine boldness with subtlety.
With our design philosophy in place, we began sketching ideas and exploring the different animal inspirations we had, and translated their abstract forms into the bicycle frame, taking care to ensure that the details spoke for themselves. And then we created photographic renderings to visualize how our design ideas would look in different contexts, and presented about 6–8 concepts to the Epick team. They narrowed it down to their top 3 and we worked with an engineer to make sure that the final design could be implemented during production.
Q11: Wow! Who knew that bicycles could be so complex and nuanced? I’m half expecting to see a Black Panther at a crowded traffic stop, blasting heavy music now. But let’s be real, we’ve all seen bikes before — what sets this one apart in an Indian market?
A11: Glad you asked! We’ve designed a sleeker silhouette with seamlessly blending surfaces, usually reserved for high-end cycles. It’s a construction technique that sets us apart and makes us one of a kind in the Indian market. Also, most cycles in this market have retrofitted parts — you have a basic bicycle frame, and then you have a battery pack that is mounted on it, making it look like a transformed bike rather than an intentional e-bike. Epick Bikes are designed with such careful thought that even the huge battery packs are perfectly integrated with the frame — no jutting out, no awkward retrofitting. Once on it, the visual experience is nonpareil, as every touchpoint and viewpoint is different from a regular bike, making the ride unique.
But wait, there’s more! Most bikes on the Indian market have retrofitted lamps that also look like they’ve been added as an afterthought. But we have designed Epick lights to go all across the rim, giving it a signature look that is easily identifiable from a distance. The rims are also three spoke — very unique in the Indian market. We also understood that a critical functionality of lights is easy identification from far distances, which is key to safety. But why make the lights constant all the time? For Epick Bikes, the lights strobe intermittently to add to the visual appeal, and can also be switched to constant when needed.
Q12: Hmm, colour us impressed! You mentioned something about huge batteries, though. What’s the story behind them?
A12: Ah, the batteries. It is no easy feat to come up with a battery pack that could power bikes for 100+ kilometers without making it look like it was carrying around a bunch of cinder blocks. Now, we didn’t have complete control over the actual weight of the batteries– the team wasn’t quite ready to increase their costs in the name of revamping the already manufactured products. So we had to focus on the visual weight instead. We did a ton of research on how we could use contrast and lighting to reduce the visual weight. We also studied CMF (Color, Material, and Finish) like a bunch of science wizards and learned how to use contrast to draw the eye to the brighter parts of the bike, making it seem lighter and more dynamic. But it wasn’t just about making the battery pack look lighter. We also wanted it to look like a beautiful piece of tech on its own, even when removed from the bike. Imagine taking your battery out at a café, and it becomes a conversation starter — “Wow, what’s that cool gadget you’ve got there?” — we wanted that kind of effect.
Q13: Great thinking. And gee, don’t even get us started on perfect lighting, contrast and angles. Enough people struggle with their photos and makeup already. But, it’s fascinating to know how your team designed the bike with a similar mindset. What else can you tell us about the branding approach?
A13: More! Finding the perfect lighting and angles is a struggle we all know too well. But our team didn’t just stop at making bikes that look good in photos, we wanted bikes that would turn heads in real life too. So, we studied the color palettes and geometries of other cycle brands and found that most brands lacked a strong identity. Some of them have one too many colors in their wheels, and bikes from the same production companies would speak different languages. If you removed the logos from them, you couldn’t tell one from another. We didn’t want any of these for Epick Bikes, so we worked closely with our brand team to establish a bold and memorable color palette that would make our bikes stand out. We wanted our bikes to be like a superhero’s costume — instantly recognizable and iconic. And let me tell you, we weren’t just inspired by any old superheroes, we looked to the likes of BMW and Bugatti — brands that have managed to create a consistent brand outlook that transcends generations of car models. That is the kind of coherence– in every form and styling– that we wanted to achieve with the bikes. We didn’t want any bike that came out of Epick’s production line to be mistaken for anything else. We wanted an effortlessly identifiable brand. And with our unique design and attention to detail, we’re confident that we’ve created something truly special.
Q14: That’s brilliant. How did you go about that?
A14: With a deep dive into market research. At Studio Carbon, we know that for a brand to be successful, we need to position it strategically. So we took a look at the past and present market space to help us define the future of the brand. We called it our ‘Look Up’ research, where we deconstructed successful brands that share a similar vision to Epick Bikes. By learning from their successes and identifying appealing aspects, we were able to position Epick Bikes strategically in the market. We also did a Trend Study to stay ahead of the game and identify new opportunities and ideas for the brand. By analyzing global and micro trends, we were able to differentiate Epick Bikes in the market. So yes, it was a brilliant process, if we say so ourselves, and we’re proud of the work we did!
Q15: Wow. Designing a bike seems like quite the ride! What is one big takeaway the team experienced on this epic design journey?
A15: Great question! The big takeaway is that it is not over until it is really over. Our team faced a significant challenge in translating our sketches into a physical 3D model during the digital prototyping process. We had to make sure that the surface looked parallel from the side, tapered in a specific way from the cross-section, and had impeccably sculpted surfaces. We used CAD modeling, surface modeling, and Virtual Reality to achieve this level of precision, but kept referring back to VR to observe the flow of light over every surface — VR allowed us to have a 1:1 perception of the bike and tweak details if need be. Another challenge was widening the space between the pedals to fit the batteries without compromising the bike’s design. It was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, except with batteries and bike parts. After several iterations, we were able to arrange the battery cells to achieve the desired form. The result is a stunning bike that boasts a continuous curve running through the side and a top surface that tapers like a finely crafted sculpture.
Q16: How interesting! Are we glad that everything came together like a perfectly crafted piece of machinery in the end? How did the project wrap up?
A16: The team was ecstatic about the final design and the project ended with a feeling of triumph, fulfillment, and a sense of pride knowing that our contributions would make a positive impact on the cycling community. We left the team with some suggestions on innovative finishes that would take the bike to the next level. Electroluminescent paint that glows like a supernova when electricity is passed through it, making the bikes more visible during low-light conditions? Check. Reflective paint that would make the bikes visible from space? Check! Working with the Epick Bikes team was an absolute joy, and we’re so proud of what we achieved together. We’re already dreaming up new projects to tackle with our partners in the future. Stay tuned. There is more on the way.
The interview is done.
Leaving the room, we feel a twinge of sadness, like finishing a great book.
“What do you think of the interview?” I ask Riya. Riya and I are part of the Communication Design team at Studio Carbon and were especially delighted to have been asked to conduct this interview together. We both share this moment of quiet reflection, basking in the afterglow of our first conducted interview, and keeping away from the elephant in the room. (Or outside the room — we were headed to our own desks now).
“Can you believe we got to interview the amazing ID team? Their passion and dedication to every detail is remarkable,” she replies.
“I know, right?” I nod in agreement.
I raise an eyebrow, “What?”
“Mika, we have to write about it,” Riya chuckles.
“Oh, right. The part of the job we conveniently forgot about,” I laugh.
“How do we even begin to capture the essence of Epick Bikes and their incredible journey?”
I shrug, “I have no idea, but one thing’s for sure — we’re going to need a lot of coffee.”