Pasadena’s ArtCenter College of Design can boast on its impressive alumni making a splash in the motorcycle design scene, and one of its Swedish graduates from 20 years ago was just named Director of Product Design at Indian Motorcycles. After 15 years at BMW Motorrad, Ola Stenegärd—a familiar bearded face on the international custom scene—returns to the American company where he first cut his teeth in 2001.
“I couldn’t be more excited to be joining Indian Motorcycle at a time when the brand has successfully returned itself to prominence and is powered by an increasing level of momentum,” Stenegärd said from his horse farm on the island of Gotland. “There is no brand any more historic to American motorcycling than Indian, and I’m thrilled to build on the brand’s momentum going forward. I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”
Stenegärd previously led product design for BMW Motorrad. There he played a critical role in designing motorcycles, including most recently the BMW R nineT. While his professional focus has largely resided in European motorcycles, Stenegärd’s lifelong personal passion has been the design and customization of American V-twins.
At 15, Stenegärd took first prize at his first motorcycle show in Stockholm with a moped he’d modified into an Arlen Ness-inspired chopper. The following years would see him customizing a countless array of bikes, including everything from café racers to dirt bikes, and most of all, a host of classic American V-twins.
Intent on making his passion his profession, Stenegärd attended University College of Art, Craft and Design in Stockholm in 1994, where he spent three years before transferring to the prestigious ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. There he was immersed in the design of cars and motorcycles in Southern California, which he refers to as “the epicenter of the hot rod and custom motorcycle universe.” He later returned University College of Art, Craft and Design where he earned a Master’s degree in Applied Art (Industrial Design) in 1998.
After completing his degree, Stenegärd immediately entered the workforce, working for SAAB, and doing freelance work for Öhlins Suspension, Unique Custom Cycle and MCM Magazine. In 2001, Stenegärd returned to the US to join Indian Motorcycle (under a previous ownership group) in Gilroy, California.
In 2003, he joined BMW Motorrad where he would become one of the brand’s most influential designers over the next 15 years, ascending to Head of Vehicle Design and working on virtually every significant new model program, ultimately helping the company successfully increase its relevance with a wider range of riders. Stenegärd’s influence wasn’t limited to product design; his passion for riding and his understanding of the marketplace allowed him to assume an influential role in the marketing of motorcycles. Stenegärd’s creativity resulted in a number of BMW’s popular marketing platforms, including the “Soulfuel” campaign that supported the launch of R nineT.
“Ola has been incredibly successful in helping brands expand into new product categories and appeal to a wider variety of riders, which is exactly what Indian will be focused on in the coming years,” Indian Motorcycle president Steve Menneto said. “It’s rare to find a designer with Ola’s unique experience, and we are thrilled to have him on board at such an exciting and important time for our business.”