Meet the Danish design dynamo

If you can’t find him on his bike, you’re likely to spot Brian Hoehl, the design genius behind award- winning electric bike company Protanium, flying high above the earth
  • I come from the bicycle industry. I was an elite amateur cyclist for years. I started racing when I was six years old and ended my racing career when I was 20.
  • I became a junior art director when my cycling career ended and eventually a creative director at some of Denmark’s biggest agencies. My father was also a creative director and he pushed me into it.
  • I was a very creative kid, always the one who couldn’t sit still, living in my own fantasy world, drawing pictures. I’m still like that. I didn’t get good grades in academic subjects, but I got top marks in creative subjects, like art and drawing.
  • I’ve seen some really good industrial designers, but they don’t always know how to turn a great idea into a great commercial product. This is where my background has an advantage.
  • I travel more than 200 days a year, sometimes taking more than one flight a day.
  • I think entrepreneurs don’t follow rules – they make their own. The best ones recognize the talents that surround them and get the best out of everyone.
  • I wake up in hotel rooms sometimes and simply cannot remember where I am. Then I make a coffee, check my itinerary and say, ‘Ahhh…Bologna!’
  • I came into the bike-design industry by accident. While on vacation in Spain about ten years ago, I saw an electric bike for the first time and thought, ‘Wow! This is really clever!’ Then I thought, ‘Why is this so ugly?’ I started wondering why an electric bike couldn’t look more like a normal bike.
  • I really admire clean designs. In Scandinavia, when we do product design, we envision very complex designs and then we minimize them, taking away what isn’t necessary. On our bike we’ve made the battery almost invisible and we’ve made it removable, so that people can take it out and recharge it in their apartment.
  • I go to China and Taiwan a lot, as well as all over Europe. I also go to the US three – five times a year.
  • I sit by the window on short haul flights. I love to be able to see the Alps, for example, when I pass over them, because every time is a new experience. On long haul flights, I prefer the aisle seat because I like to be able to move about without disturbing my fellow passengers.
  • I met my beloved partner Michelle in an airport. She was working at Le Sommelier restaurant in Kastrup. One day she served me and I just had to ask for her phone number. We have been together ever since.

Photo: Michelle Boris

Photo: Michelle Boris
  • I’ve gone beyond designing e-bikes to working with city concepts. Right now I’m working in France on a bicycle-sharing concept.
  • I see bicycles as concepts: how you sell them and how people will use them in the future. I try to bring the consumer into the center of the bicycle world.
  • I have a lot of favorite places. Brazil is full of life and smiling people. Taiwan, where I have many friends and colleagues, is always a great experience. In Europe I consider Croatia to be a second home – and I’m really looking forward to the new airport in Zagreb.
  • I use a plane as if it’s my office. I sketch and create design as I travel. When people ask me where my office is I often point to the sky and say, ‘Ten kilometers that way!’

Brian Hoehl

Age: 50
Family: Lives with partner Michelle.
Six children: two sons, four daughters
Career: 100% self-made. Worked as a creative director at some of Denmark’s biggest advertising agencies for more than twenty years. Founded Protanium electric bikes in 2007, as well as Diavelo, which are both members of the Accell Group in the Netherlands. Known in the industry as the “24-hour man” and “The designer who never sleeps.”

 

Scandinavian Traveler

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